January 11, 2011 by Willy Cardoso
In a staff room in a small EFL school in Sao Paulo, Brazil, circa 2001.
Paula enters the room willing to talk teaching while Guilherme is marking a pile of homework.
Does PD mean anything to you?
Erm… are you coming to tomorrow’s workshop then?
Don’t know really, sounds like another boring show off by our dear director of studies.
Oh come on, don’t be an arse. He’s well intentioned. All he wants is for us to be better teachers.
I’d be a better teacher if he got out of my hair and let me do my stuff.
If you say so…
No, really! What’s the point of a workshop that tells you how amazing role-play is? Or how to drill more nicely? As though drilling can ever be fun…
Well, it has its place in the classroom.
Well, I know our teaching methods are kinda old-fashioned, but you know, there’s nothing groundbreaking out there either… and in a way that’s what they expect from us.
Oh really? They who?
Well, the students… and the parents… I mean, that’s how they’re used to it. You can’t just come and change everything with your loose style, no planning, just let it flow kinda teaching.
I’m happy with my style, mind you. And it seems the students are happy too.
How do you know they’re happy?
Well, they never complain!
Hmm… but that doesn’t mean they’re happy. I mean, they can be afraid of complaining, I don’t know, not everyone can give candid feedback, you know.
Well, but if they don’t say anything how will I know what they think?
Duh… If I ask and they’re afraid as you say they might be, that won’t change a thing. They may as well say everything’s fine.
Hmm… tough one.
But you’re right you know, you got a good point there. How will I know what to improve, really, if maybe my students are not confident enough to give me the real feedback?
You see now that there are things to improve, don’t you?
Erm… yeah… I guess there are many things to improve in my teaching. But… you know? I’d rather do it like this, I mean, talking with you and just letting the conversation flow and all that, and you know, eventually we come across a good question we like to find out the answer ourselves. Like this thing, about students’ feedback being genuine and all.
Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s … erm… okay. Maybe I’ll read more about feedback and will talk to other teachers to know how they approach it with their students.
Cool! You see? Professional development is not all that bad…
I never said it was bad at all.
So, are you coming to the workshop tomorrow?
Hell no! What’s the point?
I don’t get you! You just found out there are things you need to develop, and then you say…
And I will, but not in a workshop… that’s not my thing. I like this we’re having, spontaneous conversation, informally, without handouts and pair-work, without a timetable and a coffee break. I don’t need them fun activities nor the latest buzz in corpus linguistics. I need this… dialogue.
You’re crazy, that’s what you are! You need dialogue? Get a wife, or go see a shrink or something.
They giggle and leave for classes, both handling a plastic folder containing a red grammar book and a blue coursebook.
You might also like: