Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Things I've learned about teaching 2

As I continue to teach students, I learn more and more with each passing day.  Here are some more things that I have picked up:

Never interrupt a talking student: Again, a lot of these seem like no brainers, but a lot of times you don't use your brain in basic conversation.  I was talking to a student outside of class just about sports, and he misunderstood my question so I interupted him to clarify.  It threw him off. I realized afterwards how difficult it is for students to speak in another language, and I should let them finish their thought even if it's not what I had asked about.  Even if it is different, they are still practicing their English skills and that's what's the most important anyway. If I cut them off and correct them they become discouraged and won't want to speak with me so openly.

Always pick the less pretty kid: Now I know this sounds weird when it's put that way, but I'm not sure how to phrase it.  The fact is that when you're a young teacher, your students will ask you a lot of times who you find handsome in class, who your type is, or ask you to pick between students. Usually when they do this, its because one guy has a big ego and wants to show off to the other students. On my first day teaching, in my very first class, my students asked me which boy was the most handsome.  My coteacher whispered something to me but I didn't quite catch it. I chose one of the handsome boys and the class went wild, including that student doing a dance number for me complete with hip thrusting... it was only afterwards that I had realized the teacher had choosen someone for me to pick. He hastily whispered to me again to chose another student that had low self esteem. So I said he was my second choice, but I think it was too late.

Luckily I learned from that incident, and I know now to boost up the confidence of the quieter students who may be very self concious of their looks.  This came up again the other day, when one very egotistic and handsome student asked me to pick between him and a shorter average looking student. Having learned before, I pulled out my smirk and started praising how amazing the average student looked. It gave him a boost of confidence as well as knocked the egotistic student down a bit, and also provided a laugh for the other students.

Go with the flow and always have extra materials: Teaching doesn't always go how you plan it to. I have 28 different classes this semester so if I have a lesson that works for all of them, I'll teach it 28 times! You'd think that after so many it would become easier. This is true, it does, but things don't always work out the same way. With one class you may get through the lesson super fast, and another you may only get through the first part.  Sometimes this has to do with the level, and sometimes its just the kid's mood.  Also, you can run into unexpected problems like the computer or projector not working. I had a shiny new lesson plan for today, it was perfect in every way, then when I got to my first class the computer didn't work! I had to think on my feet. I had some games planned for that day so I did some improve teaching with just the blackboard and then I stretched the games out. I explained the rules very carefully and slowly, then modified the games as we played them. Maybe I'd have them repeat phrases they learned or talk to one another... I was missing half of my lesson plan due to the lack of the computer, but I was able to fill up the whole time slot no problem. 

If you can't do that with your lesson plan, always have extra materials just in case. On my flashdrive I have several games in case the class runs short, but I also carry around bingo sheets with me in case the computer somehow doesn't work. I haven't had to use them yet, but they are there in case I need them.  Having these will help you not to panic if something goes wrong in class, and something will every week.  You just have to be prepared when it happens. 

Also, sort your priorities: With different classes I have different priorities.  With my high level classes, I want them prepared for high school exams so I push the book as my highest priority.  With my low level students, I know that they either lose their books or run crazy though class, so my highest priority here is to keep them entertained.  If they are not entertained they will get into trouble and make your life hell. The problem with keeping the lower level students entertained is that you need to switch things up a lot.  Last semester I played a lot of games with them, but the style of the games was all the same so they ended up getting bored anyway.  My problem was that I played Powerpoint games constantly, when I should have mixed in physical games as well.  It's okay if sometimes the English is at a minimum, as long as there is some English used. Remember, with low level students they probably won't continue their English studies, so its good to just go over the basics over and over so that they will retain the main points when they get older.


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