#30GoalsEdu: Get Rid of the Unnecessary Weight

I’ve been struggling to get back to blogging for quite some time now and it feels so good to be able to write again and connect with others. The minute I saw the goal Hana suggested I knew I would have to write about it since I feel it is a goal each one of us has or had to deal with not only professionally but personally as well. Everything in our lives has seemingly become much more effortless but we keep on ending up having to carry “burdens” around whether they are imposed by others or ourselves. And these were exactly the two types of situations I have had to deal with as a professional; pressures imposed by others and the ones I imposed on myself.
  I’ll start with external pressures because they are easier to identify and handle. The greatest one has always been the social context in which language learning takes place. Since the Greek culture is so exam-oriented, I often had to deal with situations that were simply beyond my control. Parents wanting their children to take certificates in zero time, students expecting too much of themselves and constantly criticising their effort. In other words I faced the mentality of getting a certificate at all costs! What has been difficult for me was not the demands of others though, but how I decided to deal with them. When I first started teaching I was so motivated that I saw these often unrealistic expectations as another goal I had to accomplish. I thought that as long as I spent hours preparing nothing could stop my students from getting the desired result and I naively believed that my enthusiasm would often compensate for the huge gap of knowledge my students often had to cover. This made me end up working and working for hours, trying to do wonders and comforting my students when they realized that the aim they set or that was set for them was unattainable for the time being. Despite the positive results, I always felt drained at the end of each year.
  That’s when I started looking at the personal pressures I put on myself. I realized that the key to making people realize what language learning involves is to explain to them. It sounds really simple in theory but for many teachers out there it is difficult to do. I have now learned that before any teaching can take place everyone involved should be true to themselves and their abilites and realize how much they can accomplish withing a specific period of time. Development and improvement can only come when we step back and give ourselves time. I now see how important time is not in relation to learning something but in relation to wanting to do things with the language you learn.
 It takes -and will take- me even more time to be ready to put this in practice every time I share my knowledge with my kids but at least I have now seen that this unnecessary weight doesn’t have to be carried around any more.
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  1. Dear Maria,
    Thanks for sharing this. I'm sorry to hear that you used to be under such pressure. I understand that these exam-oriented objectives learners (and their parents) set themselves were a source of frustration for you. Why on earth are we expected to serve everything on a silver plate? I’m a strong proponent of learner autonomy which means that I believe that the most valuable knowledge you can pass on to your students is the methods and strategies which they adjust to suit their needs and later apply in order to successfully learn the language. This may sound s little opportunistic but once the learners know how to achieve their goals, they become less dependent on the teacher, which subsequently eases the burden we are carrying. I know this may seem easier said than done but I don’t see any other possibility. We simply can’t let ourselves be exploited – that’s not we are there for. I totally agree with you that learning takes time. Nowadays, when everything’s getting faster it may seem that mastering a language can be speeded up as well. But as you say, development and improvement can only come when we step back and give ourselves time. Good luck with putting this all into practice. I keep my fingers crossed for you.
    Hana

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  2. Hana, thank you so much for your concern and heartfelt words. As I said in my post, it is a challenge that many teachers and school owners have to meet here in Greece as well as in other countries. I feel it is a constant struggle for all educators and I was lucky enough to find support and understanding in the school where I am currently working. I hope all of us manage to overcome obstacles that come along and find the inspiration to carry on teaching.

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