Are Teachers Supposed to Be Managers?

Aziz SoubaiAre Teachers Supposed to Be Managers?

by Aziz Soubai.


We all know that teachers do not only teach – if that was the case, it would be a nice, easy job. Teachers do several other jobs along the way. Before actual teaching begins, they first need to plan, prepare, and design their lesson plans. They also need to make sure that instructional time is not interrupted by potential troublemakers, which may often be the case especially in large classrooms full of low achievers. When (or if) that happens, teachers must find ways to bring their learners’ attention back, otherwise the class will get out of control. In short, successful teachers should be good planners, designers, psychologists, and assessors. Yet even that is not the end and there are other qualities to have and jobs to do involved in the noble teaching profession. I would like to focus on one such quality that is quite essential for the teaching process to work.

The quality or skill I will talk about is managing. The question is, “Can teachers also be managers?” I’m pretty sure that you already know the answer: they can and they very often are. However, you might as well wonder and ask how and when teachers can be managers.

In order to teach you need a classroom, a group of students, and materials. Right? But providing these does not guarantee effective teaching; you need something else. Students in the classroom form groups and alliances, those groups talk to each other, make noise, make decisions based on what they see that will affect the classroom atmosphere either positively or negatively. The social learning theory has proven that people learn from each other through observation, interaction and modeling, and that is what is happening in our classrooms every day.

If the teacher, instructor, tutor, or educator is not aware of the impact of this theory or does not have the right classroom management techniques (such as offering praise and badges, using differentiated instruction, and making eye contact), no learning will occur. In other words, teachers manage students’ behaviours and are supposed to have some influence on students’ actions and reactions. Managing behaviours is one of the non-teaching activities that all teachers do on a daily basis.

Managing in this sense means creating an environment conducive to teaching and learning. It also means addressing classroom issues in a proper fashion. The issues might involve, for example, where and how students should be seated or how to avoid or deal with possible personality clashes (this article comments in more detail on these particular challenges and more). The teacher should know exactly when to intervene and what to say. If the case is the other way around, the teacher will be a bad manager, which is bound to impact the learning process.

To finally answer the question that I posed earlier, I think teachers are already managers by nature and they are supposed to be managers for effective instruction to occur. To get the image clear in your mind, think of the teacher-manager as an orchestra maestro. Students or learners are the musicians and every one of them has a particular instrument playing a different tune. The maestro needs to arrange that chaos and turn it into beautiful music or a song, and to achieve that purpose he uses his hands, eyes, and most of all he has to master the language of conducting as you can see in this video.

My Journey in Professional Development

Aziz Soubai

My Journey in Professional Development
by Aziz Soubai.


What do you think happened in the summer of 2014? That summer is of huge significance for me. Why? I’m very sure the lives of so many teachers and educators around the world have changed a lot since that summer.

One of those teachers was me, a novice English teacher from Morocco. I was thrilled beyond description and this was the start of my professional journey as a language teacher and educator.The joy lasted for 10 weeks, but those weeks passed by like 10 minutes for me!

So, what happened exactly is that I was surfing the Internet one day and found the announcement of an online course called the iTDi Summer School MOOC for English Teachers. Something in this title made me so curious to know what this whole course was about. I decided to register and what followed that choice led to a tremendous achievement for me. Back then I didn’t have much experience in online learning and more particularly with WizIQ. It was summer time, a time when most people go to the beach, take a swim, wear sunglasses, and enjoy the freshness of water and the beauty of sunsets. I still remember the two voices in my head. One was saying, “What? Are you out of your mind? Do you want to imprison yourself in front of the computer for this whole time?!” The other voice, however, which was essentially supported by passion and curiosity, was a little stronger: “You have to see what’s going on in here. This looks like a huge learning opportunity – and it is free!”

The next day the voice of passion emerged victorious. However, that was not the end of the story and I had to face many challenges. The sessions were utterly amazing and were mainly about topics related to teachers’ interests and classroom practice. There were sessions about teaching using games, videos, stories, web tools, and more. It was true enjoyment for me and I could attend most of the live sessions. I resorted to the recorded ones only to prepare for the quizzes (that were part of the MOOC program) or when there were connection issues. The thing that really bothered me, though, was the deadlines and the multiple-choice questions which needed a lot of concentration and effort. I know that it was not meant to be a self-paced course. Consequently, I sometimes had to stay up a whole night to make sure I could submit the quiz in due time. I learnt to be more active and get rid of procrastination, which is a pretty devastating habit. All this made me reticent and I realized that I got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet. And then I really made a huge one!

That summer online course with iTDi created a kind of insatiable thirst for knowledge inside me. I have become a great online learner and this in turn affected how I now prepare my lesson plans and deal with my students. The tips, ideas, and strategies I gained and am still gaining from iTDi courses are countless. For example, I now rely more on technology, especially English language applications that teach spelling, pronunciation and vocabulary. I also train my students to use learning management systems like Edmodo to do homework or participate in global projects with other schools. Additionally, I use students’ portfolios for teaching, assessment and reflection.

I feel I have become a global citizen, and a more reflective teacher and thinker. I now firmly believe that “anything I can do, we can do better, an important message and one of iTDi’s principles as described by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto. In fact, this is very true for language teachers. We face more or less the same learning and teaching challenges and we share the same concerns. Here I’m specifically talking about language areas like grammar, especially for EFL learners, which was mentioned in one the talks of Betty Azar, Keith Floss and Michael Swan.

I realize now that my journey in professional development never ends. Every single day I learn something new. I learn from students who are constantly changing themselves. I learn from interacting with my colleagues. I learn from iTDi bloggers. I learn from bad experiences and, most of all, from my own mistakes and blunders.

“I’m praying for the rain and I gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.” 


Four qualities to be a better language teacher

Aziz Soubai
Aziz Soubai
By Aziz Soubai

Not just anybody should be in a teaching position. You don’t need to choose a teaching career, because if you have what it takes, the teaching career will choose you. It is not easy to teach and it is very tough to succeed in what you do if you are not interested in it in the first place. The first most important quality in a successful language teacher is loving your job. Otherwise, you’ll experience a total fiasco; no matter how intelligent or knowledgeable you are – you will fail miserably. I’m not going to talk about a certain magic recipe of how to be a successful educator because there is no such thing. Human beings are unique, learners are unique and there is no single way of successfully teaching English. So, what I’m going to do in this post is share with you some of the ideas and insights I gained in my classroom practice over the past few years.

There are so many traits of a great language teacher but I will choose four of those qualities that I think are most significant to be a better language teacher. These ideas have worked for me and that does not mean they will work for every teacher; it depends on many elements and factors, such as a teacher’s readiness to apply the tips, their motivation, and most importantly their teaching context.

The first quality is, as I mentioned before, loving what you do. It means getting up every morning with a burning fire inside you, a huge passion for your job. It means also that when you teach, you feel alive. I believe that, unfortunately, this quality of a teacher cannot be acquired or gained over time. It is either there or it doesn’t exist!

Of course, passion and love for the job is not enough to be a successful educator and teacher. We need something else. Our language classrooms can sometimes be full of uninterested, unmotivated students and this creates additional classroom issues and a huge burden for EFL teachers. Therefore, the second quality to possess is patience. A language teacher should suppress his/her anger and know how to control emotions. Being patient doesn’t mean allowing and tolerating bad behavior. It means teachers have to find alternative ways and strategies to deal with daily issues faced in class. One of those strategies is applying the humanistic affective approach, which in my context works most of the time. In other words, you need to create certain bonds between you and your students. Make them your friends and try to see the human side in them, not just knowledge that they have or don’t have. A ten-minute open discussion with your learners from time to time will undoubtedly make them respect and trust you more.

Once we have ensured the passion and patience are there, students will be receptive, ready and even highly motivated to learn. The next quality  to have is being a good organizer and planner. Good lesson planning is a crucial process in teaching English effectively. Plan very detailed lessons because doing that will make you avoid unexpected learning and teaching issues. There are, of course, so many techniques for creating a lesson plan. I would recommend the following:

  1. Start with reviewing the previous lesson and link it to the next one.
  2. Use some kind of warm up. My students like tongue twisters, which are great for practicing pronunciation, grammar, and other language points.
  3. Write and discuss the lesson objectives with the class. They need to know where you are taking them and why.
  4. Model and instruct. Use examples for your learners and show them how they are supposed to accomplish their tasks.
  5. Use guided practice. Intervene, offer guidance, and help when you see something goes wrong or when you feel that your learners are off-task.
  6. Finish your lesson with a sort of assessment. It might be a short ungraded quiz, writing a lesson summary, or peer feedback and assessment.

The fourth and final quality is trying to be innovative and creative in your teaching style. Attending as many conferences as possible will help you to reach that goal. Share your experiences with the public, seek advice and guidance from mentors and experienced teachers.

Because teaching is a pretty challenging job, we as language teachers must be prepared not only in terms of materials and input but also on other important levels like the ones mentioned in this post. We need to understand our learners’ needs and social background; we are dealing with human beings after all. Doing all this won’t necessarily guarantee great teaching and learning experience. However, it would at least set us on the right track toward success in our professional life.

Three ways to get your energy back

Aziz Soubai
Aziz Soubai

by Aziz Soubai

I see teaching as a very hard and even nerve-racking profession, especially when you daily deal with a classroom full of unruly teens. This situation makes me literally consume all my energy and sometimes results in a burnout. To help myself restore my energy and recharge my batteries, I resort to activities that might seem strange and out of context. I say strange because maybe one would expect re-energizing pastimes like swimming, hiking, or jogging (which are fine, by the way, and I like to do them particularly during holidays). However, in this post I will be talking about my three specific habits which help me to relax and get rid of the stress, anxiety, and nervousness after a day or a whole week of teaching English to sometimes unmotivated EFL learners.

The first practice I engage in is writing poetry. Yes, it is unbelievable therapy and a huge remedy for all kinds of pain and problems. I try to put anything that crosses my mind on paper. I write about both bad and good experiences and try my best to wrap them in the form of beautiful musicality and rhythm. I’m quite a pedantic person, so I choose my words very carefully and this turns writing into an extremely painful (and joyful!) process. It is painful because I might spend a lot of time looking for the right word or an expression that serves the exact purpose I have in mind. It is joyful when the fight is over and I emerge victorious. There are some of my poems below and I wonder if you can sense my feelings while reading them…

The life turned sour

The life turned sour!

avoiding a bleak past I abhor

I stroll to the beach; swam ashore

the life turned sour!


My days filled with anger and pain

the sun’s warmth beginning to wane

thunderstorms and ferocious rain

The life turned sour!


looking at the moon distant and pale

like it is willing to cry and wail.

Of these pitiful sights

I don’t want more

the life turned sour!


Seeking a refuge, a little zone

to voice my feelings and moan

to fulfill my belated ambitions

to finish what I started before

The life turned sour!

finding answers is my mission

building a world of my creation


knowing where is the door? ?

The life turned sour!


I wrote a song

I wrote a song

cause I wanted to see what’s wrong

Why there is so much war?

people should love instead of abhor.


So much killing

that has no meaning

This conflict caused a lot of death

by men who have absolutely no wit.


This insanity must have an end

that’s the message I want to send

Love, peace and security

for you for me for all the humanity.


My second re-energizing habit is listening to music in loud speakers. I believe that music is a powerful tool to unleash one’s potential and creativity. There is a saying that “music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” and I believe it to be very true. Listening to one of my favorite songs, such as Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, boosts my motivation to keep working, increases my energy levels, and makes me totally relaxed. I mentioned loud speakers because they can make you enjoy the musical piece even more, with all of its hidden soothing sounds and the “spicy” bits which await to be savored.

Music has another strange and pleasant effect on my imagination and creativity. On some level, many of us might have experienced a writer’s block or met a hurdle that kept us from completing a task like writing an article, a dissertation, or a thesis. In this case, I do not continue working on the assignment but rather immediately divert my attention to calm music. Most of the time this strategy helps me get a fresh perspective and overcome the obstacle.

Another way to recharge for me has to do with watching inspirational movies, TED talks, and documentaries to learn about the world. This helps me a lot to get relaxed before facing another day of classroom challenges and humdrum. Luckily, these days the Internet is full of videos of this kind. I prepare a list of the topics or themes that I would like to learn about or that I believe will motivate and empower me. For example, I enjoy watching documentary films showing lions hunt in pairs or groups (cooperative hunting) in the wild. Such shows never cease to amaze me. Do you know, for instance, that these ferocious predators attack and kill hyenas but never eat them, and we still don’t know why that happens?…

The life of a teacher can be quite tiring but we should still live and enjoy every moment of it. No matter what job saps your energy, you should always remember to treat yourself to your favourite things and hobbies that make you feel good and ready for the day ahead.

Three ways to be a critically reflective teacher

Aziz Soubai
Aziz Soubai

by Aziz Soubai

As a language teacher, I face numerous daily challenges ranging from classroom behavior to grammar issues and learners’ lack of motivation. Without an effective strategy, a technique that would help me see and analyze what’s right and what’s wrong in my classroom practices, I will keep repeating, reproducing the same patterns and getting the same results. In this way teaching can be a vicious cycle. To avoid this, to make my instruction effective, to set clear objectives, I feel that engaging in some sort of regular reflective practice will do the trick.

That’s right! Reflection. That’s the magic word every language teacher needs to be aware of. Reflection involves thinking and “thinking may be the hardest work in the world which many of us will go to great lengths to avoid.” My intention, however, is not to make you avoid reflection. My intention is to share with you some of the tools I use to become a critically reflective teacher. These tools include compiling teacher and student portfolios, writing journals, and getting involved in professional development networks and groups.

The first most important thing in reflection is to be patient and enthusiastic in the whole process. Why patient? Simply because change in one’s teaching style and methodology is not easy; it takes a great deal of time, a lot of energy and passion. There are obviously many ways a language teacher and educator can use to reflect on his/her teaching: recording classes, doing peer observations and assessment, engaging in regular professional discussions, etc. You might wonder why I have chosen the reflection tools that I mentioned earlier. What makes them unique? In what fashion will they aid teachers in professional growth? Let me explain the reasons behind my choices in detail.

  1. A portfolio is a ‘private collection of evidence’, which might offer the teacher a clear, detailed picture of his/her teaching style and possible ways for future improvements. The same is true for the student – a portfolio will enable a learner to track his/her own progress, increase classroom motivation and even language retention.
  1. Writing journals is also a ‘private’ activity and might help teachers to gain a number of insights about their practices through the process of writing and collecting specific information about classes. That does not mean that recording lessons or inviting colleagues to observe them is something wrong or counterproductive. The simple explanation is that not all teachers have an opportunity to do that. Besides, bringing a camera to class is restricted in many schools around the globe. So, by offering to keep a journal I’m basically trying to focus on something practical that any teacher with no exception can do.
  1. Professional development networks (especially online, such as Facebook groups or iTDi courses) are a great way for language teachers to share their thoughts about teaching, interact with a large professional audience, and improve their own learning and teaching styles.

A teacher is always learning from his/her students. A good teacher is a learner at the core. Sometimes, reading learners’ faces and gestures can tell you a lot about what’s going on in class and whether you need to slow down, speed up, or completely change what you are doing or saying. That’s why I encourage my students to write down their feedback comments about different class activities. For example, students can evaluate certain aspects of a class activity or a whole lesson (such as teacher’s speech, interaction, clarity, presence)  using rating scales. In my class this is done anonymously. Some might argue that students are not in a position to assess or, let’s say, help teachers to reflect on their methods and refine them accordingly. But I would say that you will be amazed at how much knowledge and details your own students possess! It seems such a huge waste not to exploit that knowledge for the sake of better teaching and learning experiences. I would even go as far as to say that your learners can help you engage in a continuous process of self-observation and self-evaluation better than your supervisors, no matter how trained and skilled they can be.

In my understanding, the process of reflection begins with the first phase of collecting information to build your teaching portfolio. Your portfolio can include:

  •  copies of students’ work (essays, presentations, projects, tests, and quizzes);
  • notes, feedback on your classes and students’ performance in general;
  • records of what you do to improve your teaching (workshops you attended, courses you took both online and offline);
  • a statement of your teaching philosophy;
  • a summary of any planned future professional development activities with a time frame for accomplishment;
  • your conference presentations, awards, and publications;
  • any materials from those who observed your class (supervisors, colleagues, or mentors).

After collecting and selecting enough evidence, I always like to refer to Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, which is composed of six basic phases:

  1.  Description (What happened?)
  2. Feelings (What were you thinking and feeling?)
  3. Evaluation (What was good and bad about the experience?)
  4. Analysis (What else can you make of the situation?)
  5. Conclusion (What else could you have done?)
  6. Actionplan (If a similar situation happened again, what would you do?)

As a final point, I would like to say that it is only by carefully examining what we do in class that we become successful language teachers. In the words of Dr Phil McGraw, “you can’t change what you do not acknowledge.”