It was in Cambridge in 1988 that I first observed trainee teachers. I started with a group of three women who shared a class of volunteer students on a course known then as the CTEFLA. (Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults) They were all scared stiff and manifested this in different ways - jokiness from one, soft-voiced bewilderment from another and iciness and snark towards me from the third. We got on well enough by the end of our association though, and they were complementary in their written feedback at the end of the course. I've since spent 23 years training, encouraging, cajoling, nurturing and - I hope - occasionally inspiring other people to be good teachers of English as a Foreign Language. In an e-mail to a friend the other day I mentioned the MA modules I'm teaching and my paranoia about the possibility of being exposed as less than omniscient. Her reply (to be read with an Edinburgh accent) was as follows:
DO NOT belittle your knowledge or teaching talents. We both know that anyone can mug up on content. The real talent is in conveying it in an accessible and helpful manner to the students. And you have such talent by the bucketful. So that's you told, right enough.
This made me laugh out loud. I realised for the first time that for all that training, encouraging, cajoling, etc., of others, I have never given a thought to that principle about content and delivery in reference to myself, and hardly ever given myself credit for having any talent for the job I have been doing since I was 22. After laughing out loud, I felt a right tit for being so stupid, so don't go telling anybody what I just said.
The assignments for the last MA module have finally been double-marked and everybody gets eight percent more than I had originally awarded, so I was uncharacteristically tough on the kids. Students, sorry. A student who did not attend the course has submitted an assignment, an anomaly I'm not going to worry about. I go in there and teach the course - others are paid to administrate it. The mystery assignment reads as if it has been written in Chinese, whacked back and forth through Babelfish a few times, then redacted by an Inuit from a garbled fax. It does not pass, at least as far as I'm concerned, but as has been demonstrated, I'm a tough cookie all of a sudden. Somebody else might let it through. Nobody seems to have decided who owns this module or who has ultimate responsibility for it - I only know it isn't me.