I put up a video a little while ago, and at the end of the video, I asked for any and all suggestions from viewers regarding what they’d like to see. Overwhelmingly, the requests came in for me to share my experiences teaching.
This is difficult because of strict privacy rules regarding the students – filming or taking pictures of them is prohibited. I can film myself teaching my classes, but can’t film their faces. This can be tricky, and I’m not sure my manager would approve of me filming a class for use on YouTube.
Until I figure out a better way to present my teaching experiences via video, I’ve decided to blog about it instead.
My job is part time. I teach Tuesday through Friday. I arrive at work at about 3:00 on Tuesdays to plan my lesson for the day.
On Tuesdays, I teach 4 classes, all different English levels. Tuesday looks like this:
4:00-4:50 – Two girls (6), one boy (5).
5:00-5:50 – Five girls, aged 7 and 9.
6:00-6:50 – Kouki (9), Tomohito (6) – These boys are brothers.
8:00-8:50 – Three 14 year old girls.
Each class is a different level of English, different textbook, and different personalities. This is what my desk usually looks like when I’ve finished lesson planning for the day – it’s all the materials I’m going to use for my classes that afternoon:
I write down my lesson plan for each class that day in a notebook. I start all my classes with a greeting and some questions. For lower level classes (usually the young kids), I start with “What’s your name?” “How old are you?” “Where do you live?” I might ask their favorite color, animal, or food. Usually I ask if they’re happy/sad/sleepy/hungry/etc. to review “feelings” words, and I’ll ask about the weather too. Typically lots of high fives are given in these kinds of classes.
For higher levels, I ask: “How was school?” “What did you study today?” “Any plans this weekend?” These introductory questions help me get to know my students and help me get a feel for their attitude in class that day.
This is usually followed by review of previous materials, then I pre-teach new things. We’ll practice the new stuff, then usually do a workbook exercise, and that’ll be it for the day. In theory, I could do all of this in 10-15 minutes, but my classes are usually 50 minutes long, which leaves time for repetition and drilling to fix mistakes and improve pronunciation/sentence structures. How I do this in each class varies.
My first class on Tuesdays is with three kids. This class is fun because the students have great attitudes, and it’s a lot of learning through play. There’s a large city-map-rug we put on the floor for the young kids’ classes, so we all kick off our shoes and have fun. It’s a great opportunity for me to act like an idiot, too. Oddly therapeutic to get to be 6 again, if only for this time.
The classrooms typically look like this – whiteboard, and instead of the mat (for older students), a table and chairs is in place.
This class focuses mostly on learning new words and phrases through very simple games: throwing a ball into a basket (for points!) as a reward for a correct answer, or just acting out verbs when I ask the kids: “Can you…[insert verb here]?” Their enthusiasm and smiles are contagious. This class is still working through numbers, so I bring a balloon to class and we practice counting by hitting the balloon up into the air as we say numbers. The kids love it. We’ll work on vocab, a sentence structure (“I like ___”, “I can ___”), whatever it is.
We’ll sit down, bust out some crayons, and do a page in their workbook, which gives them a chance to practice their reading and writing. We check it over together and the kids get high fives for rewards. Lastly, the kids have homework each week – usually a single page that involves practicing their handwriting. They get a sticker for each completed homework page at the beginning of class, and the designated homework page for the next week is circled at the end of class. After this, shoes go back on, and they take off, grinning and yelling “see you!”
I’ve found it impossible to leave that class feeling grumpy. There have been days when I arrive at the office wondering if I’ll be cheery and enthusiastic to start my week, but the three of them never fail to put me in a good mood. It’s one of my favorite classes to teach.
My next class is a group of 5 girls. Despite their ages (they’re all either 7 or 9), they’re intensely quiet and tough to make smile. I’ve been trying every game I can think of with these girls, and am only just barely breaking the surface with them. I’m writing this post after midnight on Tuesday night, and today was one of the only days I’ve seen the class laugh collectively. I broke out a “throw the squishy ball in the basket” style game, and their wild throws got a few laughs. They all typically do really well with the material, they’re just very serious about it.
After this class, I’ve got two little boys. Kouki (9) and Tomohito (6) were described to me as very serious little kids – willing to participate, excitement brimming under the surface, but ultimately quiet guys. They’re moving with their family to Salt Lake City later this year, and so they (along with their mother) are taking English lessons at our school.
For the first two weeks I was with them, the kids were indeed quiet – I got the “deer in the headlights” look often, but they were willing to go along with what I asked them to do. Once it became apparent that I was willing to goof around with them while they learned, they’ve exploded with hilarity. The boys are funny, and the fact that Tomohito is a perpetually excited little mouthbreather just adds to the character of these classes. They make absurd associations with the new words they learn, play games competitively, and suddenly aren’t afraid to have a good time in class. I emerged from the room last week to my manager, looking at me surprised and smiling (he’d heard us all giggling): “So…that was a fun class, huh?” I really enjoy teaching this class because these two make it fun, and are really good about sticking to English for the majority of the lesson (unless they’re battling for who gets to be first in the game we’re going to play).
I get a 70 minute break after the boys to eat some food, then meet my last class of the day – a trio of 14 year old girls. These girls are nice enough, but this 50 minute lesson can feel like pulling teeth because the girls are at that age where they’re too cool to participate. They get extremely interested in their nails, or stare at their lap when they’re feeling particularly moody. For the most part, if I get them on the right subject (oddly, food usually does the trick) they’re suddenly talkative and willing to participate with the lesson. I know they’re tired – they come straight from a grammar lesson with my manager to my class. They’re nice girls, just…teenager-y.
After this class, I finish for the day. I put back any flashcards I’ve used for the day, usually speak with my manager and ShukuMama (she hangs around all day). Sometimes I head out for food with my coworker, Tristan, and we catch up and chat about all sorts of things.
Tuesdays are a great start to my week. When I’m en route to work on Tuesdays it sometimes feels a little like I’m heading back to my first day after a long vacation (I have three day weekends), and I lack motivation to get going. Once I see the kids, though, they change my entire mood. It’s amazing to think of the effect other people can have on you. Just another reason I (at the moment) love what I’m doing.
So that’s a typical Tuesday for me. I’m not sure if readers are interested in a play-by-play of my other classes during the week. I’ve been introducing some of my students through blog posts already, but if there’s any interest in the rest of my week, I can absolutely write something up.
(High five if you seriously read the entire post, by the way. :))