Saturday, 22 December 2012

Things I'm learning from teaching

The last week of term has just finished, and already it's blurring into this confused whirlwind of things that happened: going to see The Hobbit with one of the American assistants (thanks, Heather!), ice-skating for the first time in years, the weekly English-speaking night with other assistants and students from the university ...

Not that all my weeks are nearly as exciting as this, of course. But in a week like this, you might be forgiven for forgetting why I'm in Reims in the first place: teaching. And boy, have I learned a lot about it since I arrived. Almost enough, in fact, to write a whole blog post about it. (A blog post which will be  a shameless copy of my sister's post on the same subject, which you can read here.)

Don't be too ambitious

This is one that I wish I'd learnt earlier. In hindsight, I think I was kind of still thinking in a university mindset when planning my early lessons, even when these were for the equivalent of Year 11. They're a smart bunch, but after three hours of textbooks they really don't appreciate another hour. On a related note, I've become a lot better at estimating how much will fit into one lesson: my typical lesson will feature a warmup for 5 minutes or so, something led by me for fifteen minutes or so, and then a freer composition-type activity for the rest of the time. On more than one occasion, I've tried to fit too much in, only to be brought back to a correctly-timed lesson by an IT failure twenty minutes before I was due to start. So don't try to cram everything you can possibly think of into an hour: you'll only end up beating yourself up that you didn't manage to, and if you try to, your students won't take it all in.

Be flexible!

For instance, one morning recently I noticed that my entire class had dozed off. Not literally, of course, but they were all staring into the middle distance, plainly wishing that the lesson could end there and then. It was sort of like 'the silence', but much worse. One game of 'Simon Says' later, and they were much more awake. (Yes, I really did this. Which brings me to ...)

Make a fool of yourself

You might think that this one would seem very obvious, but it took my a surprising amount of time to really get used to it. One of my last lessons of term focused on War is Over by John Lennon, so I decided to get my class of 15-year-old boys to try and sing. And sing they did, although it did require quite a lot of energy from me. They certainly won't forget me shouting, 'Louder, guys! Louder! There aren't any lessons next door!' any time soon, and hopefully that'll translate into them remembering the song.

So yeah - there's been a great deal going on on the teaching front. I'll probably post again before I head back for la reprise des cours, but before then, have a lovely Christmas!

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