“Don’t you know it ALL?” yet another twenty-two-year-old, newly-minted BA asked me naively. Of course I do, or I can convincingly pretend I do.
Here are some simple steps to be taken before your very first lesson.
- Scared? Try to identify your fear. For instance, when I started my first job as an interpreter at age 16, I was so scared people would not hear me, it never even occurred to me to worry about my English! I read about voice training, and then performed some daily exercises, singing, breathing, articulating. They still serve me well. If you are worried you will not be able to answer all the possible questions, remember: nobody knows “it all”. Nor is anybody able to remember all the names and stick them to every face correctly; give yourself a little time. I usually tell my students that though I am good with faces, it takes me a little while to remember all the names, and so I check the roster daily.
- Read the class manual or ask the homeroom teacher about your class. Are there any problem children? The more you learn, the better prepared you will be.
- Read your lesson plan carefully. Since you have not met your class yet, do not worry if you did not manage to fulfill all the tasks. Keep your Teacher’s Book at hand.
- Visit your classroom, walk around, check which places you like, be sure you know where all the supplies are. Come to the room a few minutes before the bell. This simple trick allows you to have a small psychological advantage: you are not the one who has to face the new audience – your pupils are. When they rush in, you can just smile and wave, and keep being busy at your table or board.
- Write down your name on the board, and tell your pupils this is the way to address you once the lesson begins. Like, “Miss Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Suggest that they copy it into their notebooks.
- If you wish to give some homework, be sure to have it written down on the board in advance.
During the Lesson
- Greet your students in English, even if they are beginners. This will immediately create a special atmosphere, and establish certain rules. Introduce yourself, pointing at the board where your name is written, and then either call out students’ names in turn, or walk around, pointing at them and asking, “And you are?”
- Depending how successful the beginning is, you may spend a few seconds on telling them that this is your first lesson of English, too.
- When dealing with children, ALWAYS be ready for the unexpected. My very first lesson at school ended in quite a spectacular fashion. I asked if there were any questions, one girl raised her hand, got up and promptly fainted. As a mother, I knew what to do in any emergency. If you are very young and do not have much experience, familiarize yourself with the correct procedures.
- Discipline. Never, ever try to over-shout any noise. Children are noisy by nature. If they are very quiet, something is wrong. If they cannot seem to quiet down, start your lesson with the old trusted staples, like an audio recording, a funny video clip, or distribute some cards with simple tasks.
After the Lesson.
- Analyze, but do not overdo it. You survived!
- Decide if you had any problems, think what you would like to do differently, check how much you managed to do, what remains.
- Talk to your own favourite teacher, visit their lesson if possible, and just watch how they cope.
- If all went well, it does not mean that the next lesson will be a success too.
- If everything went wrong and you feel like running away screaming, or burst into tears, or bash your head against the wall, remember: this is normal. You are not alone. Ask your mother.