When I started teaching I vowed not to be like all of those teachers who never think the students need but proceed according to their daily school schedule. I promised myself that I would discuss with my students about their needs and interest in learning English and then tailor a lesson program based on what exactly their needs are.
But, before opening my school, I used to work in language schools where I faced opposition from my senior teachers and school owners who thought my methods would not provide students with the opportunities to master the knowledge of the standards. Worst of all, some senior teachers take a guard to me and tracked my registers in order to see if I am acting according to their system.
And I started to doubt myself. I faced a lot of hurdles in the beginning of my career. Whenever I reached out to an individual or small group to vary my teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible, I was ending up in the senior teacher’s office in order to give reasons why we were behind their academic system. I was supposed to act according to their program although I knew what exactly my students needed. I tried going through a strict traditional rubric instead of tailoring my lessons and giving what my students wanted. I wasn’t happy, the students were miserable, and most importantly, no one was learning anything but how to use grammar.
So I went back to following my gut. Students started to memorize new words with mnemonic techniques. I started to take great satisfaction in the fact that I was successful in helping even the weakest students to speak English and dramatically improve the level of many of those I taught. I was forced to step outside of failed academic system that never helped my students learn to speak fluent English. The academic system requires discussing grammar in tabular form and rarely use the technical terminology. My way of teaching is to explain the use of grammar by use of examples in such way that it doesn’t feel like grammar.
I remember one of the schools provided us teachers free Italian lessons where the teacher was reading us the grammar rule and asking to make sentences according to the instructions! Wow! She was an English teacher at that school, too. I bless her from far and pity all the students whom she teaches! After attending couple of her Italian lessons, we decided to not participate her lessons anymore although it was completely free.
I have always thought my classes entirely in English, no matter what their English level is although I speak the local language fluently. This helps my students a lot as they are forced to communicate in English rather than learn English like they learn maths rules. The moment I abandoned the whole classroom idea and took leaning away from whiteboards and copybooks into board games, activities, role-plays and interesting assignments rather than homework, the students were way more interested in learning and participated because it was more fun. The most important thing I learned in teaching English, is that learning a language can indeed be fun and not all about grammar, vocabulary, mistakes and feeling stupid.