Often we can learn from trial and error, observing others, or good old fashioned teaching. There’s no right way or wrong way, we all develop our own style to learn, and also to teach. Sharing experiences and ideas can help you become a better person.
For the past year I have been teaching at Oxford Kingdom in Houjie. I hope by sharing my experiences and ideas I can help other teachers working in Dongguan.
Some things are essential when leaving the classroom; feeling not only like you did a good job but that you made a difference is key for me. You have to be a realist and know that best laid plans will come unstuck every now and then. To be prepared is to be ready, and ready for action you must be.
- In full focus
Some days are hot, some days are stickier than a bun factory’s spillage of extra-gummy jam. Some days it don’t come easy, some days it doesn’t come at all. Meat Loaf lyrics aside, you need focus. You cannot walk into any class half-heartedly. Finding the on switch is relatively easy. A smile, a blast of some good music, a stroll around the school grounds; anything to clear you mind and feel fresh. In the domain of teaching, insufficient time is afforded to that best buddy of the educator; relaxation. Daydreaming and doodling have been linked with high intelligence levels and creativity. I like to think all my best ideas have stemmed from drawing fictitious maps and brainstorms resembling that of a biro-inscribed cyclone.
- Made from concentrate
I hate being ignored. I detest it when I lose one or two students to boredom, tiredness or the pressures of stacked homework that is laid before them. I despise concentration being sapped by distractions. That said, I can understand. Empathy and sympathy are your allies. Your movements and actions will deliver your crowd. Think slapstick or stand-up comedy over standing up straight.
- Realistic goals
This goes for both students and teachers because why aim too high and totally miss your targets? The level of English in schools or even within one grade can differ drastically. You can’t leave behind any stragglers and similarly you cannot abandon the child geniuses. The fine balance between testing and arduous should sit just above competence and challenging. With experience you can find that titrated line. If 80% of the class is at a level higher than the balance, you can over one semester encourage the inexperienced students onwards with more one-on-one assistance and praise. Their confidence might just need your backing and reassurance.
- Lesson planning
I love to do something. I hate to plan. That said, a great plan gives fantastic guidance and helps you avoid stumbling into a ravine without a paddle for the creek below. Finding a lesson plan is easy. Then it must be tailored. The end product needs to suit you and you alone. For my lesson plans I slice them into ten key components. 1) Do you have a clear and outlined method? 2) The lesson should be segmented into presentation, practice and production areas. 3) How big will activities be? Teamwork versus pair work or smaller groups of four? 4) Push for student talking time, over teacher talking time. 5) Plainly outline the target phraseology and vocabulary. Avoid clutter. 6) Handouts, activities and supporting materials need to be noted clearly. 7) Is an example of board work necessary? 8) Minimize non-essential skills such as reading or writing when pushing for oral English practice. 9) Ensure the students practice what you have taught them and define how you can check this. 10) Ensure the task pours, surges and flows as required by bringing the matter to life with a great review.
Perhaps, the only way you’ll ever develop as a teacher is by assessing the level of response from students in a review. If the games or activities are dull then a poker-face laden class will stare emptily until the class bell. If the final undertaking is too difficult, confusion and ignorance will call by for a bite to eat and you’re on the menu! Engaging review games can catch attention. They will reveal how much has been learnt. Using characters from popular culture like those of Super Mario Brothers, the latest boy bands, or famous sport stars will engage your crowd. If it is obscure, you’ll lose the crowd. That said, a personal touch reflecting you and your life can fascinate the gazing eyes. Add life, add personality and add some spirit. I have a class that has nicknamed me Tofu. Since then an entire Powerpoint presentation was based around a dialogue revolving around the food, a fictional superhero called Fantastic Tofu and the new game Super Tofu Brothers. If a particular class embraces something, you can play off it. It may be tedious to you, but dive in with full passion and join me in a method I like to call Teaching with Tofu!
And with those words of wisdom, I end on a quote by The Hold Steady, “We gotta stay positive”.
To read more JR ACTON’s article, please scan QR code below: