Being a teacher

And…just about caught my breath after Semester I in my new job!  I plan to be on here more regularly now that I have (almost) got my head around how things work there.

This is the first of a few posts which look at the world of TEFL from the perspective of the teacher.  In this post I ask you to reflect on your classroom and your role in general.


Have you ever asked yourself:

  • Why did I become a teacher?
  • What is my teaching ethos?
  • What gifts do I bring to my work as a teacher?
  • What are my fears in the classroom?
  • How do I hope to be remembered by my students?

Your answers to these questions reveal your underlying beliefs about teaching, and it is these beliefs which you bring into the classroom.  They underpin how you matter which methodology and/or textbook you work with.

And what about your classroom? How do you view it? Are these the characteristics of your classroom?:

  • High structure
  • Pedagogical procedures guided by teacher
  • Pre-set and expected patterns
  • Learning plan = what is learned
  • Learners have a passive role

If so, then you view that space as an ‘Experimental Lab‘ (Tudor, 2001).  You may stick to your lesson plan and set out quite rigid goals and lesson structures to your students. Some may like this! Some may not!

Is your classroom more like this?:

  • Complex social structures
  • Interactive
  • Each classroom has its own culture
  • Jointly constructed
  • Highly normative
  • Asymmetrical
  • Dynamic

This could even describe a coral reef, never mind a classroom! And that is just what this theory of what a classroom is has been named; the ‘Coral Garden‘ metaphor (Breen, 2001).


And finally, is your classroom like this?:

  • Domain of common interest
  • Community – building relationships
  • Practice – practitioners
  • Mutual engagement
  • Joint enterprise

This description suggests a ‘Community of Practice’ (Wenger, 1998), which can be applied to many social contexts where a group of people share a passion. First thing on a Monday morning, would you describe your teaching space as a grouping of people who share a passion? Maybe…maybe not!

Or perhaps your classroom takes elements of all of the above.  Your classroom is influenced by many stakeholders (the particular groups of students at that time, your boss, the agents, the accreditation body etc.) but YOU have a huge impact on the atmosphere created in there.  You have the biggest impact on how your students feel and therefore learn.  It is YOU who spends the majority of the time at the chalk face with them.

So reflect on why you are there, what brought you there, and how you see your classroom.  The answers may surprise you and may change how you practise a little.

In only the first month of 2016 what better time to reflect, refresh and energise?


  • Breen, M. (2001) ‘The Social Context for Language Learning: A Neglected Situation?’, in C. Candlin & N. Mercer (eds) English Language Teaching in its Social Context. London: Routledge, pp. 122-144
  • Hall, G. (2011). Exploring English Language Teaching: Language in Action. London: Routledge
  • Palmer, P.J. (2007) The Courage to Teach Guide for Reflection and Renewal. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass
  • Tudor, I. (2001) The Dynamics of the Language Classroom. Cambridge: CUP
  • Wenger, E.


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