As we start week two of our TEFL training, we are all acutely aware of what’s coming. On Wednesday and Thursday or this week, we will be in classrooms teaching children, like real human beings. And its got a few of us panicked. This is no longer theoretical and we will no longer be ‘teaching’ to one another.
Monday starts out with a field trip to the Entrust TEFL offices. We spend the morning with Rueben, who is in charge of all marketing through the web for Entrust. He shows shows us several of the websites that may be helpful resources for us (e.g. Ajarn.com, DavesCafe.com, and ESL.com). He shows us some online tools for making lesson plans or for writing student reviews. He also shows us a couple of videos he is really proud of that Entrust is using for marketing.
We all love Rueben, but across the board, we felt the morning could and should have been used better. We want to know where good resources are on the web, and the video was nice, but we have real, live students that we are supposed to be teaching in a day and a half. Give me a list of websites and URLs to look at some other time, right now we don’t even have an idea of the subject matter we are going to be teaching, what grade levels we are teaching, or our schedule of classes. I have to prepare 8-10 lessons in a day; in my life, I’ve done exactly two lesson plans…the ones I did last week. We all would have preferred to be off working on lesson plans, bouncing ideas off each other, leveraging Jack for classroom and lesson ideas.
Everyone has been taking the class quite seriously thus far and all are doing very well despite the early nerves. But things got real after lunch when Cap’n Jack handed out the assignments. My class schedule is represented below.
After getting our class assignments, we were given assignments for each class.
- Frequency is teaching the language skills around words like: “never, sometimes, always, rarely, usually”, etc.
- Past Progressive is a lesson plan revolving around teaching the proper use of verbs to express historical actions (e.g. “I was running”)
- Letters to five and six year olds is exactly that…..”this is an “A”, it makes a sound like “aaaaaahh”
- What Are You Doing? I chose to make as a lesson in present progressive verb tenses (“I am running” “they are singing”)
- Rooms Of The House was a lesson in vocabulary, mostly dealing with the names of the rooms and the objects one might find in each room.
- Future Simple is a lesson in future action verbs (e.g. “I will swim”, “we will talk”)
- Sports was a lesson in the names of sports and an opportunity to create conversations around them (e.g. “what kind of sports do you like?”, “I like playing football”)
Frankly there is a boatload of work for all of us to do. Lesson planning is new for nearly all of us. Each lesson consists of a warm-up/icebreaking activity or game, then part of the lesson itself, perhaps another thematic game applying the first part of the lesson, then more structured lessons, then another activity or game to end the class on a high note. There are props to buy, scripts to write, whiteboard plans to develop, and visual aids to find and manipulate. Then there is the review and practice. A boatload of work.
We spend the remainder of the class time talking as a group and bouncing ideas off one another and Jack for our topics. We are struggling to manage our lesson plans to the age/grade-appropriate level. And we are doing it without the benefit of knowing the children, their language skill levels, or what they’ve learned from other teachers.
It is pretty easy for all of us to visualize our lesson plans going up in flames when we get to the school, realizing that our expectations for a 6th grader is way, way off the mark, the lesson far too easy or simply too difficult and beyond them. So, to a certain degree, I’ve planned my lessons and the content to be roughly three times as long as it should be and I planned to attenuate on the fly. I have a plan of what I’m going to deliver, but I also have an “easier” lesson if the students are below my expectations and, likewise a “harder” lesson plan if I’ve underestimated the class.
When we are released from class on Monday, we are all walking around like zombies, blank expressions on our faces, trying to get our heads around the fragments of ideas we have for our assigned topics. It is another interesting study in personalities as some of us have an easier time with the work than others. Some of us have no clue how we are going to organize classroom games, but understand exactly how we want to structure the lesson….some of us the exact opposite. Some of us are up well into the wee hours of the morning thinking things through and trying to organize our ideas.
We wander into class on Tuesday full of questions. But we start off and spend the morning talking about “young learners” and the unique attributes of teaching a 6 year old, for example, versus a 15 year old. There are loads of experiences and tips that Jack shares and we eagerly absorb….this is real, tomorrow we will be teaching those very 6 year olds.
After lunch, Jack makes himself available to answer the pent up questions about our lesson plans. Some of us are still freaking out over the workload and the very real nerves of taking the reins in a classroom for the first time in roughly 20 hours time. I am personally feeling really good about my plans and had already dropped off all my materials with a print shop around the corner. I’ve gone heavy on visuals, bright colors, and funny images.
I picked up everything at lunch and sat down to review my lesson plans, visual aids, and worksheets with Jack. I am pleased with the response and especially with the notion that I do not have to stress at all about the preparation that evening. I’ve only to review and perhaps rehearse a little.
So, I take the afternoon off and go wandering. My travels take me to the Chiang Mai Art Museum, Wat Suan Dok, and to an orchid market. I have a lovely few hours out and the weather was cooperating nicely.
I do, however, have to go shopping. So, off I go to the Big C, an amazing department store in which you can buy anything from a new home to a motorcycle to underwear to food to toys. And that is why I am here, toys. In fact, its why I’ve bumped into three other classmates here. I’m looking for an inflatable beach ball and a couple fly swatters. The beach ball is to toss around the room (whoever has the ball has to answer a question kind of thing) or to throw at children to get their attention, if necessary. The fly swatters are for games in which I would have children run up to the board and swat at the correct answers in a contest. It turns out that the only flyswatters I can find in Chiang Mai are larger than the largest tennis rackets and are powered (in some cases) by batteries or by plugging them into the walls. It does not strike me as appropriate to potentially electrocute a child, so I abandon the fly swatter game strategy.
Many of us are up again until the middle of the night working on material and rehearsing the classes. This has been a very interesting two days.