Monday, December 21, 2009


There was a time in my teaching career when I taught part-time at the University of Ottawa. Every semester a group of us part-timers would share the courses left over after the full-time teachers had taken their picks. I liked to teach beginners: I had done it for several years and felt confident in this cozy niche.

Then a new co-ordinator came on board, and suddenly he had me teaching intermediate, advanced, advanced writing, pronunciation, a media seminar - a new course every semester - courses I had no idea how to teach. I always went into that first class trembling - wondering how I would manage. I'd ask other teachers for suggestions, check out dozens of books from the teacher resource library ... and I managed! In fact, I usually enjoyed it in the end. But the first half of the semester was always difficult, as I tried to figure out what to do.

And as much as I resented the new co-ordinator's tactics, in the end it was a good experience for me. I developed as a teacher - and my filing cabinet of ideas grew! Over time, I was able to better understand how language learning develops, and better help my students with their difficulties.

Sometimes (always?) the hard things in life are the very things that will lead us to new skills, which, of course, open up new opportunities for us. I used to tell my discouraged language learners that learning English is like climbing a mountain. Sometimes there will be periods when they don't see any progress. But if they pursevere along these plateaux, they will eventually see changes and improvements. If they don't stop...

These difficult things in life are the very things that lead to growth!

So if the going is tough - this shortest day of winter daylight (in the Northern Hemisphere) - don't give up.

Persevere! There is a new (and better) plateau over the horizon!

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