On the uncertainties of a practice teacher

on-the-uncertainties-of-a-practice-teacher

“Teaching is an occupation fraught with 
uncertainties and potential stress” 
(Hiver, 2014, p.214)

I believe that every English teacher, at the beginning of a new course, has to deal with several questions: Who am I going to teach? What am I going to teach? How will I teach it? Will my students understand?

Such questions are essential since they provide the basis for us to choose the methods, revise the textbooks, and develop the lesson plans. However, they cannot be easily answered with just a survey or a placement test. We, as teachers, keep coming back to them after every lesson for improvement, and we have to make decision even with limited information. That is the dilemma I was caught in during my first teaching job which gave me the first notion of the uncertainties in teaching career.

Later on, I figure out that such feeling of uncertainties is quite common among my predecessors. Some of them have to suffer the cognitive dissonance between teaching for the test and teaching for real life. Some others hold higher and higher expectation while struggling with meagre income. Many have no clue how their teaching career might be in the drastic change of social and economic settings.

I, myself, also share this feeling. Being a Vietnamese who have never been in an English speaking community, yet learning to become an English teacher, I cannot help feeling inadequacy when my students ask me about the subtle nuances of English language, such as the difference between “shadow” and “silhouette”. Language use is constantly changing; the Internet slangs that my digital native students get exposed to everyday are far different from the expressions I learnt from the books published twenty years ago. If my students do not know anything, they ask Google – which makes me question the role of a teacher in the new era.

We do not know exactly what to do, but we must get the job done. We make decisions based mostly on our assumption, yet we must avoid making mistakes because it is said that: “A doctor’s mistakes kill some patients, but a teacher’s mistakes destroy a whole generation”. That dilemma is undoubtedly stressful, and those uncertainties are unquestionably intrinsic in my future teaching career.

10.02.20

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