My Teaching Self: reflections from an examination room.

Dörnyei and Ushioda have done wonderful work on motivation and the way we see ourselves, and that is what comes to mind as I watch my students sweat their way through exams and wonder what I’m doing here. My ideal teaching self is not this. In an idea world I, as a teacher, or omnipotent authority, would be invisible, and what would be happening would be groups of learners, or yes, even individual learners being helped along their own paths of discovery. I try to communicate with them as far as I can as an equal, but, the norms of status what they are, this is well nigh impossible in a university setting in Italy (but I suspect in other places too.) I would like learning to be a magical experience for them, for them to be curious, and want to read, search to find ideas that excite them, developing their language competence as they go. This would then help them to communicate with others all over the world so that their studies really would be meaningful. Note, however, the conditional here.

All too often what comes into play is the “ought to” self both for me and my students, I think. Our lives are governed by rules, regulations and the small fears and worries of everyday life. How long should that composition be? Have I prepared everything properly? What did X mean when he/she sent me that email? Etc. etc. The “Ought to” self  is effective in motivating us to do all the things we “absolutely have to” but how useful is all of this in the long run. Sometimes it is more important to bake a cake than to write all thos incredibly urgent emails, and sometimes it is worth while just switching off and thinking.

If I’m honest I don’t really want to be invisible when I’m teaching but I want to be helping people to do something meaningful that will have impact on their lives. Oh, well, I ought to go and post this, I suppose…


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