How Waldorf teaching has helped me as an EFL teacher…
For 2 years I trained to be a Waldorf teacher. It was a part time program, but it was still two years of my life. And even though I only taught at a Waldorf school for 2 years, I remember the important principles of being a good Waldorf teacher.
1. Appearances count. For Waldorf, how you look in front of the children is a big deal. You spend all day in front of the classroom, so they spend all day looking at you, so you better look well-groomed and put together.
I jokingly asked one of my teacher trainers if I had to wear a scarf because WTs are infamous for their silk scarves and Little Home on the Prairie meets New Age goddess look. We were given a dress code. Women (who worked with the younger children) were encouraged to wear flow-y dresses, in order to look more “motherly”.
When I started teaching in Thailand, where appearances COUNT, it was easy for me to make the transition. I don’t dress the same, but I still carry that principle with me. I still make it a point to look nice, and not get too casual. For instance, I have some nice tee shirts, but I always put them back. I don’t want to start wearing shirts to work.
2. Learn to control your body and your speech. Especially with younger children/grade school kids, they mimic and copy what you say and do. I learned this repeatedly whenever I spoke too fast, “What?” or whenever I said something stupid, they’d say it back and I’d cringe wishing I could take those words back.
If I said, “Shake a leg!” They’d shake their little legs. If I said, “You’re late!” They’d parrot, “You’re late!” Speech was harder to control than body language or movement, perhaps because I did theatre in high school and college. I made it a point to stand and sit straight, to not fidget or pace, and in this area I did well.
With EFL students you also have to speak slowly and clearly. And ironically it is the teacher that has to be careful not to mimic Thinglish or incorrect English pronunciation. The students are not here to learn pidgin. They watch you, too. So it’s important to be aware of what you are doing. I believe teachers can give a good example of how to give a good presentation as well.
3. You are a role model. This is important to me and one of the big reasons why I got into teaching in the first place. It was music to my mind to hear Waldorf took this belief to heart. (Of course my experience outside of training was different, if not extreme, but overall it’s something they consciously taught. I don’t remember that being the case during my Montessori training.)
Part of the reason why I get riled up as a Plymouth Rock, is that English teachers in Thailand have this reputation for being slackers who just want a visa. I work and meet many teachers who have big hearts and who care a lot about what they do and want to do a good job. I just hope this bad reputation fades like the bad taste on Thai clothing, and soon.