Sunday, January 18, 2015


My Non-native speaker teacher (No one can escape her destiny)

It is my great pleasure and also relief  to share with  you bits and pieces I know about two very  different teachers who accidentally met in my head and got stuck in there… In one corner of my head is the Non-Native Speaker Teacher (NNST) - smart, confident, experienced but still  enthusiastic and ready to learn. In the other corner of my head is the Native-Speaker Teacher (NST) -  newly appointed, inexperienced, insecure but eager to learn and above all - native. Two teachers for one head is a bit too much and talking about  two teachers in one day could be confusing and to avoid confusion I will split them into two days.

I  will introduce them to you in the order of appearance. Once upon a time there was a student of English who wanted to be a translator. She finished her studies and became a teacher while she was waiting for a big film producer to discover her talent. (sorry, this is from a different film)..... As a matter of fact, she was waiting for a chance to work as a translator. And quite unbelievably, she got the chance to work for Tanjug,  the national news agency of old  Yugoslavia, a very prestigious place where she was trained by top professionals in the field. She worked there for almost a year, and she liked it  but she realised that she had fallen in love with teaching and that she missed it so very much. Luckily (or not?), her ex boss met her in the street one day and asked if she would go back to teaching. YEEEES!

Being an English  teacher for so many years does bring a lot of advantages  in your professional life. You get a lot of confidence. After a couple of years students gradually run out of  new questions they might ask you on any topic, surprise questions are rare but possible.  You see how they follow the roads  of  learning  you once followed and take the detours and bypasses you took. They say the greatest  strength of the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous is the encouragement new members get from their mentors,  who help them endure the hardships in the process of leaving old and acquiring new habits. Similarly, in your classroom you become a great role model for your students as you also started from scratch, went a long way and reached the heights most of them do not aspire. Nevertheless,  one significant part of your journey would be identical to your students’ and  you travel alongside  them and give them all the encouragement and support they need.

You also recognize their patterns of thinking, both from your own experience and from observing them. You get familiar with characteristics of all types  and subtypes of language learners. You have tons of empathy and acres of love for your students. After a couple of classes in a new group you know who will go red when the time comes for grammar,  claiming it makes no sense and logic and who will be desperate when checking reading comprehensions. You start answering their questions before they are asked and you look exactly at the student who is about to ask a question. You read their faces like open books. Of course, it is not all milk and honey as the process of learning languages is a complex one.  You can have a look at some troubles I have seen in the post below: The unteachables        
  Still, your classroom is the place where you feel so safe that you are ready to leave your own comfort zone and go with your students wherever  they lead you, even into the depths of the Digital sea :).
I will introduce my NST tomorrow. As you can see, they have their exits and entrances carefully planned. On rare occasions when they meet, they make the students confused. I remember once I went into my upper intermediate English class and began speaking cheerfully. The students looked at me in disbelief and started smiling: ‘Oh, teacher, we have never heard you speaking Serbian!’ Ooops!


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