Are you a tennis? If you are then who’s your favourite player? For me it is still Tim Henman as I remember growing up watching wimbledon and the constant hope that maybe this would be his year. I also loved his Serve-volley style or trying to push his opponent in to an awkward return so he could get in close to the net for an easy killer shot. Sure it didn’t present him with a title but I enjoyed watching Tim.
Maybe you like an all court player like Federer, a baseliner like Nadal or just appreciate a good player but I hope we can agree that there have been great tennis players who have played different styles. Likewise perhaps we can also agree there are great teachers who have different styles.
The thing about the best players is they know what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are and they focus on their strengths. They might not be as fast as other players so they don’t try and focus on running round the court, their serve might be particularly powerful so they try and maximise their serves. Likewise a good teacher will maximise their strengths and focus on those areas.
If a teacher has a passion for drama then they should use that to help their students, Likewise if a teacher is techno-literate then they should make the most of those resources for teaching.
How I am playing to my strengths
A couple of my own practical examples recently is I have started to use my ukulele in my very young learners classes. They enjoy singing along to a song but there is something a bit special about having an actual instrument to sing along to. Also I have been setting up a resource website for our students to keep them up to date about lessons and provide free out of class learning resources (still working on that one!)
Common trends across styles
Having said all this there are some common things that all teachers need to be able to do. Just like a tennis player needs to be able to serve, hit forehands and backhands and volley a teacher needs to know their subject and be able to explain things to students in a way that makes sense. They need to be able to set up activities that will help student practice language items and a whole host of other skills. The thing is, there are different ways to do some of these skills.
But what about the students?
Of course this doesn’t mean that a teacher has the caveat to do whatever they like in the class just because they are good at it. Students have a more important role here. After all, if a student is bad at understanding audio instructions, it doesn’t matter how good the teacher is at giving them, they won’t be as effective as the teacher adapting to include some more visual elements. Of if the students hate singing songs then no amount of Ukuleles in class will help them.
There is a balance that has to be negotiated between the teachers style and the students.
As such it is a great idea for a teacher to stretch themselves by trying a different style. Sometimes it will be a disaster because it isn’t playing to the teachers strength, but the only way to improve being bad at something is to practice. Just as a tennis player has to improve on an area of their style that is costing them points, so we teachers need to make sure we don’t have weaknesses in the classroom too.
- What are your teaching strengths? Are you making the most of them in class?
- What are your weaknesses? How can you improve on these areas?