Journey From a Bad Student to a Good Teacher

I would like to share my story of becoming an English teacher with you and hope that you find it as interesting and funny as I do!

Meeting English For the First Time

I attended a school where English was not considered as important as mathematics and physics. Actually, it was a very math–biased school so you can imagine that, at the time, I was not thinking of becoming an English teacher.

I had very good scores in all subjects but English. I hated English as soon as we started learning it. My first English teacher would torture us with grammar-based translations. She was not a strict teacher but she was also not a professional teacher and did not know how to teach the language. We would read the text, translate every word and then retell the text. You can understand why I did not like learning English.

English in High School

In high school, we got a new teacher who had a reputation as a very strict teacher. I remember telling other students who our English teacher was and they were looked at us as if we were going to be killed. It is funny now, but believe me, it wasn’t at that time. Especially, when we had to learn the texts and then recite them. We had to remember every single word! I recall now, that when had an English lesson, I wished to be sick and so I could miss the lesson. I was bad in English. There was no way I could learn the text and recite it. I would sit at the back of the room so that the teacher would not notice me.

Journey From a Bad Student to a Good Teacher - Simply Better English
Journey From a Bad Student to a Good Teacher – Simply Better English

English At University

In my final year of school, my parents decided that I could go to a linguistic university. I have no idea why I didn’t oppose this idea; most probably because it was a reputable university and I was a bit snobbish. Or maybe I wanted to prove to my English teachers that I could learn the language and master the skills.

Here I was at a linguistic university. The torture began immediately as I had no idea why we had to recite long texts and how to make sure that the falling or rising tone had to be maintained to sound more native. You can imagine how miserable I was with a technical mindset in a linguistic university. Nevertheless, I managed to graduate. I set a goal to master the language after the university, while my goal as a student was to simply pass the exams and ensure my presence at lectures.

English After University

I had a diploma from a linguistic university, a perfect knowledge of grammar, but a serious lack of confidence in speaking English.

Thankfully, I did not have to wait for long to get a job and was hired by a school to teach English; my way of teaching English began. I was learning with my students. You may find it not very professional as a teacher should have more knowledge than their students. It was true from grammar perspective where I did have more knowledge. What I was learning with my students was to speak English.

Teaching Methods

I managed to develop my own plan to improve fluency in English. I was not instructing my students to recite texts or poems. We were trying to come up with real situations where we could use the vocabulary learned from the texts in our books. I was developing tests based on real-life dialogues that I could listen to in audio files; my students had to feel in missing words while listening to dialogues and these words were later used to develop their own dialogues.

I remember when we started to practice copying the tone and voice of speakers in dialogues and speeches. I helped my students and myself to emotionally and psychologically move to a native speaking environment where we were free to speak and express our ideas and break the stereotypes of accurate and error-free speech. When my students were comfortable speaking English, I started to teach them accurate grammar. It was a very successful method. At events organized by the school, my students were able to give presentations in English. They were so fluent and at ease.

Later when my students developed more, I started delegating them some teaching tasks. For example, one of them had to teach the class five new phrases he/she came across in any text. Or sometimes they had to teach their peers how to distinguish between the cases, determining when they could use past simple or past continuous.

Later on, I taught them to use texts to ask questions. For example, they could read the texts or listen to the dialogues and identify interesting or new uses of structures or phrases. In short, they were taught to develop a critical eye to anything they met in English; it could be a short notification, a poster, an announcement on the radio, any book, etc. They learned to notice and identify and think over new and challenging language items. I was teaching them the language in a way that would make learning more interesting, fun and logical. Funny enough, I was still learning with them.

English Today

I still miss those classes of language discovery. I miss the moments of extreme happiness when we found an explanation for challenging questions or when my students would perform outstandingly at school events.

In short, I was teaching them to be critical and to be autonomous in their learning. I was not a professional teacher at the time however, I somehow understood that if you want to study better, you should be accountable for your own learning. Now, I can talk for hours why this method is successful.

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