The new ESL teacher and MOMENTS of brilliance


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For every new ESL teacher, no matter how clever you are, the grammar will kill you! Seriously, this is no joke, there is another post specifically on this issue, but for today I am going to talk about ‘moments of brilliance’, that will occur in your first 6 months of teaching.

Firstly, yes it will take at least 6 months after your finished your course before you will ever be able to confidently say – I think I’ve nailed all the Elementary grammar. And to nail the grammar is not something you can do at home all by yourself with a grammar textbook, though of course it helps.

When you are teaching a class to know only the grammar you are teaching is out right dangerous, because for sure you will find some students in the class ask you something about some grammar and why it is like that and how does it relate to some other grammar form. You can say, ‘we are not studying that this month, so I won’t go over it, it will confuse you’, or you can at least give them something to satisfy their curiosity. This only comes from experience, and experience only comes from practice and good practice learned only comes from light bulb moments, usually in the classroom.

The old adage is true:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin

But how can a teacher do this when they themselves aren’t entirely sure of the concept…..dangerous state to be in, you could not only teach them something wrong, but get yourself completely lost when it comes to involving them……and every single teacher on the planet who has taught English has had this happen to them, and if they say ‘not me’, they are lying!

So what this post is about is not about telling everyone to go home and read up on the grammar or watch this you tube video or that….all these are a given. What I want new teachers to know is that while you are in the classroom, particularly at the beginning, day after day you will be having what I call ‘moments of brilliance’. These are moments when you start explaining something to a student and right from the outset you know you are not entirely sure of what you are going to say, and so show confidence and as you continue to explain something using the board or some examples, you realise that you have not only fully explained something you didn’t know very well, but have learned something about grammar in the process. These moments are like the Red Sea parting and all knowledge known before is irrelevant and this new information is now extremely powerful because it all makes sense.  Also known as a ‘break through’, and that is exactly how it will feel – a breakthrough in understanding…from your side!

These are wonderful moments of brilliance. Love them and cherish them, as they will feed you for the next level of grammar you have to confront.

Tell me about your moments of brilliance!

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