Teaching English to Czechs

Today was my last class teaching the lower-intermediate model-class.  It has been interesting getting thrown into a teaching situation quickly and figuring out how to swim instead of sink.  At first, I was completely overwhelmed, thinking that I was not going to be cut out for teaching.  At this point, I have a better idea of how I fit into this city and into my new identity as a teacher.

Teaching is a strange conglomeration of planning and winging it.  You could write a perfect essay on teaching strategies, and still fall flat in the classroom.  This concept was hard for me to grasp coming from my English major background where if you could get all of your thoughts eloquently in a paper, you were golden.  I have never been one who excelled at thinking on my feet, but I think (and hope) this is a skill I will slowly be able to acquire.

To teach, you first must plan.  This part takes time and consideration, especially since some of our observers love to see really creative ideas.  Our model class loves moving around the classroom, competitions, games, videos, and anything else interactive you could possibly think of.  After following all the steps of the Communicative Language Teaching strategy (what we have been studying throughout this course), adding some exciting activities is always a good idea.

Writing out a lesson plan in the library is one thing, but successfully putting it into action is a very different thing.  You must remember how to give the simplest instructions, to constantly monitor the students’ work, correct their errors, cater to both the stronger and weaker students, keep the lesson’s pace moving, all while making it seem natural.

I often find myself in such a zone while I’m teaching that afterwards I have a hard time putting anything that I did into words.  It is all a hazy cloud that I know I was present for, but I don’t have a clear picture of.  It is such a high to have a good class, or to get through a tough class, that you are kind of riding the wave afterwards.  Getting good feedback makes this hazy era even greater.  I got my first really positive feedback from our toughest trainer today, and it is just the encouragement I needed to make me feel like I am really getting it.

The model class that we teach to is a group of students who take the lessons for free.  There is a solid core that comes consistently, who are all bright and easy to work with, but there are other students who can come intermittently.  Today, our trainer said that the group of people couldn’t possibly get any harder to deal with than this.  She said the way I handled it was the best possible way.  I was worried about classroom management at the start of this course, but now I feel a lot more confident knowing that I can manage even the difficult students.

We are learning so much about teaching and working with a group of students that had never even crossed our minds before.  It is exciting, glorious, enlightening…. to feel like you can actually teach someone something is one amazing feeling of accomplishment.

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