Never Too Old to Learn - or Teach

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Not over the hill at 70 - The benefits the older teacher can bring to the language class

23rd September 2019

By Peter Stone

Are teachers over the hill once they pass the dreaded three score and ten mark?  Should they pack up and head for the academic equivalent of elephants' graveyard to muse on past endeavours and lament the evaporation of those energies and passions that he or she once possessed when attempting to indelibly install the complexities of phrasal verbs and third conditionals, not to mention the unspeakable paradoxes and contradictions of Anglo-Saxon pronunciation, into students' cerebral zones? By no means, says this writer who recently reached 79. He, for one, is still going strong and there's little indication - as yet - of any decline in his enthusiasm or motivation.

What, then, are the advantages and incentives of pressing on at this advanced age? What can one offer in the art of teaching the language of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton and Ken Follett that's different from, or better than, the way one imparted such knowledge in one's burgeoning twenties, ebullient thirties, mature forties and subsequent decades?   

For a start, the experience of life gained at this age provides a teacher with a deeper well of knowledge to fall back on and a fuller understanding of students' characters, needs and real capabilities. He or she will also have acquired more patience, gained a better ability to judge the right pace with which to deliver the lesson, be more equipped to cope with the different personalities and attitudes one encounters in every class, and have a clearer insight into overall needs and expectations.

Needless to say, an in-depth knowledge of one's subject, gleaned from decades of toil and interaction, is a prime advantage, And while dynamism and energy are no longer what they were, they could well be replaced by an aura of "gravitas" and quiet authority that will - or at least ought to - gain the teacher more kudos in the form of respect and attention.