The Heart and Art In ELT
Ika Chieka Wibowo
“The best teacher teaches from the heart not from the book”
I’ve been a teacher for about 8 years. I teach different levels of learners ranging from YLs to adults. It was really hard at the beginning as I had to put myself in different classes with very different students who different English abilities. Now, I teach about 6 or 7 hours every day and I have to prepare my mind as my teaching style changes every hour. “ It’s crazy”, I said in my heart. However as I have made the decision to be a teacher at an English School, of course I have to keep in both my mind and heart that I must keep going and keep learning — period. This is my art.
One of my favorite books is Medidik Dengan Hati (Teaching From The Heart) by Alberthiene Endah. I’ve learned a lot about teaching from this book including the following five powers that are at the heart of my art of ELT.
1. The Power of Smiling “Keep Smiling”! Yes, it’s one of the things I always say to myself every morning before going to work. Smiling is a very simple activity but it has a big value for my students and me. The positive energy spread by smiling can directly change the atmosphere in the classroom. Our students will be more optimistic to learn the lessons since they see their teacher feeling happy. We should not expect our students to smile at us, we should make the first move.
2. The Power of Greeting I took it as my habit since I like getting closer with the students. I greet every student I meet although they are not my own student. When I meet my students, I always greet them by using 4 H (Handshake – High Five – How are you – Hello). Most of the students will feel comfortable to talk in English after we greet them nicely because they will feel accepted.
3. The Power of Passion for teaching The Oxford English Dictionary defines passion as “An intense desire or enthusiasm for something”. I live in a real world and I don’t have the same passion for each topic or lesson I want to teach every day. However, I have to be passionate every time I want to teach. When I teach my Young Learners I usually take my lovely hand-dolls to tell a story 15 minutes before jumping into the lesson. I love writing, reading and telling a story. I give a chance to each of my kids to create their own short story. Or I sometimes take the story from the storybooks or even I create my own story. Sometimes, the inspiration come from us and comes from our students, indeed.
One day, my elementary school students came to the class and played a traditional game. They looked very happy and enjoyed the game. I looked at them, listened and learned how it played and then, I got the idea of creating an English version of that game. It’s good for learning about vocabulary and parts of speech. The following day, I asked my students to play it again, but this time in English. And interestingly enough, they preferred playing that game in English instead of the Bahasa Indonesia version. Bringing our interests and passions into our classroom inspires our students and us as well.
4. The Power of Class Rules Creating Class Rules is a good way to create an English atmosphere in the class. Each level learns English for 60 minutes twice a week; it means that I only meet the same students twice a week for 120 minutes. Therefore I have to create class rules in order to build students’ responsibility and spirit in learning English seriously. I create different rules for Kids’ Classes, Teens’ Classes and Young Adults & Adults.
5. The Power of Extra-Activities Each student learns English for 120 minutes twice a week. Of course it’s not enough for them to master English easily. Students need extra time to express their ideas, be creative and develop their English skills. There two types of Extra-Activities usually done here, the first is “Sunday Meeting” where students in one school have to perform and take part in an English competition. The second is “Grand Meeting” where students from different School Branches are allowed to perform and also take part in the English competition. By doing these kinds of Extra-Activities, students will be more confident to speak in English, to write in English or to read in English. Besides, they will make new friends.
Those five powers are how I make my teaching more interesting and enjoyable for my students and also for me. Nothing is difficult if we try to do it with our heart. Teaching from the heart is what the art of ELT is all about for me.
To see how my thinking compares with others, I asked some other iTDi mentors to tell me what the Art in ELT means to them. Here’s what three of them had to say.
- Theodora Papapanagiotou: “Every person is different and has his/her own style of teaching. And every student is different and can or can’t understand things according to how they are taught. So if we want to be good at what we do, we have to be ourselves, but adopt to our students’ needs at the same time”
- Vicky Loras: “In my eighteen years of teaching up to now, I have come to the realisation, as many other educators, that the best teaching comes from the heart. No matter how much technology or other modern media there is in the classroom, no matter how little of these there are, no matter if the school has carpeting or dirt floors, no matter if there is one student or a hundred, all that matters at the end of the day are the people in the classroom, the teachers and the students. And from them comes the art of teaching – and learning”.
- Rose Bard: “It means to reinvent myself. Art has influenced me as a person and as a teacher as I learned how to draw and paint. It taught me to be more observant and pay attention to details. It also has to do with creativity and expressing yourself. Art should be part of our lives and our students’ lives. Explore things together and find different ways to express”.
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