Rich is taking a month long course to teach English as a foreign language. I’m impressed. It’s a notoriously challenging qualification and intense to do in a month. Back to the days of homework and late nights of study. Which means he probably appreciated my laid back visit when i dropped in and interrupted him last night all the more. I mean, there’s always time for a cuppa surely?
We talked a little about the course: a mix of theory and practice. Learning how the subjunctive titivates the nominative and such like. There was a time, back at school, when i knew this stuff inside out. And then i forgot it all. Rich probably forgot it too, but he does at least have the decency to learn it all again now. Possibly not out of any noble intentions to gain mastery over the subject, more so that he doesn’t look like an idiot when asked in class. After all, as he said, if he doesn’t know it, who does? The buck will stop firmly with him.
It’s true isn’t it. If you’re the teacher, you’re expected to know. Not google it and find out. You should know now. After all, that’s where your authority comes from: knowing and teaching it to others.
The journey from student to teacher is an interesting one, when we are young, we learn everything, but as we get older, we spend more time teaching more: sometimes formally as trained teachers or trainers, sometimes less formally as coaches or mentors, sometimes completely informally as parents and friends. It’s a nice circle within our lives.
The hidden side of this equation is what we, as the teacher, get from teaching. Just as learning is an emotional experience as well as a physical one, so is teaching or training. When we learn, we change: we change how we think, how we act, how we feel about things we have learnt before and how we feel about the world around us. So, to, we change when we teach. We formulate our consolidated view of the world and base our teaching off that.
I often feel i spend my day in a fluid dance between the two states. When i was younger, i assumed you learnt things and then knew them once and for all. Like grammar.
Today, i feel i have learnt very little, although i spend an awful lot of time thinking and learning about an awful lot of stuff. It’s rare i feel i’ve mastered it though. My learning today is about collaboration, about sharing, about airing ideas, keeping the good ones and ditching the bad. I had a moment of almost panic yesterday when i looked at the huge pile of books and articles piled on my desk to read. I mean, i will never read them. I will never know that stuff. There is just so much to learn, where do you even start?
I guess like the exercise in eating the proverbial elephant, you start with one bite. Mastering one thing, spending an hour, a day, a week or a month learning your subject, then you spend some time sharing that learning, teaching and refining your own expertise.
It’s a funny but strangely wonderful business.
And i can’t touch upon grammar without recommending to you Erin Roof’s Grammar Party blog. As she explores language and usage, it’s a constant pleasure of absolutely delightful and utterly decadent learning.