An EFL teacher discovering the whole new universe :)

April 05, 2006

A great poem: What teachers make

This poem is seven years old, but some of us are new:)
I warmly recommend listening to Taylor Mali's interpretation.

What Teachers Make, or
You can always go to law school if things don't work out

By Taylor Mali

He says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"
He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about
Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the dinner guests
that it's also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite company.

"I mean, you┬╣re a teacher, Taylor," he says.
"Be honest. What do you make?"

And I wish he hadn't done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won't I let you get a drink of water?
Because you're not thirsty, you're bored, that's why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven't called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?"
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write.
I make them read, read, read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?

As if grapple truck were more interesting than English :)

I can't believe I came across this post today! Today I really needed it. Bud the Teacher posted this poem:
Undivided attention
By Taylor Mali

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps - like classical music's
birthday gift to the insane -
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth-floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers' crane,
Chopin-shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second-to-last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over, and
I'm trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long-necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers' crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

In the afternoon hours of today I was teaching 7-year-old children English. As it turned out, I was trying to teach. The problem? Suddenly they saw a small grapple truck that was clearing out broken tree branches from the wood. They all ran to the windows and got extremely excited about it. I gave them about five minutes to observe it, to comment on it, to admire it. Then I asked them to come back and continue listening to my story. They did eventually come back and sit down in our circle on the floor. But they didn't listen. They couldn't. They were enormously attracted by every single move of that machine out there and my well prepared story vanished into the thin air. Since nothing like that happened to me before (a first-year teacher, remember? :), I was completely lost and somehow disappointed. There was nothing I could do to be more interesting than that truck. No chance. I angrily finished the session a bit sooner and let them go. Go, watch that truck, you curious children! I thought by myself, feeling somehow personally offended, even sad.
How silly I was. Now I get it. Lesson learnt.
Thanks Bud, Chris, Taylor Mali.

April 03, 2006

They are all unique

In Slovenian primary schools (pupils aged 6-15) we have individualised programmes for learners with special needs. Pupils that need such additional teacher help attend individual English (or maths, Slovenian, chemistry, etc.) lessons where one teacher works intensively with them, one-to-one, instead of them being in their classroom for that particular lesson.
This year is my first year of teaching and I teach five individuals with difficulties. I'm starting to realise the huge potential and importance that this year is going to have on my teaching. Nine lessons per week I'm confronted with five completely different students, all classified as students with learning difficulties. I have two lessons per week to work with them, to get to know them better, to try to understand them, to find the best ways for them to learn the language.
And they are so very different, worlds apart. They all have their very specific problems and they all have their special talents. I work hard to tailor my lessons for them, but at the same time I enjoy their variety, I learn so much from them and hope that they are learning (at least something) from me too.
Without this year's precious experience I would never be able to fully understand how very different can foreign-language-learner problems be. There's so much you need to have in mind when preparing a lesson for a heterogeeous group of learners. I hope I'll never forget that.