My own teacher training was unconventional – in that I became a teacher without the formal teacher training usually required for my job, but learned everything I know about ESL teaching from that first job. I didn't “know” what a participle was, not sure I do now, but my mentor taught me how to ‘teach’ grammar. More than that, my first students were from Japan – one of the most unlike American students around.
My students were JAL employees’ children. I had to learn how to pick up on extremely subtle verbal cues, and how to read understanding without looking someone in the eye. It is an extreme example, but it taught me so much about the fundamentals of teaching, so much so, that to this day I still recall some of the advice I received back then more than 25 years ago. From this immersion by fire if you will, I chose to go to the knowledge wasteland. I moved to Gaza, Palestine. Not exactly the knowledge capital of the world. Back then, you couldn't even order books – it wasn’t allowed. If you wanted text books, you brought them with you and copied them. Yes, I know I was breaking copyright laws, but it was the only thing available. When I got an email/internet connection in 1995 it changed my life and primarily, my students’ lives. I became the ‘queen’ of the search. If I didn’t know something, or wanted to explore an idea, I would search for it.
Most of you don’t eve know what this logo stands for….for me it was for freedom….freedom from Internet Explorer (which I still despise), freedom from those who would keep anyone from education. The internet literally opened up the world for me and my students. It would be years before the whole of Gaza became ‘connected’, but for me and mine, we could go anywhere, and know anything. My students were so starved of general information that any and all were consumed voraciously.
This time around I didn't suffer too much culture shock because I was more interested in being assimilated rather than keeping my own identity. I “went native” to coin an American expression. It means to become like the people you are living amongst (if they are different than you.)
When I finally did go back to school to get my “formal” training to be a teacher – I was lucky enough to find a program that fit my idea of what a teacher should be, and not the other way around. I’m not sure what I would have done if it had been the other way around. Which raises the point of what do students do who don’t necessarily agree with the teaching style, manner, or delivery of a course. What are their options? We as teachers strive to incorporate the different learning styles, but cultural differences are a bit trickier in my mind. As I have been reading these articles an idea that I can’t seem to get rid of is….Is there a generic teaching method? A truly one size fits all way/method/style of teaching? And would we want that? Do we want McTeaching?