On the lookout, 24/7

Last year, when I was finishing my obligatory Swiss teacher training course, a now retired teacher told us that a real teacher is never really at rest. And it took her the retirement to realize that! It was during her first year of well earned rest that she suddenly felt how free she was. Free in many different senses. Free of timetables and deadlines, free of piles of papers in need of good correction, free of lesson preparation. But also free of this constant something that sits on our shoulders and looks at everything around us through teacher-tinted glasses.ย You know, when you are reading and suddenly slap your forehead and shout, “yeah, I could use THAT in my classroom!” Or you see a picture in a magazine and rush to get the scissors because this picture could do so well as the next warmer. Or you see a video and immediately wonder how to get it on the memory stick because of the use of first conditional in the dialogue.

So she told us how her reading had changed. How her film watching had changed! Everything, really. Because now she did just that.

This story came back to me today as I was helping my daughter with her homework. Suddenly, out of the blue, I wasn’t listening to her anymore, because I was adapting her homework to my language class. I was cutting and pasting in my head and phrasing the appropriate instruction to the activity. And then I started thinking of the old lady’s words and because of my own vivid experiencing-what-she-said I understood her point so well! And then all the other moments when I have been doing exactly that came flooding back. I started thinking of my books bulging with post-its because of passages and quotes I thought might come in handy in different lessons. I was thinking of the newspaper cuttings in my drawer. And of the times I start singing of joy in the shower because of a new idea on how to approach a certain tricky grammar point.

Last summer our family spent two weeks in the south of England. I remember being like a hungry hawk always on the lookout for funny pics or useful notices. Instead of magnificent castles my phone was full of pictures of noticeboards and queer roadsigns. And whenever I spotted something that seemed useful for my classes, I was overwhelmed with joy. And not only. With every new signpost came new ideas and possible lesson plans.

This ever-lasting search for new material has infected my daughter as well. She would like to be a primary school teacher one day … (runs in the family, ย I tell you!) and she keeps coming up to me suggesting ideas on how I could do things in my class or how I could handle mixed levels I so struggle with.

What a relief I love English so much! Otherwise this 24/7 presence would start to be quite suffocating!

And you? Do you have a restless tiny teacher on your shoulders all the time?


12 thoughts on “On the lookout, 24/7

  1. I know EXACTLY what you mean…years ago there was a rather funny article (I can’t remember where) describing Tessa Woodward and Seth Lindstromberg (a well-known TEFL couple) having breakfast. It involved them cutting up the newspaper into a jigsaw reading, refusing the pass the salt until the intonation was correct and so on….

  2. Loved reading this through @naomishema’s retweet. Thank you!

    There’s a song from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George (produced when I was transitioning from theater artist to teaching artist) called ‘Finishing the Hat’ that has always captured the way an artist in any field approaches life – here it is at youtube, performed by Mandy Patinkin Broadway artist in his career-defining role as George Seurat, before he transitioned to TV artist: http://bit.ly/XLsEjN.

    BTW I RT your post twice because a) it’s that powerful to me and b) I MIS-credited the first one to @naomishema!

    • Thank you, Tom, for this comment and for your kind words! I’m so glad to receive wonderful feedback like that. And thank you for the link as well! (and the RT!) – make that a double thank you ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Amazing and energising post, Sirja! It is amazing how similar we all are – I caught myself clapping enthusiastically when you described all these instances that we teachers go throughout the day : )))

    Great post!

    Best wishes,

    • Dear Vicky,
      I’m truly glad I took the step and started creating my own PLN … yes, we are similar in many ways, in many underlying ways. And at the same time we are all so different, everybody brings they personal touch to the group, yet the underlying similarity makes it easy to understand what we are talking about ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Big hugs to you!

  4. That little teacher on my shoulder keeps me up even at night … And because her ideas are at their best during these nocturnal hours, I keep a notepad under my bed, write them down in the dark and try to figure out my scribbles in the morning. You see, I do not dare turn on the light because then both the little and the big teacher will stay up all night telling their ideas to each other!

    Thank you,

    • What a lovely image! I can see you there, in the dark, scribbling away a little bleary-eyed ๐Ÿ˜‰ Like an artist who’s never at rest, always sorting out the new, constantly oncoming ideas and flashes.
      I have a notepad, too. Several, actually. And one is on the bed-side table as well ๐Ÿ˜‰ You never know when the onslaught begins ๐Ÿ™‚ BTW, should get a waterproof one for the shower…

      Lovely to have your voice here!

  5. Hi Sirja,
    Thanks for commenting on my blog – it finally made me click on yours, and it’s well overdue! It’s a pleasure to read your posts and to see how enthusiastic you are about everything! Just about to add you to Google Reader ๐Ÿ™‚
    A couple of years back I picked a leaflet up in front of my mum, and she said “You’re going to use that in class, aren’t you?” She has since asked me that a few times, and I explained that I never switch off. I’m going to share this post with her to show that it’s not just me ๐Ÿ™‚

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