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Reflections of a new EFL Teacher 6 months old!

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Reflections of a new EFL Teacher 6 months old!

Post by sarah wrann on Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:50 am

Salam!! Its official……..Spring has finally arrived here in England and I find myself feeling a strange, intoxicating mix of nostalgia, sadness, yearning, excitement and hope.

As I make my way to College I breathe and smell the unmistakable scent of things growing. Crowds of daffodils line the banks, their irrepressible joyous faces cheering me on my way. Even the river and half dilapidated buildings have taken on their own unique kind of beauty in this virgin spring heat…so unusual for this time of year in England. Bumble bees fly here and there in their blissfully, bumbly way in and out of the cars buzzing on the gentle breeze.

I feel on the edge of euphoria, sadness and gladness weaving their way through my heart and bubbling up into my chest and throat. I feel like crying.. I do…don’t care if passers by see…
Why should we feel ashamed of expressing feelings which can only be expressed through tears? Feelings are so often beyond words…words fail me time and again....

I feel like I am emerging into the light..finally after such a long dark tunnel of an English winter which came on the heels of a broken relationship and with it broken dreams. I really felt like I was dying inside such was the pain of my heart ache. There can be no other pain like it…the pain and fear of falling to pieces. And the madness of starting a new career at the same time brought sanity and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. So I reflect on my new role as ESOL/EFL Teacher and realise that am only able to do so now, because for the past 6 months I have just been surviving…taking at first, one class at a time like a baby taking its first stumbling, anxious steps and just gritting my teeth, closing my eyes and jumping in. Now I feel like I can swim a bit, underneath and on top of the water choosing which way I swim, using my body in the way I want to.

I am not writing about a great new teaching technique or an ology or ality or how to use smart arse boards, its not even about using drama, dance, music or the trapeze even though they are great but how to use my own life experiences to help my students. How do you ‘hold” your students’ growth pains of confusion, self doubt, brokenness, anxiety and low self esteem if you have never been there yourself? The strong almost primal feelings which are evoked particularly in groups are at times exhausting particularly if we do not recognise them. As teachers we sometimes need to wear many hats.. teacher, obviously, social worker/therapist and parent, even if we are teaching adults. We have to have learnt to hold ourselves through the dark times first, in order to affect our students and give them a positive experience of another adult in their lives.

When I stop and think about my E1 (elementary ESOL) adult group who I teach twice a week, individual students have adopted the following roles: eldest responsible son, rebellious teenage son, attention seeking and argumentative insecure teenage son, good responsible hard working daughters, quiet teenager who always stays in his room. Especially at the start of each lesson, I often feel excluded from them like a parent longing to be part of their teenagers’ lives. I feel the need to break into their circle and be accepted yet know that my role is most effective as an outsider….kind of.

I can feel my professional boundaries being challenged and due to my gregarious personality have to hold myself in check. The added dimension of their world verses mine is their shared mother tongue of Polish. And within all of this I have deeper, subconscious group dynamics of reversion to type, in other words people always mimic their family roles when put into groups, which can be negative and positive. Jealousies and rivalries, paranoia and scape-goating can be played out in the group, just as in the student’s family setting. Someone is always the clown, insecure and using humour in order to be liked….or the responsible one who was perhaps put into a caring, responsible role as a child and will invariably take on that role in other groups they join. The recent mock exams have also given rise to all sorts of feelings and behaviour, anger, scape-goating, rebelliousness. I has brought out other pressures in their lives, recent divorces, parents’ worries about their children. I felt all of this as I prepared them for the exams and now I realise why. They weren’t just worried about exams but all these other things too.

And then there’s the role I usually adopt in a group…the one who’s everyone’s friend and the funny one who wants to be liked cos she’s a bit insecure. How do I resist the pull of that if I am not aware of it? How do I help my students learn if I don’t understand the things that are effecting them deeply and have some knowledge of their lives? Managing my own feeling is of paramount importance in the successful management of the class and the learning process. Being aware of myself and the things that bother me and what ‘press my buttons’ helps me in understanding what is happening in my groups.
Even though all conscious thought of my issues fly away when I am in class, they are nevertheless there bubbling away under the surface. My emotional responses in class will often tell me a great deal about what my students are feeling if I will just take step back and not see those feelings as just mine alone, they will invariably be the students’ as well. Projection: if I become angry or feel threatened in class it’s very likely because there are other similar feelings flying around the class. These can give me a lot of important information and I would do well to listen to them and not be afraid of them or dismiss them. Being aware of my own stuff will help me to unravel the feelings I am left with in and after a class…my stuff or theirs??

Well, I hope that some of these reflections are interesting and helpful…am not very good at the formal stuff am just good at being authentic, just myself and improvise my way through life.

Sarah Wrann

sarah wrann
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Re: Reflections of a new EFL Teacher 6 months old!

Post by aziz4u on Thu Mar 26, 2009 2:24 pm

I share the same feelings with my students as well. The feeling of considering them as sons and daughters changes the job to good deeds and reduces the boundaries of age and social position.

Thank you for expressing them in a subtle, let's say, angelic way.

Welcome and feel at home, Ms Sarah Wrann.

Waiting more from you.

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Re: Reflections of a new EFL Teacher 6 months old!

Post by Admin on Thu Mar 26, 2009 6:39 pm

Thank you Ms Wrann for your nice, touching and reflective first topic. it realy made me read it twice and asked my self many questions. it pushed me also to reflect upon my teaching when i was taking my coffee in the cafe near home after reading you post.

By the way Sarah Wrann is a dear friend of mine and a novice EFL teacher in Bristol, England. and a Lover of Morocco. Good Luck Sarah in the teaching Journey


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Re: Reflections of a new EFL Teacher 6 months old!

Post by Sophisticated on Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:37 am

Hi Ms Wrann,
Thank u for your post. I enjoyed reading it a lot. Such reflections are very helpful for teachers to feel a kind of inner peace & strength to face the world. I think that every teacher should have a diary where he/she writes about their teaching experience. This will help them later on trace their progress & at the same time remember old days.
Thank u again for sharing them with us Smile

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