jueves, 13 de enero de 2011

A light of hope

In the last post of 2010, I asked myself (and through me, all the readers of the blog), what makes a professional teacher. I hadn´t realized at that moment that I was going to witness what it is to make a real effort in order to improve. I want to share the experience with you now.

What would you to be ready to do? What would you sacrifice in order to learn, advance? Would you give up a week end at the beach? I imagine the answer: “Miss my holidays? No way. “ And that´s quite respectable, but today I have to extend my congratulations to a group (not small, by the way) of undergraduates who, being practicing teachers, do not have a degree yet and do everything in their power to become professionals in their own right.

Last week end I was invited by the School of Education of San Marcos University to teach a course for the Programme of Licenciatura in English for teachers who don´t hold a degree, and I entered a different world.

I had been asked to prepare the materials for the course, which have been published in a very nicely edited book, and to cooperate with the virtual campus moderation; but spending 12 summer hours on Saturday and Sunday, exchanging experiences with the group I was assigned to was invaluable, and a boost to my spirit.

The enthusiasm, open-mindedness, courage, and clearness of objectives these colleagues have are really admiring. Their sole presence and full attention made my own little sacrifice of one week end worth the effort. Imagine: these people have to study on their own for three weeks and then attend an intensive weekend of taught classes, every three weeks or so. Together with that they have jobs, families, problems . Two of the students had recently given birth to twins and a boy, another had nobody to leave her little daughter with, so she brought her to class, another had to work on the week end to make ends meet, one more had to leave for a couple of hours because she had promised a group of handicraft exporters from the sierra that she would help them translating in a visit of potential clients.

But that was not all I saw last week end. I saw the seeds of a bright future. I saw the embraces that will receive our children one day. I saw the light of hope.

For more information on the UNMSM programme click here.

lunes, 3 de enero de 2011

What makes a good professional teacher?

With the beginning of not only a new year but a new decade, the question in the title of this blog entry is more than pertinent, specially for those of us who are convinced that improving is the only way to go. Now, when we start a fresh, is the best time to sit down at the beach (lucky you!), breathe the ocean flavoured air, listen to the seagulls and the rumour of the waves , relax and talk to ourselves, intimately. You may come up with a list of traits that make a good teaching professional shine, here I want to tip you off on some ideas, probably way different from yours, but also relevant, “food for thought,” as a friend of mine used to say. Here we go.

As teachers of English, the first thing we must command is the language. It is sad, but this seems to be low in the list of priorities when training is put on the table. Maybe this year, those of us who still have not obtained an internationally recognized language certificate, will get one. There is time, all you need is will.

Another aspect we need to brush up is methodology, but when I say methodology I don´t mean the typical seminar where a very good actor-teacher jumps and dances around the floor giving me ideas on how to exploit a textbook. Happily, there are several good alternatives to become a professional; with a university degree, that is. And if you already got one, then there are advanced degrees on offer, too. It is all up to you.

The third dimension we must not forget about is the personal development path we all need to walk. The better person one is, the better prepared professional he/she will be. In this area, there are many alternatives; you must look for the one that fits your own interests and time. Take up a hobby, or a sport, or any other activity that will let you learn other things. Read books, in English or Spanish, go to the theatre. Anything you ´ll do, be sure they will be useful sooner or later.

As you may have noticed, my suggestions cover three areas: language command, professional expertise and personal development. I have already made up my mind about what I want to achieve this year (in the three areas). How about you?

Cesar Klauer