Letter to a New Teacher from Her Self

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Dear Self,

You successfully finished your teaching internship and are ready to start your career as an English teacher more confidently.

Teaching was your passion. As a school girl, you were always teaching and supporting your struggling classmates with their homework; you were encouraging them to study more and were always ready to help them. With having the same passion, you entered the teaching filed.  You were completely clueless about the real teaching, you barely had an idea how to teach a language, how to design level-appropriate activities, how to control a differentiated classroom and how to plan lessons. Thanks to the taken courses, your instructors, and micro-teachings, you gain most of the teaching skills within a year and broadened your teaching perspectives. Yet, you didn’t have the experience of teaching a real classroom.  Practicum helped you to feel the real classroom environment with full of sweet, energetic children having different background knowledge and learning styles. Practicum made you realized that teaching is amazing, fun and rewarding! The feelings that you experienced were so unique. Most of the time you were amazed at the cleverness of the students, and you were proud to have them in your class, however, sometimes you were praying all the day that a few of them be at least calm and quit for ten minutes in the class.

For the internship, you were trusted to teach adult women at Women Support Center, a local organization which supports women who experienced domestic violence or any other brutality in their marital lives. If the main worry in the practicum was how to keep students quiet and motivated, for the internship you had to think how to teach English to the students of a differentiated class, who want to communicate in English as soon as possible without doing any homework or extra studying. Later, you were informed that many of the students are single mothers and may bring their kids with them to the class; therefore, you had to always have your magic bag with you, which was full of chocolates, colorful pencils, and papers. Then, you found out that you should not discuss topics like marriage, love, family relationships, which may recall the unpleasant days these women experienced before. Therefore, before teaching any class, it is so important to find the basic information about the students to be able to make more appropriate lesson plans.

To have fruitful results at the end, you set certain goals and outcomes. You were determined to teach them more vocabulary and help them to improve their speaking skills. Dear self, please always remember to set certain goals before starting to teach, as it will keep you on the right path. To reach the goals you decided to practice communicative approach concentrating more on speaking skills and vocabulary.

Do you remember the expression of your face, when on the first day, the center gave you a very small whiteboard half of which was covered with permanent marker?  You were confused and stressed, as most of your activities were whiteboard based and you had to come up with new activities on the spot. Remember that you will not always end up teaching at perfect schools or language centers. Always find a time before starting your class and check the facilities of the place.

I am sure that you still remember the very first day. Though you were told that you would have a differentiated classroom, you didn’t expect to have four different levels. Teaching to a differentiated class alone was not easy at all. For all the classes you had to spend more than four hours to make four different levels activates on the same topic, and while teaching you had to change the methods constantly from the communicative approach to grammar-translation method. During the very first two weeks, it seemed like everything that you had learned about the differentiated instructions didn’t fit in the classes. You could make differentiated activities, but you were facing difficulties while practicing them.  The activities for struggling students were always full of new words and the high-level activities were too difficult to be understood.      Hence, you decided to use more open-ended tasks to solve the problem. One of the most engaging open-ended activities was dialogue journal. To make your classes adventurous, you introduced students with dialogue journal activity and asked them to write weekly letters to someone that they don’t know. You were giving the letters to your classmates for responding them. After two weeks, you noticed how this activity helped these women to write English more fluently and freely, and sometimes, they were even writing about their personal life with their unknown friends. So, dear self, never be afraid of trying new activities, go beyond the classroom and give your students the chance to experience new things.

During the eight weeks of teaching, there were days that you were extremely thrilled with the topic and the activities; however, on the same days, not long after the beginning of the class, you could see that the topic of the day was not engaging at all, and you were starting to panic. Remember that not having an interesting topic doesn’t mean that you are a bad teacher.  As one of your instructors told once, if you see that the topic is not engaging it all, and you cannot come up with better topic-based activities on the spot, simply change the topic or play a language game with the students. Also, keep in mind that asking students about their interest at the beginning of the course will be a great idea, which will help you to choose more engaging topics for the discussions and writings.

Team-building games went amazingly well at your classes. The learners were enjoying group works and trying to speak English with each other. Mixing all the levels in the group was a great idea, as it was encouraging lower level students to try harder to make simple English sentences and higher level students were motivated to help their friends.  Dear self, remember always to have at least one group activity in each class, as learners learn more from each other than from the teacher. Your students’ another favorite activity was role plays. In every class, they had a short conversation that they had to read by roles, then tell it by heart. They told you that these conversations helped them to improve their speaking skills. You can always keep the same type of activities if your students are interested in it.

Dear self, you always wanted to be an extraordinary teacher who makes a difference in the lives of students, but you never thought that students may change yours. During you internship, you had the most lovely, brave, strong, inspiring women as students.  Most of them were younger than you but had already faced the darker side of the life. Despite all the hardships of the life, your students wanted to start a new chapter in their lives and learning English could help them to find a better career with higher income. Having them as your students, you learned to be braver and appreciate what you have. When you started your internship, you were their English teacher, but after the eight weeks, you were their friend, whom they could trust and share the details of their life. You learned to change your role constantly; sometimes you had just to be an English teacher, another time you were their friend, sometimes you had to be just a listener or a consulter who encourage them not to give up and continue the good work.

Dear self, you are going to have both good and bad days in your teaching career, sometimes you will be filled with the positive energy of your students, sometimes you will have those gloomy days that you will decide to change your job. Just remember that teaching is not easy! It is such a hard work and many challenging and tiresome days are waiting for you. I am sure that there will be a period in your life, that the burdens of the life will make you teach for money, but never forget about you teaching beliefs. Always bear in mind that as a teacher you may always change someone’s life for the better.

Sincerely,

Adena

Winter 2016