Face masks feel fresh: How much “creative” is enough?

“How much “creative” is enough?” It is never enough, never be enough- I have an answer like that because of the requirement for this career, for me, creativity is one of the most important elements to become a teacher.

Back in May 2020 when the Covid-19 lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City was lifted, we were fortunate to have the return of the face-to-face class meetings. What made May memorable was the “Mask-ID” activity in a TESOL certification course (at HorizonTESOL). Before the first day of the course, I had asked the participants to bring to the classroom their white facemasks, used a black and white pen/colorful marker to design their name and a symbol revealing your identity as a teacher (it can be an object, an animal or an abstract drawing). “Be creative!”, my email to them was ended with that mantra 🙂

We then had a gallery walk in which participants shared with each other their products and interpretations of the illustrations.

At the end of the course, the participants then were asked to reflect on their designs.

Let’s read a beautiful reflection about the English Language Teaching profession.

From a “Mask-ID” activity to what defines good teaching and learning

(Bui Thi Hoang Trang)

Teaching language, in my view, is interesting. From a language learner to a teacher, it is a long “career path” which has a variety of lessons, knowledge, technique, as well as patient, and motivation. Joining a teaching course is a beginning, for me, it is a base that would help for my career. The knowledge in the course made me identify myself as a language teacher.

The first activity that my instructor- Mister Tien, gave me at the beginning was “Mask-ID” which has inspiration due to the Covid-19 prevention. Unfortunately, I missed the chance to join that activity, but I asked my classmates and could imagine how it was. I still remember the email from my instructor which asked us to bring some aids for the class and with a face mask, we needed to draw any icons or symbols just belong to us, that show who we are and help others recognize each of us. My instructor said: “Be creative!”- that phrase made me had myself wondered: “Be a teacher, how much “creative” is enough?”. Creative in lessons, in study, motivation, and so on, how much is enough? “Mask-ID” is a simple activity, however, it has much more than that, everyone in the class had to think about themselves and a model teacher they want to become. My classmates created their masks with lots of interesting ideas as well as beautiful meaning inside.

From a tree which has a big crown covering the below sapling

to the “Northern star” as the guiding light,

or, a brave and strong superhero, they made their masks becoming something beautiful, attractive, and meaningful, and show who they are and the teacher they will be in the future or at least they want to be. “Mask-ID”- I myself considered it as a based-step for everyone who joins to the teaching course has a point-view about this career and start to shape “the teacher” of their own.

Since I have worked as an English teacher for few years, until now, I have never seen myself as a real teacher. Maybe, the reason is that this job is not my first choice, it came to me by some unpredictable chance. Life is going, at the beginning, I just follow it and trying to do the “job” by my instinct, naturally. I did not have any ideas about like or dislike, just doing the job that I can do. Thus, sometimes I forgot who I am, I also do not have an ideal teacher model of myself.

Taking part in the teaching course, I saw my classmates making many mini teaching demonstrations for different ages learners under the guidelines and encouragement from my instructor, they did with their passion and creativity. They are getting better and better, and that inspired me. I learned a lot from them, especially how to work with kids. I think this makes me feel the most interesting. Teaching kids is not easy, especially kids are at the age of four or five to ten. I figured out that, working with kids, I have to think like them to understand them, playing like them to recognize their personalities, the words that using to talk with them are unlike any other words that I use for older learners. How to make them understand and follow, simple but attractive enough to get their attention, moreover, working with a double patient, praise and discipline should be equal and suitable and many other things to work with. After those demonstrations from my classmates, I have a thought that teachers who can teach kids are heroes in real life. I admire them.

Until now, I still have not any ideal model for my teaching career, but I think I need not to have it. Instead of running around and find something unclear to me, I found that I have more interest in this career and at least, from what I have learned from the course, from my classmates, it inspired me and help me a lot.

Answer to the question “How much “creative” is enough?” It is never enough, never be enough- I have an answer like that because of the requirement for this career, for me, creativity is one of the most important elements to become a teacher. People usually have their own subjective judgments about something by just looking the outside of the problem, as well as “teacher”, is considered as a difficult and boring job. In fact, this judgment is partially right with the traditional teaching method in the past, however, the main factor here to identify that teaching is boring or not is the teacher. Following the development of society, the demand for learners is higher than before, education has also improved and developed with new ways, new methods of teaching, not only in language teaching but also in other subjects. Each subject will have its specific method; thus, teachers nowadays must update themselves, too. Because of that reason, creation is one of the important elements of one “not boring teacher” besides knowledge and teaching technique, creation in motivation, transfer the information, teaching lessons, get attraction and so on. I have the knowledge and I am still learning every day. I have techniques, but I still hone it day by day, and I am trying not to be “a boring teacher”.

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