As I wrote in my previous post, I am an introverted teacher and I have learned to use my introverted traits to help my ESL and EFL students learn effectively. I have been really lucky to work with lots of different kinds of teachers throughout my career though and I have loved learning new things about teaching from them. While I will never be an extrovert (even though many of my students think I am) my extroverted colleagues have showed me new ways of thinking about teaching and learning and I am forever in their debt.
1. It is exciting to talk to students and energy is contagious.
My husband and daughter with Orange Guy,My husband is an extrovert. When we first started dating and we would walk from my office to my apartment, a journey of about 20 minutes, if you keep at the business of putting one foot in front of the other. With him it would take about an hour though because he would see so many people he just needed to stop and say hi to. It seemed he knew every single person at the university, students, teachers, guards, everyone. Eventually I would leave him talking to someone and I would proceed on alone.
He now teaches children online from our house and I have had the chance to hear his side of so many lessons that I have learned a lot about what such a social teacher brings to English teaching. No matter how tired he is, or how much he dislikes a lesson he is assigned to teach, he brings an energy with him that is infectious. He has a puppet he loves called “Orange Guy” and he uses it to introduce himself to many of his students. His energy never flags even if he teaches four or five hours in a row. As an introvert, I admire his enthusiasm for human interaction. He loves talking to people, all people, and when my own energy starts to wane, I think of him, I look at the person I am working with and I think about how lucky I am to be able to interact with this human being right now. When I am energetic and enjoying engaging with the individuals in my class, they respond in kind and the whole lesson is a positive experience.
2. Learn everyone’s name quickly and use it often.
A few years ago I was working with a teacher who I greatly admire. He had ways of connecting with students and making them feel at ease right away. I often asked him how he did it and he was generous about sharing his techniques. Many of them are things I can do when I teach too. First he said that he learns all of their names within the first week and uses them frequently. This seemed daunting to me as it usually takes me many weeks to learn everyone’s name. The key to remembering people’s names he explained is to use them very aggressively in the beginning. When you learn someone’s name, repeat it several times in the conversation you are having with them. This helps you in the same way it helps your students to use vocabulary they have recently learned in conversation. I tried this and it really does work. It didn’t feel natural to me at first but after doing it a few times, I began to see that people appreciated the effort I was making and it really did help create a connection between us. I also review my students’ names between classes and make a special effort to pay attention to any names I may have forgotten when I take attendance in the next class. Remembering names quickly is still a challenge for me but I am getting better. For tips on how to remember things like names more effectively, check out 4 Ways to Use Brain Science to Help your Students Learn Vocabulary.
3. Pick out one or two students every class to observe and praise.
Another tip this colleague shared was that I should focus on observing one or two students every class period. Decide before class who I am going to observe and watch for what they are doing well. It could be anything, they spoke more in this class than they did the last class, they pronounced something particularly well, they made their classmates feel at ease or they answered a question. After class, ask those students to stay back for a few minutes and tell them about what they did well and why you appreciate about having them in class. More than anything, he says, this makes every single student in his classes feel special. Often students can go through their entire lives as students never being singled out and made to feel special. As teachers, we have this wonderful chance to do that. I must admit, I do find this difficult but by doing this, I notice things about students that would have slipped past me had I not made a conscious effort to see.
4. Make an effort to connect to the wider community.
I have a colleague now who just loves working with other teachers. He is always involved in trying to connect our little program with the rest of the university. He works hard to bring students from the various campuses together. He reminds me how important it is to get out of my own classroom and connect with the wider community. It is easy for my introverted self to spend all of my time in my office and my classroom, ignoring the wider world out there but there is so much to be gained by bringing people together and encouraging my students to do the same.
There are many opportunities for teachers to get out of the classroom and make a difference in an even wider context. I have participated in implementing Service Learning projects, bringing dynamic speakers into my classroom, helping to organize conferences, presented at trainings and creating extracurricular clubs and activities for students. By learning from my more extroverted colleagues, I am able to do many dynamic, creative things and I love it.
5. Presentation skills can, and should be, learned and practiced.
Me presenting at a teacher training event in Turkey.I had the great honor of working with a talented group of teachers in Turkey when I was an ELF (English Language Fellow) a few years ago. We were encouraged to attend and present at conferences together frequently and at one of those conferences I was impressed by how one of the teachers was able to hold her audience’s attention and communicate her ideas with a seemingly effortless confidence. I complimented her afterwards. She thanked me and told me that she had been working on her presentation skills. Before that, I guess I thought that extroverted people didn’t really have to work on it, it came naturally to them. She taught me that being a great communicator takes work and that I can work on it too. This is important not just in conference presentations, but also in our everyday jobs as teachers. It is important to be able to speak well when introducing a new topic or explaining something in class, and just like everything else in life, we get better at things by consciously practicing them. I now look forward to practicing my communication skills as well and see every class as an opportunity to refine my skills. It is so exciting to think about all of the possibilities ahead.
One of the greatest resources we have as teachers is our colleagues. One of the things I find so exciting about teaching is that there are so many ways to do it well and there are so many ways to connect with students. Look around your workplace. Who are you working with that can teach you something about what they do really well? Even if you are the only ESL/EFL teacher at your school, teachers of other subjects can be just as enlightening and inspiring. I have worked with math and science teachers who were doing creative projects with their students and that gave me ideas for projects I could do with my students.