Monday, 12 March 2012

Blind spot

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.     


Candy said...

Quite right too and I'm glad someone else has had the brass neck to tell you - and that it appears to have sunk in FOR NOW!! Because I know only too well that the effect of these reassurances lasts about until the next brainless Babelfish monster stands sullenly in front of you saying, "I no unnerstan whay is no good for you."
What's next on your agenda?

Vilges Suola said...

Next is the possibility in the coming academic year of teaching grammar to native speakers who are training as speech therapists - not the grammar-in-context we are used to teaching but all the trees of NP, VP, PP, Adjuncts, Add-Ons, Accessories and Adjutants. More content to mug up on - and this has always struck me as about as interesting as bus timetables. Making it interesting is going to be a challenge.

maria verivaki said...

when we know we're not being recognised for the good work we do, we often undermine ourselves - that's the purpose of our superiors' not recognising our work: they are hopeing that we will quietly fade away away into non-existence and another prat like themselves will come to take out place instead

Vilges Suola said...

Well, maybe. Feeling undervalued is part of my psychological 'weather pattern', though. I have to recognise that and try not to believe in it.


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