Aint no mountain high enough

This is my response to Brad Patterson’s latest blog challenge, which can be found here –

Teaching is like climbing a mountain. Preparation is key. Like a class of learners the mountain and its environment can be unpredictable. Always take the correct equipment (materials), check the weather report (post lesson reflection+lesson planning) and tell someone where you’re going (observation). Don’t over pack, this will mean you have too much to carry and tire yourself out (think about your materials, are they necessary?)  Keep your equipment in good condition, maintain it and upgrade when necessary. (Personal and professional development through courses like DELTA, in-house training, blogging, Twitter, further reading, action research)

All packed and ready to climb Mt Huayna Potosi. 6,088m

Respect the mountain and its surroundings. (Respect your students and make their surroundings the materials you need, they have lives and a lot to say. Give them the chance to say it.) Pace yourself when climbing the mountain, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Why rush to the top and back down again? Enjoy the journey and wonder at the beauty of it all. (It takes time to become a good teacher. Take the rough with the smooth, learn from your mistakes and turn those experiences into learning points.)

When you reach the top, take time to enjoy the view and take lots of pictures. It will be a one-off and every peak will have a different view, as will the journey to get there. ( Document your teaching experiences, be it with a blog, a personal diary or just continuous feedback with your peers. This will keep it fresh, provide other avenues through which to receive feedback and allow other people to feel as though they were there with you.)

On top of Mt Illimani, Bolivia. 6438m

Don’t be complacent on the way down. 80% of all accidents that occur on Mt Everest happen on the way down. ( Maintain classroom management, keep your standards high and this will reflect upon your students, maintain motivation for yourself and your students by pushing yourself that little bit extra to make sure concentration is sustained.)

When you get to the bottom and your legs, back and shoulders ache, take pride in what you have achieved. Not everyone has the courage, determination and willingness to accomplish what you have just done. (Teachers are awesome)

The second challenge was to talk about something that wasn’t teacher related but has brought something to the classroom more than anything else.

For me, it isn’t just one event in my life that has sculpted the way I am in class. It has been a lifetime of experiences, ups and downs, good times, bad times and luck that allows me to bring something personal and unique to the classroom.

Life is for living.


Mutual slump

I recently read another great post from Dave Dodgson ( about the slow and gradual decline of learner enthusiasm, as exams become the main focus and learning fatigue takes hold after a long school year. I had certainly started to notice this in my own classes, but more worryingly I have started to notice it in the staff room, too. This is especially true of my own approach to planning and general attitude to classes.

It’s not just the learners who are struggling towards the end of the year. As teachers, we have worked late, worked weekends, marked homework, set up mock exams, blogged, spoken to parents, attended PD sessions and conferences and genuinely gone out of our way to make our lessons positive learning experiences.

This decline in motivation is only a recent one, but on Monday I spent an hour and a half staring at a course book, devoid of inspiration. I had no clue what I was going to do, no new ideas, no energy to search through the library and source some materials or scour the Internet for lesson plans that would probably need adapting anyway. I was lethargic and tired of the same old routine and material. When I was in the lesson, everything was fine. I got the usual buzz, which I hope never leaves, but the before and after seems like a slow and cheerless grind towards the end of term. Is this normal? Is it just me, or do other teachers get this feeling?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I care about my students and their learning, but when they have that feeling of apathy in class it’s hard not to get sucked into that depressing atmosphere yourself and it requires even more energy to get the class enthused and excited about the lesson. Energy that I no longer have. Energy that is propped up on coffee and the thought of the weekend.

A colleague said to me today that work seems to be getting in the way of life at the moment. I completely understood where she was coming from. We immerse ourselves so deeply in our work at times (I certainly know I have this year) that when we come up for air and take a look around we realise we have a life to lead. At times, I have felt guilty about having a life and often felt that I should be doing some sort of planning or reading up about a particular language point to make sure I could give my students the best lesson I could. This train of thought lead to the end of my last relationship and I’m damn sure I won’t allow it to affect my next one. A healthy balance, like anything in life, is of vital importance. A lesson certainly learned this year.

I’m pretty sure it’s not just me. Staff room talk is no longer about up coming projects and future lessons, but the summer and where to go on holiday. There seems to be a lull in the blogosphere at the moment (unless your name is Chia Suan Chong) and as Phil Wade has pointed out, a large part of our PLN has gone underground and all is quiet on the twitter front. Is it expected that teachers should be highly motivated and giving the normal 100% effort 24hrs a day? We are human after all, we have our limits, we have our needs.