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. 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, 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?