By Flor de María Vila
Nobody is exempted from becoming accustomed to what is easy, pleasant, beautiful, relaxing, or familiar. In fact, there is no reason to consider coming to be habituated to those things as being even evil. However, when getting used to staying in our comfort zone makes us, teachers, turn into sort of androids, only then, this becomes more dangerous than anything else in our profession.
In a teaching context, robotizing implies becoming mechanical, always waiting for instructions and, in a way, not exerting control of our professional life. The idea of robotizing makes me think of not being able to be proactive.
What are the “symptoms” of having already turned into a robot?
a. Teaching by the book.
b. Becoming predictable
c. Not making any changes when giving a lesson even if this is done with students of different characteristics.
d. Clinging blindly to the same teaching strategy because “that´s the one that works.”
Even if we present one or more of these features, we may still believe that is not important since we possess experience and knowledge. Unfortunately, I have to remark that being experienced and knowledgeable is not enough. It is very valuable to demonstrate expertise and knowledge. The problem is not being able to use those qualities in the best manner may turn to be a disaster.
What are the threats of switching into a robot?
a. Replacement: If we do not use our experience and knowledge in the best way, we will be one more of the many teachers that share the same tired characteristics.
b. A demanding job market: The job market will always try to find personnel with the qualities that help satisfy its clients. In our context, this means teachers who are experts, educated, efficient, effective and adaptable. The last quality is an inescapable requirement since the current students do not have the same features as those our students of 5 or 10 years ago had; let alone the students we used to teach when we graduated. Efficiency and efficacy are definitely crucial since the offer of learning a language in the shortest and fastest way is available at the tip of the fingers, meaning that the offer of a number of apps has increased a lot lately. If our experience and knowledge are not enough to help achieve the objective of learning efficiently, we will become a candidate to be replaced. Believe me, there are many willing and brand new teachers waiting for a vacancy.
c. Experience and knowledge: Believe or not, those same advantages could become our doom. Staying in our comfort zone and believing those to be our endless treasures may blind us and inhibit us from taking the opportunities that could help us evolve.
What is then the way out?
a. Take your backpack of knowledge and experience and use it to your benefit.
b. Hauling your backpack, cross the path of proactivity to reach its other end: innovation. The prize: a guarantee of keeping your attractiveness for the job market and definitely a quality of not being easily replaceable.
I could not end this article without mentioning the importance of being honest to ourselves and to our students. We became teachers because we decided to do so. There is no such idea that we chose this profession because there was nothing better to do or because we just happen to know the language we are teaching. We could have decided to be tourist guides, we could have begun a career in international sales or any other plausible job. We decided to become teachers and this is a responsibility we have acquired. We cannot fail our students’ expectation that we are going to do our job: help them achieve their learning objective and do whatever it takes to succeed in doing that.
Are there any other threats of robotizing?
Feel free to share your views on this subject
M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Teacher trainer, Pedagogic Consultant and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico. She is Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory) and relationship manager for American universities´ MBA admissions officers with International Contacts. She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS).