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21st century teacher methamorphosis: a tech-monster or a modern knight?-predavanje održano u Solunu, Grčka na međunarodnoj konferenciji TESOL Thrace Northern Greece

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SOLUN - 11OKTOBAR 2008- međunarodna konferencija profesora engleskog jezika u organizaciji TESOL Thrace Northern Greece:
 „RECONSTRUCTING AND DECONSTRUCTING A TEACHER“
 

Prof.Danijela Bojanic: Britanicca School, Belgrade, Serbia
 21ST CENTURY TEACHER METHAMORPHOSIS:
   A TECH-MONSTER OR A MODERN KNIGHT?


 I started teaching English classes in October 1991, by a strange coincidence: as a 15 year-old girl, I went to the best private school in my city, with “no more and not less” than 150 euros in my pocket  to enroll for a course of English.
After an interview, I came back home to astonish my parents, with an offer for a job! My interviewer and future tutor, Mr Popovic recognized a fairly good teacher “in her diapers”. In his school “Speak 72” there was an advanced PhD-research program: “Students as teachers”. There I took my first steps: I was chosen to be taught and to teach. Thanks to that, the picture of an endless and predictable teaching road, fossilized by majority, turned to a picture of a teacher-tree.
 I was planted on the day when I first entered the classroom with 6 year-olds. I shook in fear, but soon the magic began, but one tear drop in the eye of a small boy decided my path: “Teacher, please, don't tell my parents I am bad. How can I sit still when don't understand anything!”
 His words have moved my soul – on my first day I learnt the master lesson in teaching: our students need our help and understanding, not just our teaching! 
Since that day, I never stopped teaching and never will ! I am 33 years old now, and I have continually taught for 18 years, spending more years in the classroom than out of it! I taught young and adult learners, refugees, teenagers. I moved from General English to Business English, International Exam preparation, specialist and vocational courses. I never refused to learn anything new.
 In 2001, I founded my own school of English, hoping to apply all the best I have learnt up to that point. In 2003 I started to train teachers besides my regular teaching, and still do both!


Teaching English equals further learning, and there is no better developing method for a fresh teacher than learning through practice. Always thinking how to simplify, explain and deliver English to your students, teaching makes you recapitulate, find the core, the main principles underlying in every aspect of language. Course books and professional literature just give us a basic frame, a goal to achieve, a concise program for the chosen level. It is the student’s needs and interaction in the classroom that create good, various and colorful teaching. With their different personalities, affiliations and skills, but yet with the same aims - it is them who show us the way, they blow our wings!
A fruitful teacher will feed on every problem, every difficulty or solution that arises in the classroom. Teacher has to be perpetual learner, constant observer, a great listener and a good, understanding friend to his students. Inexperienced teachers feel as helpless trainers in front of hungry, raging lion-students, wondering will the class learn anything, could he do any better, any different -  was there a better approach!?
At first they stick to the book as a blind man to the fence, feverishly looking at the clock, checking weather everything will fit into the time-frame… When and if they relax, look at their students, listen to them- the mist vanishes and a teacher is born!          
Principle preconditions to the birth are lesson planning and a good time-management which result in our self-confidence and make us go smoothly through the lesson. Also, sweeping through every page of the course book, always preparing an original joke, memorable example, a new chart, diagram, a cartoon even, personal questions - reviving that book- that's what makes our job interesting even when you teach the same course hundred times in a row!
A new-born teacher then significantly develops, feeding on his practice, combining professional literature and experience, researching, applying new strategies, analyzing and valuing the scores…
A fairly developed teacher feels cozy in his classroom, still being hungry to learn, improves his teaching and observes the students, but not just their scores, behaviors and articulation. A developed teacher scratches under that student surface, spotting the inner world of every personality in the group. Going to the classroom now feels more like sharing that an apple of knowledge with familiar and dear people- your students, rather than feeling like stepping in front of the lions! That apple is your fruit; ripen from analyzed experience, strong efforts and constant recapitulation of all professional literature available!
Surely, not too many years should pass until a developed teacher becomes an experienced teacher. The title I used does not refer to hours of teaching, or years you have spent in the classroom. It is used for a teacher who can recognize behaviors in the classroom from the first day, and then predict the conflicts. That skill comes along with the exact time you have spent thinking about your classes after you had left the classroom.
At this point I joined the IATEFL. I wanted to find out new horizons, confirm gained knowledge, exchange ideas with colleagues and listen to great professionals live! It proved right that even the most experienced teachers must keep on “digging” in order to become capable of applying a suitable strategy immediately in every situation: class-missing, lack of attention, poor motivation, frustrated and aggressive students, lazy ones…
When I look back on years of my work, I can hardly understand teachers who complain about being bored, out of ideas, tired, worn-out or poorly motivated. Every single day of my teaching I have learnt something new - about the people I teach, the good and bad approaches, ways to prevail and overcome problems. All that time I had spent in the classroom was a great fun and joy - the best times I had besides my family. I laughed and cried with my students, helping and fighting them at the same time! Finally, when they succeed, I sadly discover I already miss them before they leave the school!


Having this noble, honorable vocation is a gift.  Helping people learn, sharing a piece of their lives, getting to know always new, different and wonderful individuals – makes teaching the best “job” in the world!
Soon as a good, experienced teacher you are wanted: as a teacher-trainer, perhaps a principal or director of studies. You may found a new school or have a teacher gap-year accepting a position abroad…The choices are great! In this phase your career is getting its wings.
Whatever you chose, after a while give a thought about further professional advancement: Master or PhD studies!  Further academic studies aim to unite obtained experiences of teaching students, teacher- training, employee and managing roles. Add some spicy ingredients for a royal bite - become a university professor with a great new challenge: planting and growing thousands of young teacher-trees! 
As a teacher, you change a small piece of the world with every new student. As a teacher-trainer your impact is greater - you help improve more and more teachers, who then change their pieces of the world. Becoming a university professor after all this, makes you the creator of the whole generations. You don’t just get to improve teachers who come almost completed – you get to seed teachers and give them life-time roots!
All these given transformations of a teacher sustain our motivation, never letting us rest on the laurels of an old glory, thus never threatening to dilute our practice and mislead us to boredom, nor choke our students with personal discontent!
Again there is more: an academic professor eventually becomes a researcher, a writer who then educates students, teachers, future teachers and colleagues all around the world!
Such a giant becomes a net worker, an inspiration, a figure that moves boundaries, changing the whole world indeed. IATEFL gathers the best of the giants!
Finally the biggest and sweetest apple from the teacher-tree is coming last:  to retire fulfilled professionally and personally, as every philanthropist of our teaching kind does.
Above all, teaching is a vocation running in your blood; it is a profession if you keep on learning; it can provide a wonderful career, but it can never be a just a job.
Will these principles be changed by interactive white-boards, pod casting, blended learning, online and computer-based classes, emerging technologies and modern approaches?
Definately not!  Fresh discoveries and researches in single aspects of language teaching are only the tools helping a teacher be more illustrative, realistic, practical, interesting- be close to the time we are living in...
Deep down inside I know that a good teacher must have the same competence and skills in the middle of African savana, even if given only a  blackboard and a  chalk and should perform  as well as he would in the best equipped hi-tec classroom in the centre of  London!
So, where is our future? In the classrooms with our  students -  for good, but not as tech-monsters, armed with videos, CD-s, projectors, PC-games, CD-roms hiding behind the screen of computer!


Our profession is more like a holy mission of a modern knight- to teach and make this world a better place through uor teaching. We should never deliver only dry and isolated knowledge of the language we teach.
Humanism, respect, spirit of healthy competition and learning in groups, friendship among our students,  spreading love and peace- those are the corner-stone principles of our profession!
If a  good teacher is not a good person at the same time, then a teacher is not a teacher, but  a sorrow merchant who tries to sell odds and ends of the greatest human science- language!