What a delightful question to receive! Before I share my answer, may I also share my dilemma? You see, I have been teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in Chile for more than a decade now, 13 years to be exact. The coming school year I will be beginning my 14th year of teaching. 14 years of teaching, my oh my, how time flies when you are having fun…
Where has the time gone to so fast? It seems like only yesterday when I was walking into the Instituto Chileno Norteamericano de Cultura to begin my first day of teaching. I still have both fond memories and friends from those days.
And then, after 2 years (or was it 3?) it was on to Colegio Verbo Divino, where I would remain for the next 5 years. Again, there were many fond memories of wonderful people and students. How lucky I was to teach in that school, where excellence is in the air at all times!
And then I was teaching future teachers of English at Universidad Andrés Bello. It was an intense year, with lots of learning, just as much for me as for my students, many of whom I am still in contact with today. Writing, a passion of mine, how to love expressing oneself in such a way that another human being could understand you without ever conversing with you, that was a privilege.
At Univ. Andrés Bello, we took Dr. Peter Elbow as our guide, a man who learned to write by first, as he put it, “making a mess”. We took him at his word, and got so good at, “making a mess”, that several of the students produced papers of such high quality that they were published in the TESOL Chile magazine, “In A Word”. How’s that for a real world audience?
I would later write a book, “Teaching Academic Writing: Theory, Practice & The Passive Voice Controversy” which shares with readers exactly how we learned to write academically. That book has been on the Amazon Best Seller list several times in the past 3 years.
As you might imagine, I am proud of the students I had the honor and privilege to help prepare for their future careers as English teachers in Chile. Chile desperately needs good teachers of English. Those students were some of the best I have ever worked with, dedicated, motivated and highly competent, as writers, as users of language, and most importantly, as human beings.
And then I found my current home, Colegio SEK Chile. I am content with the challenges and opportunities to further develop my leadership potential which I found here. SEK sets the bar as high as possible in all that we do.
The secret of our success, quite simply, can be summed up in two words: Aim High” (and accept nothing less). I do not like to boast, I prefer to simply keep finding ways to fully develop the potential that my students and I possess. Yes, it is true, in 2010, SEK was number 40 in the national English test. In 2012, SEK improved to number 20.
In 2014, we aim to be number 1. The funny thing about that is that in 2010 we aimed to be number 1, and again in 2012 we aimed to be number 1. We have never achieved our goal of being the best in Chile, and maybe we never will. It doesn’t matter, however, because we do our best to achieve our full human potential. When you do that, nothing else is capable of keeping you awake at night.
As I return full circle, I am now ready to share my book recommendation. I have written so many books I have lost count by now. Almost 120 books I have written, but which one would I recommend? What advice would I give? The simplicity of my answer surprised me, because it’s the same answer I would have given in my first year of teaching. Here’s what I said:
“What works for you may be different from what works for another teacher, so you must be constantly observing your results with students. Also, be patient. What is learned today is forgotten tomorrow. What works with student A fails miserably with student B. What works with boys and girls does not work with adults. So, be patient as you gain experience, and no matter what happens, always keep up your confidence in yourself.”
==> Sum this up: There is nothing that works always. Therefore, be flexible, and be patient. But there is more, I said more:
“You are a good teacher if you care about your students, have patience with them, and do your best. Nothing else matters.“
That’s the most important thing a teacher can do, namely, ==> care about students.
Oh, the book. ==>
Teaching English Language Learners Worldwide: Theory & Practical Guide EAL ELL ESL EFL
In the end, teaching English as a foreign language isn’t rocket science, not at all. It’s all about people interacting with people, caring for one another, believing in students ability to achieve whatever they set their minds and their spirits to achieve…