Teaching As An Invisible Act

[Finally renewing my blogging. Don’t worry, been blogging A LOT but just not here on my personal blog. You’ll hear about it soon and meet my team, see my posts and musings – starting a TEFL News Magazine. More on that in the coming weeks – here is my post about what I think is a very important subject not often broached.]

I just came back from a 2 hour run. It’s been a loooooooog time since I’ve run that long. I had memories of my days getting back into town after 7,8,9 hours – still running strong and thinking, “Hey, look at me! I just ran 100 kms and I’m still leaping along like a rabbit!” I remember looking around and nobody having a clue of my accomplish, everyone just going about their own affairs, maybe a few wondering, whose that sweaty bastard stumbling along the sidewalk? Basically, I was invisible. In my daily training, my daily and even twice daily runs – I was alone, invisible and my own source of motivation. I wasn’t doing it for anyone else, any accolades or cheering crowds whilst coming back into town.

It’s something I think applies to teaching, REALLY applies to teaching, this cloak of invisibility that all teachers wear.

Sandy Millin tweeted today asking about the source of teachers’ motivation.

Of course, I replied “A good solid, livable paycheck” or something such. That comes first.

But what comes second is our own intrinsic motivation. The motor we alone power. Our belief in ourselves and our daily process of doing all the things classroom teachers do – wiping noses, planning lessons, staff meetings, student conferences, cutting paper, commanding students to do this, don’t do that, photocopying, paperwork, teaching (yes, that does occur too!). Too many to list. But most of them are invisible, as too is learning. And its damn hard when you don’t see anything building, any visible, tangible outcome day in and day out. I can and often does feel like groundhog day.

Before teaching I was a steelworker. I put up pre-fabricated steel buildings. And in a day, you could see, visibly see your work as a physical object. Your blood, sweat, coffees were all there as a tangible product to motivate you. In teaching, this is rarely, if ever the case.

I’ve written previously about this but it needs saying again – teaching is the art of managing the invisible. It is for teachers to acknowledge this and move with it and even through it. Embrace the fog and the air will clear, your head will be in the space it should be.

So what’s a good teacher to do?  Well, we can try to make learning visible – that helps but is kind of like trying to hold back the sea.  But there are other ways to “see the value of ourselves”.  Engage in professional development. This can make you see your teaching acts as significant and with value and part of a greater whole. Also, talk to other teachers, learn and embrace the chaos and invisible.

The act of teaching is invisible, indirect, ephemeral too …. that’s why it is so hard but too, so rewarding.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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1 Response

  1. Shivam Singh says:

    As an Indian student studying in the USA there was no culture shock socially, but a big culture shock academically. The way things are taught in the USA is very different than back home, and also much better I must say. Back home, a lot of stuff is spoon-fed to students, here, you are just thrown into the ocean and are expected to learn to swim as you try to save yourself. The stress is not on how you write your answer, or even if you arrive at the correct answer at all. The stress is on how you approach the problem.

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