Showing posts with label teachers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teachers. Show all posts

Friday, 13 February 2015

Paragraph Blogging–Sure, Demand High but Aim Well and Lower the Volume

It seems blogging battle lines have been drawn (at least in the ELT corner of the blogosphere with a few skirmishes spilling over onto Facebook) recently over the idea of ‘Demand High ELT’ (check the link for details). I’m not exactly sure where this has come from (no recent conference talk or article that I am aware of) but on the wagon I jump, tossing a couple of pennies on the way.

While I’m here, I thought I might as well jump on another bandwagon of ELT trendiness by trying out @AnnLoseva and @sprincait‘s idea of ‘paragraph blogging,’ which they almost literally put in the shop window for all to see recently (in case you’re wondering about my  seemingly ‘football speak’ use of ‘literally’ here, you should check out the photos on Anna’s original Paragraph Blogging post and Kate’s guilt-free offering).

Of course, @HanaTicha has already done the same thing on the same topic in her usual convincing style but we don’t have the same opinions so here I am. I am also aware that this introduction has already taken me far beyond a single paragraph but my real post doesn’t start until after this nice picture of a tall tree:

Image via Pixabay

I came across the idea of Demand High a couple of years ago when I reviewed a recording of Jim Scrivener’s IATEFL talk on this very blog. Several of the recent posts have criticised the whole concept of Demand High as being essentially nothing new, just two well-known writers and presenters in ELT circles almost desperately trying to start a trend or a movement of some sort. While I’m not inherently cynical enough to agree with the last part of that idea, I have found myself agreeing with the first bit. Reading back through my old post, I found most of the things I said I agreed with were things I already do and things I have been doing for a long time. Also, I agree with those who have been arguing that there is no need to go around conferences ‘introducing’ this idea to teachers. It is often a problem at such events that the attendees are keen teachers who push their students hard and try out different ideas and the speaker ends up preaching to the converted. I stand by the comments from my original reactions to the Demand High idea that we need to make sure teachers are expected to ‘cover’ a lower volume of material in class so they can do justice to a few key activities. That means this idea should be aimed at syllabus planners, materials authors, and decision makers – not the poor teachers who have to fit it all in and then be told that they are not demanding enough. Lower the volume of the demands and aim the identification of the problem and the offering of a solution at the right target.

Those other recent Demand High postings:
Enjoy reading!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Driving Mr David - The Triple Teaching Engine

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the theory part of my driving school experience has come to an end. It was a pretty intensive few weeks (hence the lack of recent posts on the blog) with 2 hours of class after work and plenty of home study to do. The course was divided into three parts (trafik, first aid, and motor), each with a different teacher. As  a teacher myself, I couldn’t help but cast a critical eye over how they did things and that’s what I will share in this post.

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Motorised learning - Image by Julien Bertrand via Wikimedia commons

Each teacher, of course, had a different approach. There was, however, one trait they shared - they all started by explaining why their particular lesson was the most important part of the course… The traffic teacher pointed out that recognising traffic signs was the driving equivalent of being literate and also that knowing and following the rules of the road would keep us safe. The first aid teacher emphasised that what she would teach us could save lives and not only in the vent of a traffic accident but in other daily life situations as well. The motor teacher took a more immediate practical stance reminding us that the section of the written test he would prepare us for was the most difficult so we should pay careful attention.

In a way, they all had a point but, sitting on the student side of the classroom, it all seemed a little over-stated. As a ‘conversation and skills’ teacher, I have on occasion lectured my students on how important my lessons are, how they offer a chance to really use the language and express themselves… Having had a student’s reaction to that kind of teacher talk, I now think I will refrain in the future!

Onto individual analysis: I have already shared some thoughts on the first teacher, who went over the rules of the road, traffic signs and road safety. In short, he did a good job of presenting the topics and reviewing them but there was a severe lack of interaction of any kind, not even any introductions on the first day.

The first aid teacher somehow managed to be even less interactive. Despite her claims about how important her lesson was, she whipped through the topics very quickly and each day, we finished the lessons (scheduled for two hours) anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes early (and that was with late starts and over-long tea breaks as well). All of this led to students not really taking the lesson seriously and it was no surprise that this was the most sparsely attended part of the course with only 4 or 5 students out of 12 present most days. The only practical part of the course came when we were asked one by one to perform CPR on a dummy. “You’re pushing on the chest too hard” was the only feedback given, ignoring the fact that the dummy was on a soft stretcher positioned at waist height rather than on a hard ground surface as would be the case should this skill ever be needed. No practical examples meant a lot of the explanations about stopping bleeding and treating broken bones went over my head and the heads of the other students as well.

After that experience, I expected the motor lessons to be even worse - most likely, out-of-date examples of engines from older cars and lots of technical questions that serve little practical use I though. I was right too!However, there was a crucial difference that made this part of the course better than the others - the teacher.

First of all, he asked us about ourselves at the start of the first lesson - our names, occupations, where we were from and why we wanted to learn to drive. After two weeks, my course mates were surprised to learn that I was not Turkish but foreign (shocking that we hadn’t learned basic things about each other but also reassuring that when I had spoken up in class in previous weeks my use of my second language hadn’t obviously marked me out as a yabancı). I also found out that one of the younger people in the class was training to be an English teacher, which opened up a whole avenue of tea break chats that hadn’t been there before (of course, we could have found this out ourselves but, with little to no interaction in the previous weeks, most people had spent the breaks looking at their phones).

Learning about how a car engine works was also quite complicated and a lot of the students, myself included, were apprehensive about it. The teacher did his best to put our minds at ease by giving us plenty of hints and strategies for the test, pointing out that the multi-choice answer was often obvious as long as you know the basic parts of an engine. He also used some very good daily life metaphors such as comparing the fuel ignition to a stove or the fuel filter to a coffee filter, which facilitated easier understanding.

This teacher was also the only one to give us work to do in class. This provided a nice way to break up the lesson and also to give immediate feedback about what we had understood both to ourselves and the teacher.

One more thing I liked was his willingness to seek feedback. During tea breaks, he would ask me, as an educator, what I thought of his teaching style. He also had a survey ready on the final day about the course and himself as a teacher. I told him that whatever I felt I would do differently was not that important but the fact that he was interested in asking students’ opinions and improving himself was. His colleagues could do with following his lead…

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Working on the Web with Teachers - A Class Blogging Workshop

We’ve had a busy start to the school year here in Turkey (hence the lack of recent activity on this blog), part of which is down to the revamping and extension of our online programme. Whereas last year we just had a pbworks site, this year each class has its own blog (following a trial run with one class last year) and this is not only in the 5th grade but in the 4th grade as well. As I mentioned in a previous post, we wanted to move away from pbworks as the main site due to the problems kids had with simple things like creating an account and logging in (yet more proof that the ‘digital native’ label is not always accurate) and the fact that setting up pages and activities was time consuming. With the focus now on blogs, it’s much easier for the kids to get involved and be productive (but more on that in another post…)

One consequence of this expansion is that the web programme in the primary school is no longer just the concern of one person (that person last year being me). With each class having its own blog, all of the 4th and 5th grade teachers need to be actively involved and, naturally, this raised some questions and concerns amongst those colleagues who haven’t done much online or ‘techy’ stuff in class before.

It was therefore suggested back in September that I do a workshop on class blogging to introduce all the teachers to it and help get them started. At first when planning the session, I thought about what kind of PowerPoint I would need to put together and how I could best demo the use of Posterous (our choice of platform for the class blogs). Luckily, before I had spent too much time preparing things, I realised that, of course, I didn’t really need to prepare much at all. After all, I incorporate ideas from the dogme school of thought into my lessons so why not apply the same principles for a workshop?

What we need to do more of as teachers and presenters - Image by @gemmateaches via eltpics

Having taken that leap of faith, I turned up for the session with nothing more than my laptop and a few board markers. Just as I was hooking the projector up, one of my colleagues asked “Dave, what exactly is a blog?” Perfect! I couldn’t have found a better way to kick off the workshop myself. In full teacher mode, I threw the question open to the floor and we constructed our own definition of a blog. The conversation then shifted to how a blog could be of benefit to our students. Lots of ideas came out like potentially increased motivation to write, the ‘excitement’ factor, ease of use and so on. There were also some pluses for teachers we discussed too such as being able to see students’ written work as and when they do it and not having to lug piles of notebooks around.

We next started to discuss possible issues that could arise with using blogs as well as solutions and preventative measures. There were the usual concerns about online safety and privacy which gave me an opportunity to highlight some of the security features blogs have such as moderating comments and posts. We also talked about the importance of talking to the students about being safe online before they start to use the blogs.

All we really needed to talk about blogs - Image by @aClilToClimb via eltpics

Dealing with errors was the main concern. Many teachers were concerned about creating a poor impression with parents and/or school administration if students’ posts were littered with mistakes. This evolved into an interesting discussion about our reactions to mistakes. In the end, we all agreed that the blog could be useful for changing perceptions amongst various stakeholders by showing that work done enthusiastically and creatively with a few errors shouldn’t be a problem and could even be preferable to a few stale sentences written in perfect grammar. We also discussed how we could draw students’ attention to mistakes either through comments on the blog or in class, thus turning these errors into valuable learning moments.

The final stage of discussion centred around what we could do with the blog and how we could fit it in with the project work and written tasks included in our programme. The great thing about all this discussion was that all the ideas were coming from my colleagues and I was just noting them down. I didn’t need to suggest much at all - it was all generated by the people in the room, which was much preferable to me throwing a bunch of ideas at them.

We wrapped things up with a quick demo of how to set up a Posterous account and post to a space. Keeping in line with the way the workshop had panned out with minimal lecturing from me, I suggested that each of the teachers go away and send in their reflections on the session to the blog via email thus giving them an insider’s view of how to post as well as allowing the discussion to continue. Another great thing is that even a few weeks on, they are still posting to the space, asking questions and sharing ideas about what to do with the blogs. In fact, the ‘practice page’ is slowly becoming something very much like what I wanted the wiki for teachers I tried (but failed) to get off the ground a while ago to be.

And now, I’m so glad I went with my instincts and did the session in this way. Had I gone ahead and planned out a full session with a couple of hours spent (at least) on making a slideshow, it would have been more presentation than workshop, more my ideas than theirs and less inclusive and formative. By going in without a fixed plan, everyone was able to chip in and we decided on the best way forward together. If I can get my students to do the same this year, I will be most pleased!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Workshop, Seminar and Presentation Rant #1 (of several) - Double standards of behaviour

It’s been building for a while now, bubbling beneath the surface… It began as a slight feeling of uneasiness before growing into continuing annoyance and eventually manifesting as a good old fashioned slightly tongue-in-cheek (but only slightly!) blog rant.

The rant begins - Image by @dfogarty via eltpics

As a teacher, I have attended many workshops, seminars, presentations and other forms of ‘talk’  and, while I view them as an important part of my continuing professional development, I can’t help but feel some of them are a wasted opportunity. Sometimes this is due to some fault of the organisers and sometimes it is due to the speaker/workshop leader her/himself - but I will get onto them in future posts/rants. The first targets in my sights are the attendees… Yes, those ordinary teachers like you and me who make up the ‘audience’ at such events. Specifically, I’m going to rant about what I see as Double Standards of Acceptable Behaviour. Please read on….

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Going down… Image by Nesster

Let me start with a few questions:

  • What would most teachers do if a student was using a mobile phone (or some other handheld gadget) in class?

Now, I know there are teachers out there who would look for some way to exploit it, incorporate the gadget (and therefore the student) into the lessons and ‘connect’ but I asked about most teachers. Most teachers I have come across would stop the offending gadget being used in some way, either by telling the student to put it away, demanding it be switched off or confiscating it. Agreed? Good - next question.

  • What would most teachers do if a pair or group of students was constantly talking and/or joking throughout the lesson?

Again, there are those who would try to find out what was distracting the students or exploit the topic of conversation dogme-style but, again, we need to think about most teachers. Tell the students to stop talking? Warn them? Separate them? Get angry? Wonder why they don’t take the lessons seriously? I think at least one of those options or some combination of them would be expected.

  • What would most teachers do if a student huffed, puffed and declared “This is boring”?

A show of anger at the sheer cheek on display might be in order followed by a reminder that it is not the teacher’s duty to entertain. Or perhaps the teacher would take it all personally, denting their confidence and adding to growing feelings of self-doubt.

So, if the above are true, why on earth do the very same teachers exhibit exactly the same kind of behaviour in workshops, seminars and presentations? So many times, I have been sat in a talk only to see teachers all around me checking emails, sending messages, viewing websites and even playing games on their smartphones or tablets. Or I have found myself unable to follow what the presenter is saying because people around me are chatting non-stop. They’re either gossiping, talking about plans for the weekend, complaining about being ‘forced’ to attend the current presentation or criticising the presenter and/or the theme of the session.

Would they allow the same kinds of goings-on in their classrooms? Of course not! And we are talking about teachers here - experienced, university-educated adults! If they can’t listen, pay attention and do a few tasks for 45 minutes, why do they expect 10-year old children to be able to do so?!?

I could end it there but I feel an urge to be constructive now that the steam has disappeared from my glasses so I will offer some thoughts on what to do about this issue.

Obviously, the best place for change to come from is within. Teachers sitting through a talk on a Saturday morning could just leave their phones in their bags, pay attention and just accept that this particular session may be a bit boring or seem irrelevant but hope that the next one will be better. Alternatively, we could just put it down to human nature in a ‘boys will be boys’ (and ‘teachers will be teachers’) kind of way…

Or… we could acknowledge that maybe our students don’t give their full attention in class sometimes because they are bored too and they have other things that they would rather be doing or other places they would rather be at that particular moment in time. We could then recognise that this is perhaps why they act up in class sometimes. We could then talk to them about it, involve them, incorporate their ideas, make the learning relevant to them. Engagement and attention then increases and distractions, complaints and teachers with self-doubt are not so common.

Of course, presenters at PD events could on occasion benefit from involving the audience, incorporating their ideas and making things relevant as well but that’s for a future rant. Winking smile

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Some Observations on Observation

It was 8.30pm on a slightly humid late spring evening. After an all too short tea break, students were returning to their seats and readying themselves for the final leg of a long day of work and evening classes. The teacher too was feeling the strain of the dreaded ‘split shift’ having done the morning/afternoon intensive courses and then the late evening slot as well.

Just as they were all ready to get back into reviewing the present continuous, a woman appeared at the door. “Sorry to interrupt, David,” said the DoS, for that is who she was, “but would you mind if I did that observation now? I know we said Wednesday morning but I’ve just remembered I have a meeting then.”

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Not my old DoS obviously but Fringe fans will get the reference - Image by Godric Hufflepuff

Such an ‘unexpected’ change of plans was not entirely surprising. Our director had a habit of springing surprises such as this especially when, as was the case in this instance, it was an official observation (I was nearing the end of my contract period and we had to play the game of “let’s see if you’re good enough for a contract renewal and a pay rise”). Of course, I obliged (was there any other option?) and so began an observation that would make me a cynical critic of being ‘officially’ observed, a viewpoint that survives to this day.

Back in those days (this was about ten years ago), I was still very much in PPP mode and we were about to move into ‘practice’ mode having done the ‘presentation’ before the tea break. I had various flashcards of people engaged in different activities and, after eliciting the question What is he/she doing?, the students got on with the activity and I went around monitoring. I then boarded some errors I had noted and we went through them as a class and then they got on with some workbook activities. About halfway through the session, I noticed two students grinning widely and trying hard to supress their giggles. Intrigued I asked them what was going on. One of them pointed to the DoS at the back of the class and said “What is she doing?” to which his partner replied “She is sleeping!”

Sure enough, my observer was sat with her eyes closed and her head gently nodding forwards. “Oh dear!” I exclaimed, “Is my lesson really this boring?” (to be fair, it probably was!) which drew laughter from the whole class. At that point the DoS opened her eyes, smiled and then pretended to write something on her notepad (the page was clearly blank). We then got on with the lesson, moving into ‘production’ mode (probably a what is your husband/wife/family doing now? activity) while my boss dozed at the back of the class.

When the lesson was over, she said we would talk about the lesson when I had a break in my schedule the next day and off she went. When the feedback session came, I was curious to know what she had observed exactly through her slumber! The first thing she said was “you obviously have a good rapport with the class” referring, I assumed, to the little burst of laughter that had stirred her briefly from her sleep. “But the lesson was a little dry” she went on.

“What do you mean?” I enquired.

“It could have done with some visuals” she said. “The workbook exercises are useful of course but some pictures would have worked well for present continuous.”

“Or maybe some flashcards” I suggested, waiting to see what her reaction would be.

“Yes!” she answered. “We have plenty of those in the resource library you know.”

And so it went on. Why did I focus only on the affirmative structure? Why not negatives and interrogatives? (I did do those, while you were snoozing!) Why didn’t I wrap it up with a personalised activity? (Again, I did!) Too much time at the board - where was the monitoring and circulation? (Where was the alert observer?)

It struck me that she just had a list of standard observations to make and, no matter what, there would be a focus on what I should have done and what I failed to do. It has been the same with every observation I’ve ever had conducted by a DoS, HoD or Senior Teacher. One asks why there was no warmer, the other asks why you wasted five minutes at the start on a pointless activity. One says where were the concept questions, another asks why you kept on asking questions after every little instruction. One says your lesson was ‘dry’ (that’s an observer word I detest but that’s another rant for another post!), another says it was fun but lacking focus…. and so it goes on.

And we wonder why so many teachers are not keen on being observed! This kind of feedback, or rather the manner in which it is delivered, only serves to create an air of negativity with the observed going on the defensive. Stress, apprehension, worry and uncertainty are all feelings that seem to surface when it’s time for that ‘official’ visit to class. This is a shame as I believe observations can be a fantastic opportunity for development if handled in the right way.

My very first observation shortly after getting my first teaching job was in many ways the best one. My observer, a grumpy Scottish EFL veteran who had been assigned to be my ‘mentor’, simply went through the stages of the lesson he watched and asked me why I had decided to structure the lesson in that way and why I had chosen the activities that I did. The feedback was non-judgmental and really helped to draw out reflections in me by leaving some space for me to think.

So instead of ‘you should have done this’ isn’t it better to ask ‘why did you do what you did’? Rather than criticism and defence, shouldn’t the feedback be about reflection and realisation? And instead of imposing the observer’s view of how things should be done, wouldn’t it be better to seek to understand the teaching preferences of the observed?

Oh, and of course, isn’t it better to actually stay awake and pay attention to what’s going on rather than trotting out some standard criticisms that could be applied to virtually any teacher?Winking smile

Or maybe I’m being over-dramatic. Please go ahead and share your experiences (positive and negative) of being observed and how you think it works/would work best.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Teachers in Turkey, Part 1 - “Teaching as a Career” by Eva Büyüksimkeşyan

Welcome to the first post of what I hope will be an extensive guest series: “Teachers in Turkey”. Our first guest is Eva Büyüksimkeşyan, a name I’m sure will be familiar from Twitter and ELT conferences across Europe. I had the pleasure to meet Eva in person at ISTEK last April and I’m honoured such a great educator agreed to be a part of this series.

Eva’s post touches on something that I’m sure many of you will have experienced at some point in your teaching career: the perception that teaching is a ‘part-time’ job, the best feature of which is long summer holidays. Please read on and share your comments - both Eva and I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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Teaching - the ideal career for a woman? A bit of an old-fashioned ,idea I think!

Image by kevindooley

Writing is not very easy in summer anymore as Istanbul is getting hotter and hotter each year and more humid. I brainstormed some ideas but wasn’t very sure what to write. It was difficult to concentrate on anything.

Until today....

I was at pool with kids and chatting with the ladies there and of course I told them ‘I’m a teacher’

Guess how the conversation continued....

An elderly lady told that teaching is the best job for a woman.

Any ideas why she said that?

She added ‘You have three months holiday and arrive home early and do the other stuff’

Do I?

Why does she think like that? She is not alone. That’s the common thought about teaching. It is kind of a part time job. It looks and sounds like that.

We know it is not.

But you know there are others who make them think teaching is a part time job.

I didn’t argue with them. Didn’t say anything but just mumbled ‘yeah I love teaching’

Maybe I should have argued...

Yes, I love teaching but not just because of long summer holidays, sudden snow breaks or because it enables me to be home with my kids when they return from school.

Teaching is the best job for me because it keeps me young, cheerful and energetic. It helps me share what I have. It helps me guide some young people. It makes me see how they achieve their goals and it enables me to learn something new every day. It ... I have loads of reasons why I love teaching, why it is a great job.

When do you think people will stop thinking about teaching as a kind of part time job for a woman which will enable her to bring her kids up and be a good wife?

Teaching is a career. A very serious profession but it hurts when a parent says ‘my daughter doesn’t like studying Mrs Buyuksimkesyan, I only want her to graduate from high school and who knows maybe she can become a teacher. That’s the best job for a girl, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t.

Please, please.... if you won’t work hard, try to make a difference or touch somebody’s life, don’t become a teacher. It requires enthusiasm, hard work and dedication.

Only if people see teachers who are working hard and trying to keep themselves updated, will others stop thinking like that.

Only if students realise how tough the teacher’s job is, will parents see the hard work.

But if we, the teachers, boast about the long summer holidays and I-don’t-care-what’s-going-around-the-world-I’m-just-waiting-for-my-retirement or I-am-looking-for –a –job-as-a-teacher-coz-I-decided-to-have-a-kid attitude changes then teaching will be perceived as a real job with career opportunities, travel chances, development options just like other jobs which are more considered as a profession.

Or maybe when the working conditions, payment, etc. becomes better ...

EvaI'm Eva Büyüksimkeşyan, an EFL teacher and a blogger, working at the same school I had graduated from.(It was my dream and it came true) I'm trying to integrate technology in my teaching. I have started several collaborative projects with teachers from other countries.If you like you can also join the fun at http://celebr8uandmedigitally.wikispaces.com/ next year. I blog at evasimkesyan.edublogs.org and I'm evab2001 on twitter.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Announcing “Teachers in Turkey” - A Guest Blog Series

“Sen Türk oldun artık.”

(You have become a Turk then).

This is a phrase I commonly hear these days when I meet people and tell them that I’ve been here for over 11 years, my wife is Turkish and we have a son. In many ways, it’s true. Although certain aspects of living here still startle me from time to time (I’ll never get used to the traffic for starters!), I’m sure there are many aspects of living in the UK that would be difficult to get accustomed to if I ever went back.

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Image by Tolga “Musato”

This country has given me a lot over the years - a beautiful wife, an adorable son and a career as an English teacher, something I initially saw as a way to get a couple of years of ‘life experience’.

Turkey, like many countries these days, places a huge emphasis on learning English. A good command of the language can open doors to higher education and better career prospects. Unfortunately, that often means exams, exams and more exams and an education system driven by tests and grades.

As a result, teaching here can be a challenge. While schools, private colleges, evening courses and universities talk the talk of student-centred learning, collaboration, web 2.0 and a communicative approach, the very same institutions in practice often have much more ‘traditional’ expectations about learning and the expected roles of the teacher and the students.

Despite the restrictions I’ve often found myself working with during my time in Turkey, I am very optimistic about the future of language teaching and education in general here. Why? Because I have had the pleasure to work with and meet some of the most incredible teachers in this country who strive every day to do the best they can for their students while trying to make a difference in the schools they work in.

Well, I’m delighted to announce that I have persuaded a number of these wonderful teachers to contribute to a series I will be hosting on this blog over the coming weeks called “Teachers in Turkey”. There will be a wide variety of contributors from local teachers to native-speaker ones, kindergarten teachers to university ones, trainee teachers to teacher trainers and even a language coach! You will recognise some of the names from Twitter and the international EFL conference circuit I’m sure. Others will be new to you but they all have something to say and I hope you’ll find it useful.

First post comes on Monday!

Are you a Teacher in Turkey? Have I not approached you about joining in with this series yet? Then please, show your interest via the comments section and I’ll be in touch.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Suits you, Sir!

The school I work at has quite a detailed dress code for teaching staff. Basically, we are expected to be smartly dressed at all times with male teachers expected to wear a suit, plain shirt and tie except in the warmer months when we are graciously exempted from having to wear jackets. This was quite a contrast to my first job teaching adults in a language school. No dress code existed there and it was often the students who were better dressed while the teachers strolled about in worn jeans and faded t-shirts!

In fact, one thing that put me off moving to my current school all those years ago (apart from having never worked with kids before) was the need to wear a suit and ‘shiny shoes’ every day. Nevertheless, I ‘suited up’ and went to work, having little choice in the matter it seemed.

Ooh! Suits you, sir!

Ooh! Image courtesy of dailymail.co.uk

It all seemed a bit formal though and I, together with most of my colleagues, was always looking for ways to bend the rules by wearing more comfy shoes, ‘smart-casual’ trousers, jumpers/sweaters and so on. After all, you will see and hear many people advising you to dress down and be prepared to get messy when working with kids so the less formal, the better, right?

Only this week, with warmer weather here, a jumper (even a sleeveless one) seemed too much but it was a bit too cool in the morning to go without a jacket so I donned a suit for the first time in ages. I then thought I should wear appropriate shoes to match and off I went. I wasn’t quite prepared though for the reaction I would get in my first class of the day:

“Ooooh!” said a student in my first class. “Very smart, teacher. Very nice!”

“Are we having a business meeting today?” joked another.

“Teacher, in this suit, you look very handsome” said another.

Then the best of all (for anyone who watched The Fast Show on BBC in the 90s at least): “What is yakışmak in English?” a boy asked. I told him we could use ‘suit’ as a verb and he said “Suits you, sir!”

But the strange thing was, after this initial burst of reaction, we started the lesson and the atmosphere was different somehow - the students were listening a lot more carefully than usual, taking turns, getting on with their work… quite unusual, especially as the summer holiday gets ever close! I asked why they were so keen and attentive and one boy proclaimed “You are wearing a suit so today’s lesson is very serious!”

It seemed me wearing a suit and dressing more formally had made some kind of impression on them. This was confirmed in the next class as there was a similar reaction when I walked in and then they got on with the lesson very studiously. I used the chance to chat with them about uniforms and appropriate dress for different circumstances. What surprised me was that these 10 year-olds were basically saying they thought a teacher should dress smartly. They also said that the more casually the teacher dresses, the more they feel they can ‘get away with things’.

So, maybe dressing less formally to seem more approachable is not actually the right way to go. Maybe that sends out the wrong signals about being less serious or more lax. Or perhaps it’s a cultural thing with the norm in Turkey for male teachers being smart suits. Anyway, I’ll suit up once again tomorrow and see if it has the same effect!

And what do you think? Should teachers dress smartly or casually? Do you have a dress code at work and do you agree with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.