The Lazy Teacher

Renata Gardiano holds a degree in Business Administration from UFPR, a Post-Graduation degree in English Language Teaching and Translation from PUC-PR and she is also a CPE holder. She has been teaching for 25 years and is the founder of Tea Time English School for people over 50 years of age.

The modern world demands us to be effective, energetic, to rest as little as possible (“time is money”, “the more, the merrier”, “while you rest, someone else is working hard and better than you”, blah blah blah…) and I find it so old fashion, so poorly thought. Why all this rush, exactly?

That said, I’m here today to defend the idea that there is a different way of teaching. The concept is still a little blurred in my mind, but here I come to try and describe it.

The “lazy teacher” is the one who, in class, gives plenty of space and microphone to the students. As I always say “we, teachers, already know how to speak English, so now let the students have their chance”. That said, the first point starts here: teacher talking time – reduce it to a minimum. And I mean it. Cut the urge of completing the sentence for your students. Just don’t do it anymore. Let the silence come, let the students find the word they want to use, let the blank come and go, let them dig in the depths of their minds and unlock the perfect (or not so perfect) word to express their own ideas. Many times, we teachers tend to “help” students get their message across by finishing their sentence, but how can the teacher possibly know what is going on in the student’s mind? How can I complete somebody else's thought? And why should I even try it? Are we actually listening to him/her or participating in a “fill in the blank” kind of game? Listening is giving proper time for the other to expose his/her idea, not assuming anything. Let them free to create, to share. I know sometimes this silence may be time consuming and even boring in some specific situations, but if you use this strategy again and again, your students will grasp the idea that you’re not going to “help” them, so they will become “faster”. That’s where the teacher’s laziness starts to “show”: relax, sit back and let the students do the work of speaking, from head to tail. Their sentences, their thoughts, their choice of words. All you have to do is to listen; maybe intervene in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar in the end, but avoid doing it in the middle of the conversation. Sit back and listen. That’s your only job at that moment.

Another thing is exercise correction, for example. Why do we have to do all the duty? Come on, we’ve been working too many hours, we certainly do deserve some breaks. So, instead of correcting the homework with them, take a step back and let them do it. Choose a student to be the “teacher”. He/she will be in charge of the correction. He/she will call the other students to correct, take turns, check answers. All you have to do is, again, sit back and observe. Relax. Speak only when asked for or if you see an important mistake. Other than that, please just observe! Let your students lead, show off, shine! They get confidence and autonomy, and you, my dear friend, spare your much overused voice and movement. Rest a little, you deserve it.

Another way of finding some precious minutes to relax in class is during production. Is there an exercise to be done? Great. Choose one student to read the instructions. Check if everyone understood. Not yet? Ask who has understood and ask this student to explain to the others. There it is: they do the job for you! Isn’t it great?

I understand that applying this “methodology” may take a lot of time. It is true, totally. But with time students get more and more aware of their roles in class, embrace autonomy and necessarily take the reins of their own learning process. After all, we can take the horse to the river, but cannot make it drink the water. Our role is to provide students with tools and opportunities to learn, but the effort is and must always be his or hers. And I truly believe that doing it in their English class may even help them to acquire this skill for other aspects of life: holding responsibility for their own acts throughout life, rejecting the role of “victim” at any point during their existence.

Against all odds, that’s my point of view. I believe that one of the best ways to be a good teacher is to become really lazy. Most of the times, sit back and just watch them. You must trust them and give a chance for them to show you their importance and their knowledge. You will be so proud of them! And, as a wonderful side effect, will feel less stressed out after a class.

And now, can you think of other ways to be a “lazy teacher” in class? Hope to hearing from you with many news ideas!

Curitiba, June 2 2022

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