Quote unquote

If you want a tree, plant a seed, let it take root, give it time..... Image by @cgoodey at eltpics

Brad Patterson, aka @brad5patterson, asked people to choose a quote that best fits their teaching philosophy. After no small amount of pondering, and hoping that Erich Fromm would come up with the goods, here are a few wise quotations that apply to mine (alas, no Fromm). You may think I’m being greedy choosing more than one, but that’s just it, truth (if it exists) is the sum of many factors…….

1  Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.   Bruce Lee.
This is the top of my list. In order to allow your students to express themselves or, in flowery terms, to become their English-speaking selves as they perceive in their mind’s eye, THEY should be priority, not the methodology (or coursebook or exam or set of I can statements or…). Whether you’re a dogme teacher like me, an audiolinguist, a PPP chap, a Silent Method practitioner…… whatever……. you should never lose sight of your student and his/her person. Be prepared to be flexible; in fact, be water my friend…

2  Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.   Ralph Waldo Emerson
The worst thing in a classroom is complacency, especially from a teacher. If you don’t love what you do, don’t enjoy your lessons, don’t believe in your students and in yourself, how can you expect your students to? Enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily mean being totally Wacky-do, but it should be almost tangible in your ‘aura’. When you lose your enthusiasm, start thinking about taking a course, trying something new or maybe a career change.

3  I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.   Kurt Cobain
Authenticity. Be true to yourself, be honest to your students. Rapport, belonging, connection, presence – they have so much to do with being fair and honest. And anyway, teaching is not a popularity contest; teens in particular are not looking for a friend in their teacher, but a model, an adult who won’t let them down, make them feel stupid or ‘less’ than others and who’s sincere.

4  A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?   Traditional

If you shut up and listen, students are more likely to try to speak. If you shut up and observe, you’re more likely to ‘read’ your students. Particularly teenagers. Show you are listening, that you have time for them, that you noticed, that you’re interested, don’t turn the classroom into The Teacher Show. Give them writing journals and/or blogs and respond to content not to language errors. Allow them to ask questions, while you listen and think – you don’t need to stuff them with info; after all, education means bringing out, not putting in……

5  Stop, look, yes, listen to your heart
    Hear what it’s sayin’    Written by Bell & Creed, sung by Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye

Be informed. Think about why you do things the way you do them, don’t just jump on bandwagons or follow the herd/school policy/teachers notes without thinking – whether in using things or criticising their use. Be true to yourself and your values; be true to your students; know why you’re doing what you do or why you’re using what you’re using, whether photocopies, technology, an approach, a coursebook, your own voice rather than your students’. Be wise.

6  What a swell party this is.   Cole Porter
Speaks for itself 🙂


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17 responses to “Quote unquote

  1. Love the diversity of quotes, here, Fiona and always, always happy to catch a post of yours. Best to you in 2012! -brad aka brad5 😉

    • Thank you, Brad – will try to give you more to read this year than last 😉 I promise. And keep these mind-teasing challenges coming! I don’t get a lot of time to take part, but even where’s no time to actually write challenge responses down, they keep me thinking while washing the dishes etc. Such is life 🙂

  2. You’ve bagsied the best ones!!! >:0

    • Teehee. Well, remembering quotes (or failing to) was the bane of my life at secondary school, so I can’t claim to have a mental store of the things (‘Tigers not daughters’ and ‘Time hath, my Lord, a wallet at his back wherein to put alms for oblivion’ are the only ones that readily come to mind, but they’re not very useful in this context!) other than song lyrics. However, Google is a great sidekick… .
      No, to be honest, a few years ago I wrote a Bachillerato course for a Spanish publishing house and the editor, David Morrison, came up with the idea of making the cover look like a magazine. We wanted to include motivating quotes somewhere, and I was determined that everything in the book, including lesson titles, images and the cover, would be useful for sparking off debate/conversation, and David decided that we could put the quotes on the cover where a magazine cover has the titles of its main articles, and also has a ‘key quote’ on the inside of the back cover. I love it. Things like ‘The only stupid question is the question you don’t ask’, and the Kurt Cobain quote was also there, along with another by Bruce Lee.

  3. Kath B

    nice one … or ‘ones’ ; )

  4. Rob

    Thanks for sharing this, Fiona. I enjoyed it, as it made me reflect on my teaching and my students’ learning.

  5. You should make wall posters with this! Or maybe, greeting cards for teachers with this!
    Great post!

  6. Beverly Whittall (@beverlyjo67)

    All these quotes are fantastic, especially the one about the wise old owl – particularly relevant in my context at the moment! I’ll definitely be bringing that one in to the teachers’ room. And I love the idea of choosing a quote to represent your teaching philosophy – I think I’ll get our teachers doing this too – an excellent reflective task.
    Thanks for these – and I will check out Brad Patterson’s original challenge too!

    • Yes, I agree. From the start you have to think about your ‘philosophy’ to find the quotes that suit, as trawling through every possible quote to see if one inspires your philosophy in you is a task on a level with ‘An infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of typewriters’.
      So I found it a great ‘focusing’ activity, as, as well as realising I couldn’t find just ONE quote to encapsulate everything, I did find that some aspects are more important, hence the Bruce Lee one heading the list, though number 5 could easily be number 3.

      • Oops – hit ‘post’ too soon! I was also going to say Thank you for commenting, and as I hope to be a bit more diligent about posting this year, I hope to see you ‘in here’ again.

  7. Thanks Fiona… inspiring and honest. Perfect post to be the first I read in 2012. 😉 Maybe Brad’s challenge could be a nice way to get back to blogging.

    • Ahhh, so she does read blogs. 😉 Yes, start again. Good quotes, Fiona, especially the diversity of sources.

      • I do, I do! And I comment occasionally (in the last few months, that’s meant Willy Cardoso, Dale Coulter and Jeremy Harmer have suffered my long, ponderous waffle tagged onto the end of posts..) but I don’t often get the time. However, when my kids grow up a bit more, there’ll be no stopping me, haha! You have been warned!
        Thanks for taking some of YOUR time to comment here – I should follow your example more often 😉

    • Ceci! Hello! And I’m flattered – your perfect year-starter is a great thing to have managed to write; I’ll have to try to live up to it throughout the rest of the year 🙂

  8. Pingback: Quote unquote | English Language teaching | Scoop.it

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