More Whole Teacher – Ann

Ann Loseva

Four Steps Towards Wholeness   –  Ann Loseva

I’ll be honest. Not having a clear idea what the term whole teacher might mean, I’m approaching my task as I would expect my students to work on it. I’m imagining a class scenario when my students are not familiar with some word and then translation is not much help with getting the meaning either. Some of students would not care and would be ready to move on. But others would stubbornly question me: What does it mean? Why does it have such a name? Can you give an example? This is the moment that I value a lot and like to see (and ideally use) as a set-out for true learning. In this learning process, the initial questioning would be the first step towards reaching clarity. The second step I’d suggest is researching. Thinking of my classroom of future scientists, realization comes that research skills are indeed critical — both for obvious practical purposes and for getting a broader perspective on things. The next logical step is contextualizing. It may be an axiom for language teachers that words are not “islands” in the oceans of the language; they exist, take their shapes, and then transform in certain contexts and situations. The final step of this “research” is wrapping up, considering all that’s been learnt to answer the questions, and possibly coming up with a refreshing understanding. I believe this whole process can be interesting and maybe even insightful, even if possibly tedious. However, that is likely what research is. And I’m about to research whole teacher.

Step 1. Questioning.

I start out with asking myself questions, and here are some of them.

  • In this phrase I’m researching the adjective “whole” is apparently everything that matters. So, what do I know about “whole” as a word? And how does its meaning relate to the teacher?
  • What does a whole teacher do, in and out of class?
  • How does one become a whole teacher? Is it, in fact, anything that we can learn to be?
  • Am I a whole teacher? I’m not sure I want to know the answer to this question, though. Or rather, I’m not comfortable labeling myself.

These questions give some background and support in looking for the whole picture. In a certain way they also correspond to the steps to follow: starting from digging for the meanings of the word, moving on to imagining a whole teacher acting out in situations, wrapping up to reach a conclusion. Armed with these inquiries and a genuine curiosity, I step into analysis.

Step 2. Researching.

Next port of action: dictionary search, which could be the key to grasping the idea. A couple of weeks ago during a lesson a student wondered about the word martial in “martial arts” (in Russian the translation is very far from what it looks like in English and students were confused). So we used this chance to learn about the existence of etymological dictionaries, made connections, and a learning moment happened.

The etymological origin of whole tells us that it is derived from the Old English hal, meaning “entire, unhurt, healthy”.I’m making a mental note of that and open three more dictionaries (Oxford, Cambridge and Merriam-Webster). Unsurprisingly, there’s a very complex imagery of many meanings. I’ve taken the liberty to pick several that feel most appropriate, or “belonging”, to my yet vague understanding of “whole” in relation to the teacher.


1. in an unbroken or undamaged state; in one piece;

2. free of wound or injury; recovered from a wound or injury; being healed;

3. mentally or emotionally sound;

4. directed to one end, concentrated;

5. constituting the entirety of a person’s nature or development (Note: This meaning has an amazing example that I want to share: <educate the whole student>).

One more interesting note is that in one of the dictionaries there is a section called “Synonym Discussion” and it makes a point that struck me. The closest synonyms given are entire, total and all, and the commentary on entire runs like this: “… may suggest a state of completeness or perfection to which nothing can be added”. I find this mentioning of absolute perfection slightly disturbing. In my view, it’s generally quite impossible in life to encounter perfection in anything, and perfectionism as an attitude is potentially destructive. That is no more than a personal bias, of course, but I find it difficult to agree to see a whole teacher as someone aiming for the ultimate, largely unattainable ideal.

I needed more words to describe a whole teacher and now I have too many. The result of this analysis is a powerful, yet intricate image. A whole person boasts physical, psychological and mental completeness. A whole teacher could be a concentrated person owning him/herself, undamaged, or once damaged – perfectly healed. This idea made me think of a line from The Brothers Karamazov that I’m currently reading (and I could speculate in another post that Dostoevsky knew something about wholeness): “You will burn and you will burn out; you will be healed and come back again.”  I’m not at peace with the idea of the completeness of a whole teacher. Yet, I concede to visualize him/her as an all-around healthy, sound individual whose personality displays a well-fit puzzle that can be undone but then will likely come together again. This is not at all simple, and I hope that the next step will help me bring more clarity by seeing a whole teacher in action in context.

Step 3. Contextualizing.

Just like a word in a language does not make most of its sense on its own, I think a whole teacher would become a more real and tangible “concept” when put into social contexts and their conditions. For example, let’s think of a classroom. A whole teacher, from what we now know of him/her, is “a complete puzzle” of an arguably perfect personality. Thus, I imagine there is place for both virtues and vulnerabilities, and that these are well managed.

Speaking about the former, the virtue that crosses my mind is care. A whole teacher cares to carry the complex personality puzzle into the classroom and this fact helps deal with the classroom reality. He or she is curious, cares to check information and be “in the know of things” for the sake of students’ (and the teacher’s own) learning. He or she cares to readily engage in a dialogue, accept opinions contrary to his or her own, and teach students to do the same. A whole teacher, as I see this person, is both sensitive and tough, and displays these traits according to the situation, trying to keep the pieces of the puzzle together. A whole teacher knows how to rein over emotions, but, on the other hand, manages to rise intact even in the times when this psychological equilibrium has been damaged. A whole teacher will be healed, as we know.

The staff room is another, potentially stressful environment of a whole teacher. Any English teacher exists in the immediate circle of his/her colleagues in the workplace; supervisors, directors and other members representing formal authority; a local teacher community; recently global staff room for some. In all (or maybe just some of) these environments a whole teacher interacts, reacts, argues for his/ her beliefs, or prefers to stay in the background and observe. Keeping the “completeness” in mind, it seems that none of the happenings in these circles should affect a whole teacher’s sound ideas or harm a whole teacher’s integrity. Now I wonder if it is true, and if in a real life staff room it is as easy as it looks from the words I’ve written. I don’t claim to be a whole teacher but I can’t help thinking of my own experience of failed communication, when the psychological and emotional tension got too hard to bear and I ended up a truly broken puzzle (you can read the whole story here).

Then there’s one more context for a teacher to be in, and that is out-of-teaching life, aka the real world. I see our whole teacher sound and aware of vulnerabilities outside of class just as well. There is no difference, and this should be a crucial property of this kind of teacher: the puzzle is complete because it represents a person, and a whole teacher remains this person regardless of the setting we put him/ her in.

Step 4. Seeing things, possibly answering questions.

So what things am I seeing after having taken these three uncertain steps? Not many, not too clearly. The meaning is still complex, and it escapes me every time I try to look beyond the lofty words of praise to the whole teacher. Wholeness seems to be a concept too big to be trying on ourselves without taking the time to analyze what it actually stands for, and then it’s even more uncomfortable. I mentioned earlier I don’t feel good about labeling. It’s not my intention to have the reader measure themselves according to the criteria of wholeness – odds are we are all neither whole nor perfect, as people and teachers. My suggestion is to remember about being mentally, physically and emotionally sound, and aspire for reaching this state even when classes get ruined and days go wrong.

I yield to temptation to ask myself the question… Am I a whole teacher? I don’t think so. Yet I wonder if caring to *hypothetically* learn something from ignorance can also be a sign of a teacher trying to complete the puzzle and discover wholeness.


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Grammar Issue – Ann

Pondering Grammar with Students and Scott Thornbury
– Ann Loseva

Ann Loseva
As I was preparing to write this post I did more “research” than I ever have done. I was looking for lines that I could read and nod in agreement, as well as lines that would make me stop right there and reconsider something. The reason for this acute need for digging in the topic is obvious – I don’t know how to manage grammar in my classes, either in those with a pre-set syllabus to follow or with an emergent one, which describes the majority of classes I give at the moment. The latter being my own voluntary choice, I struggle to make it work. It teaches me lessons I wouldn’t have a chance to learn otherwise, so I strongly recommend taking up the challenge.

I’d like to warn the reader that no well-tried grammar activities or successful methods to teach grammar will be shared in the text below, as much as I would love to see myself doing it. I’ve been buying grammar books for many years, every time sure this one will shed light, these exercises will be exciting, this approach will fit the logics of my class. At the moment, after almost nine years of teaching, I still don’t have my favourite grammar activity that works with all groups of students, and I’m beginning to think it’s hardly possible to have it.

I wanted to write this post in order to make an attempt at figuring out my confusion about teaching grammar. In doing that, I’d like to offer three lines of perspectives on grammar in English teaching and learning: one I gathered from my students, another one coming from myself, and finally, some ideas I’ve picked up from Scott Thornbury’s writing. It’s interesting to see how these will correlate, if at all.


Students on grammar

Grammar is a big word and every new student I get to teach, no matter what their level is, knows the big Grammar word. Interestingly, around a half of these students might not know the longer word – Vocabulary. The Grammar word is forever imprinted, and so are the fears, expectations and preconceived beliefs of its unquestionable superior status.

Students know something about grammar and that’s what I’ve heard them say:

“Don’t worry, my groupmates want more grammar exercises because that’s what they got used to at school, that’s what they know about English.”

“I can’t make myself do any page in this grammar book. I am prejudiced against it.” (A teacher’s side note – as, in fact, against any other type of course book.)

“I like learning about Passive Voice in the process, when I have the need to use it in my sentence and you tell me about it.”

“Let’s revise tenses next time.”

I’m equally puzzled with both kinds of reactions, whether my learners express a wish to do more grammar explicitly or to avoid exercises at all, because looking at a page filled up with gaps to complete makes them sick and remember wasted time of school English. At this point I start wondering just how much their expressed wishes correspond to their needs and abilities that I, as a teacher, should be addressing in the first place. Shouldn’t I know better and stand on the firm ground? As I’m moving on from term to term I’m examining attitudes of students, which are changing as generations of learners change. Attitudes of teachers I know remain the same. Isn’t this stability something I should learn from them?


My recent discoveries

Two months ago I started learning Japanese. It’s especially interesting to look at this experience now as it seems to be the first language I’m learning with sharp awareness of how and why I’m doing it and what the more effective ways to do it could be. There is no coursebook or grammar guide on my desk. It may seem sort of shocking for a teacher, but I’ve decided to try a different approach for now. I’m getting chunks and sentences which are quite beyond my level and then work by myself on figuring them out. From translation I get understanding, then notice patterns. I get them wrong, ask questions, get my answers, and then start all over again. These tiny pieces of Japanese grammar make their first, shy and teasing, appearance and then vanish. I need to point this out – they most often vanish. I can safely say that I only remember now how to say “This/that is …”, “Is this/that …?” or form an of-phrase. I’ve found myself in a new place where I’m learning how language works from chains of discoveries. I’m learning very slowly and with an outstanding irregularity and to this moment have made two major observations from this process:

  • These linguistic discoveries need to go through cycles of repetition, to be re-discovered many times before I might hope for them to sink in.
  • The more I learn, the more confirmed I become in that we desperately need vocabulary if we want to actually produce sentences. It’s the first thing to escape memory, too.


Insights from Scott Thornbury

In chapter 19 ”Do rules help you learn a language?” of his Big Questions in ELT a lot of what is said resonates with how I feel in my contradictions. One of the life examples that Scott makes is constantly present in my teaching. Many learners spend years of studying English going through Present Simple and Present Continuous again and again, from year to year. As university students join my class, they keep making fun of this fact, get sarcastic… and yet many appear to have a “conspicuous lack of success” with these basic forms. What nature do the reasons for that have? I heard some teachers say such learners are “grammatically challenged”, or plain slow. I ignore such voices and keep searching for the real reasons behind the problems.

One of the questions at the end of chapter 19 is this: Are rules that learners have worked out themselves better than rules that they have been given and why?

This makes me turn to Japanese again. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been trying to deduce some patterns in this language. It’s not easy, actually quite painful, and not at all memorable as in rules afterwards. I wonder how quick at grasping these same patterns I’d be if I had them handed over to me, like we as teachers so often do in our own classrooms. I’m left with an uneasy doubt that it makes no big difference in terms of future language use. I can just say that working out a rule by yourself looks more engaging and fun, if you aim for that.

Here are some more of my many puzzles and subsequent struggles within the topic, which some of you could probably connect with:

1) Grammar continuum in a coursebook-less class. I’m learning to organize what we’re learning at every lesson into a kind of a developing syllabus. Grammar is one of the bothersome stumbling blocks.

2) The discrepancy between lexis I teach and forms I want to put this lexis in. I’m questioning dividing grammar and vocabulary instruction as I see it done in my context. While I have to teach within these rules, filling this gap without damaging the general flow is my ongoing mission. I see teaching grammar as coming from emergent needs and so I face difficulties in keeping up with the syllabus.

3) The Careless Teacher puzzle. How sloppy will you allow a student’s speech to be, both in written and spoken production? I fear that I’ve recently been forming for myself a distinction between little grammar and serious grammar. I’ve already tried to give it a thought in my post here. My main point of concern is how my lax approach impacts students and their decisions to choose this or that form, to remember or forget a rule.

Having said all this, I’m no less confused and probably have confused you a bit, too. I’m thinking of this former student of mine. His/her eagerness to communicate a message in English no matter what is impressive, even though grammar is inaccurate. This attitude can be seen as a good sign. However, I wish I could say that this apparent lack of norms in his/her short sentences doesn’t impede the message he/she wants to get across…but it often does. And this is how I keep pondering grammar.



These are just three of several inspiring posts I’ve marked as favourites while sifting through blogs looking for something that spoke along with my tune.


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13 for 2014 – Ann Loseva

13 Things I Heard or Read That Made a Difference / 13 Community Wisdoms  –   Ann Loseva

Ann Loseva

Before sitting down to write this post, I checked the post I wrote for this blog a year ago, on what I learnt in 2012. It is full of adjectives describing how I changed over the course of the year. I was entering 2013 aspiring to continue becoming a better me, without actually knowing how I would make that happen. Here’s the story of how it all turned out.

This year has been a very different year for me and brought some new realities to my eyes. What I’m struggling to express is the fact that I’ve become much more aware of the people around me and what they have to tell me. All I’ve learnt about myself and people, about life and making choices, about teaching and learning this year has become possible through the people in my community reaching out to share themselves with me. So I’m passing on these 13 lines of what struck me as wisdom throughout the year. These are sometimes direct quotes torn out of the contexts of online chats and real-time conversations, or words I caught and noted during the sessions I attended at conferences. There are two lines from my students, and one excerpt lifted from a magazine. My humble explanations—as well as a very amateur analysis—follow. The order of points that made a difference to me makes no difference in and of itself, and the numbers are I can say confidently, purely incidental.

1. Great minds think alike and fools seldom differ.

The phrase was intended to be a joke in a chat, or at most a piece of localised wisdom. However, it sank deep into my mind and I decided to share it with my students the next day. At first, the students had some difficulty translating it, and then some of them began to take it really seriously. They were gazing into the distance, or looking down into their notebooks, or staring right through me. I had merely wanted them to appreciate how beautifully the language worked in this particular case of seeming opposition. A bit of wisdom for me: students are trained to dig for something behind the words. Even if they cannot do it, they feel like they must try. So I probably should work harder on helping them notice the shape and beauty of the language right there in front of them.

2. What we hear and what others say is different.

This is taken from my Breaking Rules course notebook and may not be a direct quote, but it is highlighted. Such a simple truth and yet so powerful, like maybe all real wisdoms are. Originally it was used in regards to a lesson reflection process.  It was meant to remind me that transcribing a chunk of a lesson can prove revolutionary by allowing me to notice what a lesson actually is, and move beyond the prism of my own inward perceptions. I’ve done this type of transcribing only once, and it really was a revolution in seeing my own teaching and my students’ learning. The wisdom in this phrase speaks for itself.  I’d like to set it as a goal for the next year, a reminder to repeat the experience more than once, and ignite the flames of my personal revolution again.

3. Sorry of my gramar.

This grammar test was a revelation to me. This line on the bottom of the page, so sincere in its apology, bravely accepting (and embracing) inaccuracy, reaching out for a teacher’s help, struck me. I just want to be a better teacher for this student, and for others, who don’t leave this note on their grammar tests. A bite of wisdom says that it’s high time I did something more to teach grammar.

4. Don’t let the negative attitude influence you.

It doesn’t matter much which dialogue this phrase was part of, as it, in my opinion, can influence our whole view of life. As a person and especially as a teacher working in staff rooms of all kinds, it’s quintessential to keep this in mind if we want to live a happy life. And I do want to, so I walk out of my house each morning reminding myself that letting the negative effect me is a choice. Now I’m passing it over to you, hopeful that it will make a world of difference for you, too.

5. My lesson is not really only mine, students are also there, so they need to take responsibility as well.

As the year went on and my awareness grew, I realized that the ideas that resonate with my understanding of what’s right rub off on me with a longer lasting impact. They become the ideas that make me tick.  Such is the case with this piece of wisdom from one of the sessions I attended at iSTEK Conference. I strongly believe students should feel as if they are the rightful owners of their learning and bear responsibility for actions we take together in class. It’s not an easy process to make them feel this way.  But I have seen how a shift to this kind of attitude impacts the kinds of results students can see in their own learning process.

6. Have you made your students bored?

This is one of the two quotes on this list that come from plenaries I’ve been to this year. A lesson during which neither my students nor I get bored is the one ace lesson I aim for every day of my teaching. And thanks to this question and the answers explored in the plenary, I know that the human brain reacts to relevant content and to getting emotionally involved.  It’s nice to know that tapping into this responsible-for-pleasure part of the brain not only seems logical and right, but is backed up by science.  It felt good to have my vision of an ace lesson proven valid by neuroscientists and Herbert Puchta.

7. We’ve all understood that you have a perfect sense of humour. But we won’t be able to write this quiz in 13 minutes.

Oftentimes what makes a palpable difference is downright bitter. It takes a leap of faith to see through the haze of this bitter feeling and recognize the underlying reasoning behind a seemingly casual comment made by a student. I’ve written a post about this and one more similar remark on my blog ( Having written this, I now realize that I should have paid more attention to #2 on this list. Changing my behaviour in class might involve major personality changes on my part.  To be honest, I’m not sure just what those changes would be.  So, if I’m going to be honest, I should admit that this wisdom is not easily acquired.

8.  I don’t remember you. But I remember what you taught us.

Some of you might have stumbled on this idea on other ELT blogs lately (for example, here, from Kevin Stein, in Part IV and a bit more in the comments). This is what a student said to her teacher having met her again after several years. I have an itch to write a long commentary on this but I’ll choose to hold back for now and make vague observations. Much as I can’t quite agree with the wisdom here, I do know that a teacher’s ego can be a bothersome thing. This quote had me thinking of my place in a class.  And it also caused me more than a bit of worry (see #7). The right balance between putting myself out front and disappearing into the background is so difficult to find and I struggle with it in almost each and every lesson.

9. Professional development IS a career.

Most of my real life friends, as well as my family, have nothing to do with education. They work in industries of different kinds.  They are working hard, doing overtime to climb those career ladders. Once our conversations touch on the career ladder issue, my story is always the shortest. In my university, no matter how many conferences I attend and present at, I’ll be working as an English language teacher for all my life. While talking about what role the ladder of success seems to play in our careers as a teacher, a very important and wise person from my PLN gave this sharp reply: professional development is a career. This dialogue I will not forget very soon. Because professional development is a career and I am aware of it now.

10.  You’re inexperienced but very natural, real.

I’m surely set on commenting on the inexperienced part of this quote. I think it states the truth very bluntly, and that’s what I like about it. Being inexperienced seems a very natural thing to be as a teacher at my age. I’m almost happy to be finding myself ignorant and rushing to try and fix it. The lessons pass and so do terms, and hopefully what I’m learning from my own reflections and the ELT community will help me build a firm base for the years of teaching to come. At the same time, I wish to hold onto my current emotional understanding of my job, the beliefs about it that I have now.

11. There’s a word we have in Japanese for that – omotenashi.

This is a quote from outside teaching, but maybe still about the people in teaching I’ve met this year. Visiting Japan for JALT Conference has changed my life, my routine, my life plans, my outlook in several ways. When in Japan, I was startled at how kind, friendly and helpful people were to me. The dictionary search tells me omotenashi means “hospitality, entertainment, service”. My wonderful Japanese teacher friend used this word to describe the kind of willingness of the Japanese to be of help. This is one of the features of Japanese culture that keeps luring me back, because everybody likes to be treated nicely.

12.  One should read more, as everything that can possibly be happening within the human soul has been described a good many times, especially so in Russian literature.

This is not an eye-opener. In fact, its obviousness is exactly the reason why I like this statement from Psychologies mag so much. With my love for reading, it seems inexplicable why I fail to integrate reading into my classes in a way I find satisfactory. I love to notice minute details and fleeting impressions as much as I love a good story, so it looks almost a paradox to me that my teaching line is devoid of a chance for students to pay attention to detail or let a story unfold. More wisdom to keep in mind in the year ahead is connected with getting back to Russian literature. I think I’m now ready to do that.

13. I didn’t like myself, now I like myself a little bit.

That is it. Having a look back at the year 2013, I find that I’ve come to like myself a little bit more. Thanks to the people I’ve met, both online and offline, I’ve found myself in the best of places in this community. The community that has shaped itself into a cosy corner where I can feel comfortable saying what I want to say, where I can be sure I’ll receive comforting pats on the back when I’m having a difficult time. The community that is generously sharing their wisdoms with me so that there is always a chance for me to grow and develop as a teacher and as a person.


I would like to thank Malu Sciamarelli, Barbara Sakamoto, Willy Cardoso, Herbert Puchta, Hiroshi Oki, Penny Ur, Michael Griffin, Steven Herder, Naoko Araki Amano, John Fanselow, my students Gosha and Dima, and a glossy mag Psychologies for providing food for thought and a wisdom to hold on to. I would like to stretch my arms in gratitude to so many, and I hope you feel it.


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The Observation Issue – Anna Loseva

A Brave Potential Observee Thinks About Observation – Anna Loseva

Ann Loseva
I’ve been observed several times in my life. First, when I was going through obligatory school teaching practice still as a university student. At one of the two schools this observation was really thorough and included a detailed examination of my lesson plans as well as comments on the classroom procedures, cohesion of lesson chunks and overall logics of conducted lessons. That was the finest example of classroom observation I have had. That was 7 years ago. Since then I have been observed only twice at my current workplace: once by our department chair when I had just taken my position, and once again when a young new teacher was going to join us and was sent to sit in some of the lessons.

As you can guess, there’s no regulated practice of compulsory teacher observation in my context. Nor are most of the teachers interested in setting it up. So long as I don’t have observation of my classes, I am liberated from the judgment of people who would observe me and I’m left to openly speak from my heart in this blog post.

Observation is risky

Just the other week teachers at the department were having a heated discussion about the dangers caused by open student forums. In such forums, university students leave their comments about teachers and lessons. These comments include factual information such as the requirements for credits and exams and descriptions of how classes are held.  But you can also find more personal comments about teachers, both favorable and unfavorable. Surprisingly to me, many of the staff members expressed a strong position of opposition to these forums. They argued that whatever we do in the class should stay in the class. It’s true that the student remarks were incredibly subjective, and sometimes even rude, but basically the whole idea behind these forums, at least to me, seems like an attempt to leave useful information for the generations of faculty and students to come.

When I started to search for the reasons why teachers were reacting to the forums like this, I made a clear connection with lesson observation. People in general fear being exposed. We don’t like open doors or windows, so we buy safe locks and cover windows with curtains. In the same way, we feel safe in the classroom when the door is closed. And it’s difficult to come to terms with the idea that an intrusion into our class can take place without judgmental undertone.

If you walk along the dark grim corridors of my university, you will find that many doors have signs carrying variations of this one message:



It shouts out “Hazard!” It is a powerful and illustrative image. These rooms are forever closed to unwanted visitors. It is dangerous to enter them. Which led me to a question: What is so precious about your lesson that you are guarding it so fiercely?

Observation is about attitude

While I was trying, and at first failing, to answer this question, I asked myself two more:

Do I wish to be observed? A sure but shy “yes” because I recognise observation as a way to start improving my teaching.  Do I wish to observe others? An unsure and loud “yes”, again, because being present in a class of another teacher might open up a whole view of this class’s learning, which will give me more data upon which to build my own future development.

The fear of being observed for quality, correctness and efficiency in regards to how you’re doing your job is explicable and very human. Who wants to be judged like that?! My personal answer for now, like so many other things in life, is change your perspective. It seems to me that it all comes down to what message you send, both as an observing teacher and as an observed one. The observation process involves two sides and it’s not about the opposition of those sides, not about the conflict that happens between them, but rather a mutual readiness to learn more, analyze, talk and make change. In this readiness the right attitude seems to be a precondition.  Some of my ideas about observation derive Harrison Owen’s guide to open space technology. While the two at first may seem disconnected, lately somehow everything seems to relate in my understanding. Thus …

  1. When being observed, don’t think that another person knows your situation better than you do, don’t pre-assume you’re on the defensive. Welcome another perspective.
  2. When observing, don’t suppose you know the situation better than the person you are observing. Be gentle, too J
  3. My ideal path towards accepting observation would start with a sharing of lesson  plans with colleagues. First, I would naturally want to share one that I felt happy with, confident about, maybe even a touch proud. We would compare our lesson plans, see how it goes, and try it again. Couldn’t it be a painless first step?

My expectations and beliefs about observations

I’ve been opening up to challenges more and more lately. What I once used to think of as a tough scenario, something that sent shivers down my spine, now seems to be an exciting venture to plunge into. I keep stretching my elastic comfort zone, not just stepping out of it for a moment to then get back right back into it. So here, as an inexperienced but brave potential observe, I will loudly pronounce my expectations and beliefs about observation:

  1. I realize that I don’t want to be reassured that my lessons are good in all aspects. I am intelligent enough to know that’s not possible.
  2. I am not ready to simply take comments at face value, dialogue (not argument, though) must be a part of the process.
  3. I like to think that observation will spark conversations resulting in reflection and small good changes  — and even if there is no change, at least I will have the chance to take part in a good conversation.
  4. I don’t think of observation as a clue to deal with my professional faults.
  5. I like to hope that observation won’t aim at telling me, and teachers in general, how to teach “right”.
  6. I’m ready to learn, but at the same time I want my view of teaching, my attitude as I have it now, to stay undimmed.
  7. It doesn’t really matter what you think of yourself. Others might be able to see you better. This is an idea that several iTDi friends shared with me a month ago. They weren’t using it in reference to observation, but can’t it be true for the topic of this post in a certain way, too? Still, the idea that others might be able to see you better than yourself, stands in contradiction with some of what I have written above. Life is a complicated matter!

The funniest thing is that even now, after I have written this post and tried to sound convincing, I’m still scared out of my wits when I think of myself being observed. I fear observation. I expect it to lay bare and then thrust in my face my most vulnerable professional spots. But by pronouncing my fears out loud, I’m facing them. And only by going through that uncomfortable first experience will I be able to put up with those fears and eventually crush them.

Now that I have that out of my system, I suggest we all take a small but real step. Let’s take a sheet of paper and a pen. Let’s talk to ourselves, honestly and with an open heart. Let’s jot down several simple sentences which could describe one of our recent lessons. Then read over those sentences and end our note to ourselves with one of two statements, the one that we think fits better:

I don’t need observation.

I need observation.

You might end up with something along these lines:

I never have enough time. I need observation. – Anna Loseva

I always have too much time. I need observation. – Kevin Stein

In the end, whatever you think is right for you at the moment is the only right way to be for this exact moment. I believe there are many thruths. However, it’s good if your assumptions can be shattered every now and then, or even just cracked open a little bit. By doing that a new truth might find its way to shine through.


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How important is lesson planning? – Ann Loseva

The Real Work Of A Lesson Plan

— Ann Loseva

Let’s agree on being sensible teachers entering classrooms with a notebook or a sheet of paper with some appropriate notes scribbled on them. The question is not to plan or not to plan. That’s out of the question. The questions that I would pose are how detailed should these notes be? What part do they play in the lesson? Should every step of the plan be followed? Should you allow yourself to be guided by the plan or should you allow your lesson to flow according to the plan? That is, should you allow yourself some room for improvisation? I do.

Still, what I know about lesson planning comes from the methodology classes that we had at teacher training university where I studied. Let’s face it – the knowledge is rather basic. We were given the big picture of what a well-structured lesson should look like. Hence, I publicly admit that I have never written a lesson plan in such a detailed way as to note timing of every section, let alone write up my exact words for introducing these sections. Frankly speaking, I’m rather scared of going on a CELTA course for this very reason.  Dissecting a lesson will not appeal to me and I might as well fail, and of course failure is something a teacher fears so much. I have a feeling that this skill of writing in-depth lesson plans could be very helpful, so, to my regret, I’m held back from further development due to my unwillingness to welcome change.

Having worked in the profession for almost eight years, I have shaped an image of what a perfectly suited lesson plan is for me. This perfectly suited lesson plan reminds me of a to-do list. There are points mentioning activities I plan to do, along with explanations of how to conduct this or that activity, as well as NB(nota bene) points I want to remind myself not to forget or want to remind students to pay attention to — and that’s it. The one core principle that is an absolute must for me to stick to is meaningful connections. Logic, consistency and clear-cut structure are crucial. In an ideal lesson plan, tasks are interrelated and help meet lesson objectives. It’s also important that a lesson aims at practising several skills rather than just one, thus providing multifaceted language experience and loading. Yet the lesson itself could be a flow of activities, pre-planned or spontaneously arising in my mind. In the class itself, students’ reactions play a great role as well.  A teacher needs to be sensitive to this emotional aspect of a class and easily adjust.

Maybe it’s not planning that I would speak of as being important, but rather an ability to structure a lesson in such a way that at the end of it, students have a clear and complete idea of what the lesson has just been about.  Additionally, students should be able to see how the teacher has managed to interweave this particular lesson into the pattern of lessons that make up a course.

A lesson plan can be long or short, detailed or sketchy, but it should do its work.    ~ Ann Loseva


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