Many thanks to everyone for the blog posts in June, which made very interesting reading.
This month, many of us are on a long break for the summer, so our first topic looks at how we as teachers can use this time to reflect on our teaching or for developmental activities. We also have topics on no or low prep activities, learners with Special Educational Needs, and parental expectations - so we hope you'll find something interesting to write and read about.
Besides attending a summer resort, this time can be profitably be used to introspect ourselves.
In one kind, the teacher knew in advance that he would be away and will have prepared a lesson plan, complete with materials and maybe a few notes about the class itself; students to keep an eye on, students with special needs … The other kind happens when the teacher’s absence is unplanned and there hasn’t been time to make any such preparations. Some schools and Language Centres have ‘ready-to-go’ lessons available for these occasions; useful of course but not always ideal and hardly ever remarkable.
This gives me a chance to review the previous year and start preparing for the next. I have often thought about what sort of things I can do to make my teaching experience better while having a bit of a break during the summer, to relax away from work, whilst also keeping my hand in.
This is what I have come up with...
1. Think about things you want to change (Preparation, planning and action).
It vividly brought to mind my own first days as a parent at The Manhattan School for Children in New York. There were at least ten languages spoken in our first grade families; many of them did not speak English at all. Spanish was wide spread, and due to our closeness to Columbia University, there were a few exotic examples, like Croatian, Japanese, Korean, German... Children had no problems communicating with each other; they also translated what their Japanese or Croatian classmates were saying to their teachers.
There are children who need different approaches, individual timetables, flexible schedules, and careful treatment. It is important to understand that while some of them may have permanent learning disabilities like dyslexia, or some physical impairments like poor eye sight, lower hearing, seasonal allergies and various developmental problems, others may find themselves in a tough situation temporarily. Through my years of teaching, I had to deal with children who could not master spelling no matter what methodics I tried; some could not even read in their own language, in ninth grade.
You memorize your lesson plan, study your new class roster, arrange your materials, choose a few extras, get ready. The bell rings, you enter the classroom on cotton legs, and suddenly you are faced with triple the expected number of students. The other two teachers are out sick, you learn; nobody warned you. This is what had happened to me. And it kept on happening with maddening irregularity and complete unpredictability.
Activities that help.
*switch on an audio warm up. It does not matter if you have 10 or 30 students chorus, it will just be very loud.
There are lots of tourists bravely walking around chattering in all the languages of the world. English is the predominant means of communication, if you want to ask a question or someone asks you for directions, it is most often done in English. Receptionists, waiters, tour guides, drivers, shop assistants speak English. Naturally all the participants of our huge conference, at which I am only an accompanying person, speak the same lingo. There are plenty of opportunities to communicate, to learn, to practice and to observe.
I never noticed my own accent or that of the people around me until I heard my voice for the first time. As part of our language GCSEs (exams at age 16 in the UK) we had to go into a room with a tape recorder and record a piece we’d prepared over the previous few weeks. Before we started it, we had to say our name, centre number and candidate number. I wasn’t sure if the recording had worked properly, so rewound it and listened back. I was so unhappy with my accent that I recorded it a second time, even though I knew it had to be me because there was nobody else in the room!