Teacher-Influencer: a deeper implication of teaching responsibility
Senior Lecturer in French at Leeds Beckett University, Dr Saadia Gamir, has written this blog to share some reflections on her teaching role, her evolving identity and her experience of influencing a positive learner attitude.
This blog provides an opportunity for reflective analysis of the decisions I take in my teaching. My reflections focus on how such decisions influence the students’ individual learning skills, collective identities and ultimate global citizenship, as they learn that “Cultures & languages go hand-in-hand” (European Commission) and cannot be separated.
We share our knowledge with students who seek our expertise. Such relationship require making adaptive changes that allow us into their personal and professional spaces. We design programmes, innovate methodologies, diversify teaching approaches, plan lessons and set homework, which challenge their perceptions to digest, accept, reject, or reinvent such knowledge. Beyond the pedagogical coaching, guidance, and support, our role influences the changes this symbiotic partnership creates.
My Complex Teacher’s Role
My mission is to provide a learner-centred environment. This involves being a reliable source of engaging knowledge that delegates responsibility. As a supportive coach, I encourage risk-taking by giving students skills to implement and adopt acquired knowledge for self-actualisation. I empower them to question their perceptions of themselves and their surroundings, through intellectual lenses that transcend geopolitical and cultural boundaries.
Influencing their transformation into global citizens adds to the scholastic and didactic nature of my role a transformative layer. This requires building trust to receive the knowledge and ensuring that change in habits, beliefs and attitudes occurs constructively.
Influencer: My Ultimate Role
The term ‘influencer’ is a well-known word in society today, especially within social media and fashion. The term influence in Latin is ‘inflow’. According to carbon-14 dating, it was used in astrology and referred to as “emanation of power from the stars”. Teachers are the stars whose intellectual authority attracts the knowledge seekers, ignites their desire for change, and influences their growth.
Constant adjustments that generate cross-fertilisation and enrichment characterise the way I work with students, who come with a wealth of intellectual capital, ready to influence mine, while carrying at the same time a flexible potential for change, indicating that their knowledge and experiences are not written in stone, nor are mine, for that matter. It is here where I have seen my role expand to influencer.
A student studying a language course at Leeds Beckett University who was a French and English Professor elsewhere once thanked me for a very inspiring lesson. He said he had been lecturing for a long time, but I have made him look and analyse his own teaching methodology due to the way I plan my lessons and explain the purpose and expectations behind them.
We only learn if we have a desire and purpose or sense a need to break barriers that may hinder such learning. In my experience, teaching through projects with motivating tasks to complete has revealed its power of enabling the students to learn, create and change.
For instance, the students recently completed a Covid Emotional Journey Project, where they developed their oral proficiency, by verbalising and sharing their emotions in French to describe how they were dealing with the impact of the pandemic on their individual lives. Initially, the British students struggled to do so, because they don’t tend to talk openly about their emotions, echoing Linda Geddes’s report in BBC Future (2016) that “A recent poll by the mental health charity Mind revealed that four in five British 18- to 34-year-olds admit to putting on a brave face when they’re anxious, and a quarter believe that showing their emotions is a sign of weakness.”
After a few months, they exchanged detailed descriptions in French of their emotions through an impressive collection of adjectives and nouns. Such sophisticated emotional verbalisation collected during the project shows that the students not only adopted the emotional ease of their target language (TL) culture, but they used it to verbalise and share their own emotions with equal confidence, a further example of my influencer role of a teacher.
Dr Saadia Gamir, FHEA, is currently Senior Lecturer of French at the International and Global Studies Department in the Carnegie School of Education. Her academic background is Descriptive and Applied Linguistics, with a particular interest in Modern Foreign Language Pedagogy.