Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli
One of the unique things about becoming a teenager in the Canadian province of Alberta is you can get your learner’s driving permit on your fourteenth birthday, and that is exactly what I did. Just as with most young people, the opportunity to move behind the wheel is a thrill and one that you can’t wait to do on you own. In order to obtain your learner’s permit, all you have to do is to pass the written part of the exam. I remember the first time behind the wheel. My dad took me to a remote parking lot in a empty city park and had me start and start in first gear (I learned to drive on a manual transmission car). I loved it, but I desperately wanted to get out on the road. That opportunity came weeks later and only around some residential streets. Then the big day came. My parents and I were going to be driving to another city about 3 hours away and my dad was going to let me drive the whole way. The day was overcast, but clear and the start of the journey was fairly uneventful. Slowly, my dad nodded off in the front seat while my mom clung tightly to the door handle in the back seat. Then it happened: construction. I had no idea what to do. There were people holding signs, orange cones all over the place, trucks moving in and out of traffic, and to make matters worse, gravel and rough roads. Meanwhile, my dad continued his afternoon nap. Eventually we made it through and on to our destination. Once we pulled over and stopped, I realized that my hands were cramping as I had been clinging so tightly to the steering wheel that my knuckles had turned pure white. I could hardly take my hands off of the wheel.
I learned a lot from that experience, but in hindsight, it would have been better for me to have read a bit more on the subject and possibly even practised it a bit in on a smaller scale. Also, it would have been nice to have someone with more experience guiding me along the way, pointing out potential problems along the way (sorry dad, I know you were tired and it all worked out in the end). This is what it was like for me as I was handed over my TESL certificate back in 1995. It was like someone had handed me my driver’s license without the process of a learner’s permit. Sure, I had had a practicum with an experienced trainer, but it was fairly short and couldn’t possibly have prepared me for what was to come next. Over the years, I have grown a great deal with a long way still to go. I thought I would share some of my thoughts about how I have learned to become a better teacher for my students.
So, you have your TESL certificate in hand, what’s next? To me, you are like a young tree that has been planted in the ground. Here are some things that can help you grow.