After fourteen years of teaching experience both in schools and privately, my teaching journey has been a windy one. It started with a professional path separated from the personal one because I felt that I, with all my varied passions and quirks, was not adequate for the task of teaching.
However, as I started practising, I got in touch with the idionsycrasies of the teachers in schools and albeit I still loved the job, the limitations and push-backs were too hard for me. I feared I was going to become a sad careless teacher or that I was going to hate the job over time. Both visions were horrifying, so I decided to not pursue teaching in the educational system path.
Let’s skip to the year I started my online business (2011) and how I started imitating other online teachers and continuing with old patterns of how teaching and teachers should teach a language, and ended up burned out after a couple of years and considering changing career altogether.
Now, it’s the time to mention that while I had my teaching path leading me to this sad fate, my personal path was flourishing, surrounded by a self-development tribe, I found the courage to search deep in myself, rediscover who I was.
That’s when I felt that I wanted / needed to combine my professional path with my personal one and my passions and quirks, because I AM a TEACHER, yes, but this statement starts with I.
I knew that learning starts with me, as it only works when I focus on what I love and learn from the people I feel a connection with. So, it only made sense that I taught in an authentic manner, showing who I am, being transparent, and bringing my unique way of teaching impregnated with my own experiences and varied skills.
Every student learns in a different way and every teacher teaches (or should) in a different way. It’s our job to be authentic and show ourselves fully so that we can fully connect, student and teacher.
The Sign, aka CREA Conference
I was in this mood when I saw the ad for a conference for Spanish teachers. I rarely participate in seminars anymore unless they are in my hometown or online because they focus on things I find irrelevant or that I already know. But this conference caught my eye. The imagery and the name CREA (create!!!) were most appealing. I remember I read the website again and again, and I found myself going back to it constantly.
They had a button offering the possibility to do a talk. I clicked it.
I am not interested in passive consumption of anything anymore, I do believe I have something of value to share (as anybody who shares from experience and not from knowledge acquired in books) and I believe in the power of sharing.
So, I sent my proposal for a talk about my tried and tested teaching Spanish through poetry.
They accepted my talk. So I booked my flight tickets to go to Salamanca and talk.
The night before the conference I was exhausted after a whole day of travelling but since the conference appeared to me as a meaningful sign, I decided to treated it as such, so I took my notepad and wrote my intentions for the conference.
Words like “connection” and “growth” appeared in almost every paragraph.
CREA: A Game-changer Conference
I won’t waste your time explaining the women I met in the conference. The attendees were all inspiring and curious and experienced teachers, with whom the connection happened.
A lot has been said about finding your tribe, and not in vain, it creates magic!
The curious thing is that I’ve never found my tribe around teachers and rarely around my own nationality, but this situation was special and the bound created with the majority of us felt strong and deep.
Anyway, let’s focus in the conference.
From minute one, it felt special; the mystery built up around “El simulador” (The simulator) – insert eerie music here – kept us on tenterhooks. We only knew we had to prepare a speech and talk in front of a screen, but other than that we had so many questions!!!!
We had our first encounter with “el simulador” on the first day, the second was dedicated to improve on our speech and body language, breathing, intonation… And then, we had a second go in front of the simulator, to have a final assessment and feedback sent back to us individually about our performance.
This, on its own, makes the whole conference worth it. Because if you are a teacher, you are all about communicating a message properly.
Laura’s decalogue for a coherent speech was something every teacher should have printed and hung by their bed.
And not loosing your voice trying to deliver a good speech is vital – thanks Tahminé for teaching us diaphragmatic breathing and how to project our voice and relax our facial muscles.
Regarding body language, I was impressed with Gelen‘s approach more focused on the individual than on the societal rules about what you should do with your arms or legs. She also talked about tools to use the body (ours, and our students) in class to facilitate a learning atmosphere in the classroom.
We also had our grammar concerns solved. If explaining the past tenses and subjunctive to our most advanced students gives us shivers, Carlos (who we all agreed should write the ultimate book of Spanish grammar) made it easy for us. No questions were left unanswered, so our students have an enhanced teacher now. Yay!
Storytelling, videos and theatre in the classroom where covered by Luis. And let me tell you, the inspiration that this man instilled in all of us was incredible. I was already warmed up to the idea of using theatre and storytelling in my lessons, but the ways to implement it were not always clear to me. Since Luis intervention in our lives, I can see a clear path ahead of me and of my students (I hope they are as excited as me at the prospect).
Other highlight of the conference for me was Raquel’s session called “Clown techniques applied to education”.
This session brought growth to me while expanded the way I believed me, as teacher, could be and perform in front of my students. Her session was fun and groundbreaking.
I was already persuaded that a good teacher is also an actor, but now I believe is also a clown and an overall authentic, creative human who can (and should) show itself.
The Heart and Soul
Behind every trailblazing method or way of doing things, there is always a human or humans. In this case Dieter and Amanda Wiggert, the directors of ISLA, a school of languages in Salamanca are the big heart and creative soul behind this project. I have only admiration and gratitude for them and for creating a space for teachers to grow holistically.