Teaching beliefs vs teaching in the real world – eltchat summary November 14th @21 GMT

Inspired by this article by Willy Cardoso, #eltchat-ters on November 14th @ 21 GMT delved into teaching beliefs vs teaching in the real world.

Kicking off with the question of when we compromise, there was a discussion of who is involved in this process –  the institute, the parent/client/sponsor, the students’ wishes, perhaps also the methodology and beliefs inherent in the coursebooks chosen.  Other of the many considerations involved included how empowered we are when we get a new job (Sue Annan) and that different corners of the globe have different realities (marisa_C).

#eltchat was praised for providing a forum for discussion.  As SophiaMav noted, “our chats are one way of empowering us to make some right choices”, which was backed up by shaznosel and cerirhiannon in that we discuss our restrictions and how to overcome them and that this helps us to think more clearly about what we do.  And whilst teachers need support and guidance, they are sometimes asked to teach/work against their beliefs.  Striking a balance between the practical and theoretical seemed to be at the heart of the issue, as it was suggested that not that many teachers actually analyse the learning theories behind what they do.  Aptly summed up by Marisa_C, “Many Ts use ideas/techniques unquestioningly – need to reflect on underlying values & beliefs of what we DO like to do too”.

After a bit of patting ourselves on the back, we considered how teaching beliefs are formed.  Though real life experience i.e. the way we were taught by our teachers and either an attempt to replicate this or react against it, was thought to be a key factor in this, theory also came up as an area which perhaps needs greater attention.  A comment on the article suggested that PD and teacher learning opportunities were often focused on practical activities for the classroom which teachers seem to think they need, but are generally a bit “light”.  There was quite a bit of agreement that agree TD could be more about questioning practices, identifying discrepancies, planning changes.  Some such discrepancies were a mismatch between what the teacher wants to do and what the students want to see happen (Sue Annan) and ljp2010 commented on how what she saw in classroom observation did not necessarily line up with the teacher’s espoused beliefs e.g. claiming student-centredness but standing at the board explaining for half the class (ljp2010).

Compromise was seen, rather pessimistically, to be an unavoidable part of adult life, as Marisa_ C noted, “We all accept the face that teachers compromise, no question, you have to keep your job, but is that the best we can do for our students?”  Finding practical ways to get round the obstacles to teaching the way you believe, rather than compromise (antoniaclare) was offered as an alternative and “If we justify what we do and it seems to work then we don’t have to overcompromise, especially if it’s well received the student/client” (Shaun Wilden )and shaznosel summed up what should always be our priority: “By joining in chats and keeping your priorities upfront- the students not the others around you”.  The importance of reflection, prioritising beliefs and choosing your battles should not be overlooked either.

So, which beliefs did we decide that we were NOT willing to compromise on?

  • teaching ss as individuals and responding to their needs – cerirhiannon
  • pushing forward with a task that I know my ss can’t cope with/dictation for dyslexics and very Yl – shaznosel i.e. keeping the level of challenge high
  • language use should be genuinely communicative + authentic, learning must be real – antoniaclaire

As for what we can do collectively the following were suggested:

  • know what your teaching beliefs are – make a list! – ljp2010
  • be there to help, mentor, support – ShaunWilden
  • be sneaky ..use dictation and grammar exercises  to enhance the lesson- make them fun! – shaznosel
  • send our bosses to conferences – naomishema
  • adapt to what you are have in front of you but be influenced by your beliefs –shaznosel
  • practise what we preach by being aware, doing things step by step, looking after the little things – cerirhiannon
  • demonstrating that ur way(s) of teaching/beliefs produce gr8 results (st feedback) & have wide recognition e.g. dogme  – antoniaclaire
  • personal experience that is discussed here and then adapting and reflecting in class – shaznozel
  • facing why things didn’t work and reflecting – Marisa_C

So all in all – teach, reflect, read, discuss.  Do what your students need and what feels right, learn from your mistakes as the wonderful learning opportunities that they are and keep tuning in for the fascinating discussions that are #eltchat!

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