Youth versus experience

When I started teaching I felt quite popular. I certainly got more presents from students than ever. I really enjoyed teaching and I think that gave my classes a good feel. It was all new back then. I got to read these interesting texts about tomato throwing festivals and then talk about them. I was genuinely interested in everything the students had to say and they seemed to feel the same way. So was that my peak as a teacher then? Certainly not, but also yes!

Now I’m much better qualified. I’ve taught in a variety of different countries and contexts. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in each of the three main different paths teachers take; academic management, teacher training and materials development. Each of which has given me a deeper understanding of the industry and also allowed me to bring different skills to bring into class. So am I a better teacher now? Obvious yes, but also no!

Clearly I need to explain my answers a bit. What did I have as a new teacher that I don’t have now? It’s a hard question to answer as I think I still have all the same qualities. I still have passion for the profession, though I’ve lost the newness you get when something is, er, new! I have a wider repertoire of activities, though perhaps I don’t get as much pleasure seeing them go well. I generally expect it to now. I also have a much wider range and understanding of teaching techniques, but would you ever describe your favourite teacher as technical? So what else is important in teaching?

To answer the question I’ll talk about a teacher I’ve observed. One of my favourite memories as a Celta trainer was when I saw a trainee teacher do what I call a happy stamp when an activity went well. A happy stamp is when you run on the spot, often with your arms in the air, because you feel a sense of joy with something. She had such enthusiasm it was contagious. The students really warmed to her. I’ve often seen this with new teachers. There is a sheer joy in seeing things go well. Experienced teachers I’ve seen never have quite the same feeling. But then again, who’d want to see their experienced teacher do a happy stamp just because the class was going as planned!

So what can we do to make sure we stay fresh as teachers? There’s plenty of advice out there about different ways of teaching, all of which helps. It’s often said that it’s better to have ten years experience than one year experience ten times. My main tip is to remember yourself as a teacher a year ago, or five, or ten? Don’t just think about how you’ve developed, think about what your strengths were and make sure you keep them.

How have you changed as a teacher over your career?

Photo taken from by Timothy Burling, used under a CC Attribution license,

3 thoughts on “Youth versus experience

  1. I feel like a bit of the enthusiasm of new teachers comes from genuine surprise when something works. An experienced English teacher is not as surprised, but neither is a chemistry teacher when methane ignites for the 2000th time in class demonstrations.

    Liked by 1 person

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