I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been feeling a little run down at work.
During one of my weekly lesson planning meetings I began to wonder, “Why am I even doing this if I don’t enjoy it?”
I proceeded to start planning a life outside of teaching as my colleagues continued spending over an hour discussing a simple 90 minute lesson. A lesson that we had syllabus notes, teacher’s notes and a teachers book for yet still somehow needed a weekly meeting to plan.
A particular bit of over-thinking for a task dragged me out of my daydream and I had to ask, “Why?”
Why are you designing tasks that require us to tell and explain and inform and not tasks that require the students to tell us, explain to us and inform us?
Why are you agonising over every little detail that you need to teach rather than focusing on the big ideas they can learn?
Why are you so focused on planning during weekends and making worksheets when a simple list of activities for you with discussions peppered in for them will do?
Why are you making this difficult and stressful?
This is not why I teach.
I do not teach to talk at students.
I teach to help students realise that the idea that the world will suddenly make sense when they are adults is false.
I teach to show them that wisdom is found within and knowledge helps you find it.
I teach for that moment when I’ve barely had to say a thing and a student says to their classmate, “wait, what about…”
Or for the moment when a student tells me, “I’ve realized I need to improve my…”
Or when they see my tricky questions and say, “I think we can look at this two ways…”
I design lessons so that students can go home thinking, “Wow, I did a lot today.”
“That was too much information”
“I’m not getting this…”
“We’ve done this already”
“When can I share my ideas?”
Because I teach English for Academic Purposes.
I teach students how to be critical, thoughtful and respectful. How to function within academia and understand they can take part in it and be citizens of the world.
I give homework and feedback. I challenge them to show me what they have. I don’t drill facts and information. I give challenges and opportunities. Tasks that help them realise their weaknesses and their strengths.
And the shy ones start to talk. And the sharpest ones start to lead. And I can hang back and correct here and there and watch them stand on their own two feet.
Teaching EAP is a challenge because you need to control less and allow students to be more autonomous. And sometimes teachers in this field, particularly in China, might feel the need to present a lot of language and information. Students get coddled into doing tasks that test language and not practice purpose. And this frustrates students who want more and provides a net for students who want less.
The pure joy of teaching EAP is that you see apprehensive young people become confident young adults. And they won’t do that if, in your meetings, you are constantly discussing what little tasks you need to teach instead of the big concepts they need to try and learn.
I love teaching this subject but it is different to how I learnt to teach on my CELTA and different to how prospective teachers are prepared for teaching on the TEFL. There is some unlearning and relearning to be done. But if you enjoy academia and want to help students entering it, this is a great specialty to try. Just remember there’s a tough love element in it which students will ultimately be grateful for.
What are your thoughts on EAP, if you teach it?
Do you benefit from group planning or prefer to work out a lesson on your own?