Welcome back! We’re deep in the golden triangle CELTA jungle now with Anne heading into week 3. Just joining the trek? This is the third installment of an interview series you can find part one of here and part two of here. Pull up a tree stump stool. Hear that thumping sound? That’s the som tam (green papaya salad) we ordered being prepared. Ice in your Singha? Of course. Thank Buddha for trailside rahn ahaans! 🙂
Let’s jump right in. How did your teaching practice go in week 2?
I felt that I had been a step behind all week long. I worked on assignment 1 on the weekend and did my best, and also prepared TP3, which went pretty well. BUT I spent the rest of Monday night and most of Tuesday helping out people who were still struggling with assignment 1 and didn’t get much sleep. So when TP4 came around, I was rushed, missed lunch, hadn’t finished creating much less printing materials and I was TIRED.
TP4 was a train wreck.
I’m my own worst critic – I remember thinking I’d be shocked if that lesson was even remotely to standard. I slept on it and mentally prepared myself for the next day’s morning feedback session.
I bet you passed out and slept like a big ol’ CELTA log that night. So was it entirely as bad as you thought when you got your feedback and assessment the next day?
Turns out the only thing that saved me from being roasted was my reflective skillz. Mantra of the week: learn from it and move on. Time management is still a huge challenge, I guess.
Not at all surprising – reflectivity being a strong point which really buoys you along the way, that is. But time management is such a heavy and multi-faceted challenge on the course. You’ve got the personal time management with your own massive course workload and pedagogical time management as you pilot these 45 -minute isolated, hyper-planned, super-staged, observed and assessed language lessons-slash-‘performance pieces’. You’re on two hours of decent shut-eye and have had but 3 coffees and a single bite of someone’s oreo cookie. Why, one might even start to see and feel time itself a bit like ol’ Sal Dali…
Ha. I like that picture.
But yeah, that’s a good description of how it feels. I wish I had done a lot of things differently, most importantly taking care of myself! I know I wasn’t the only one who is having time management problems – everyone in my TP group that day felt the same. On the plus side, I passed the assignment and I learned a lot about managing my time and becoming a better teacher.
Well done. Can you say more about week 2 learnings?
I have got to check instructions better and demonstrate. And then monitor in order to make sure they understood.
I should use simpler model sentences (without adjectives) so that I properly model stress.
And then when they are ALL doing the activity wrong, I should just re-explain to the whole class, rather than one by one. Oh, and if I change groupings by color, avoid red and yellow. #facepalm
Self-reflection is really important and being self-aware can make feedback less painful.
Nice. This is why we pay the big bucks for the best courses, eh? Just a few other comments from my end:
First, on the topic of instruction giving, Jo Gakonga produced this helpful video with a very high clarity quotient (sometimes I point trainees towards Jo’s excellent videos as “backup”, especially if and when I know I’ve been *cough* uncharacteristically *cough cough* unhelpful).
What else, coming out of week 2?
Watching the trainers has also given me a lot to think about.
The one who has more experience has a lot of management techniques I can learn from – like intentional groupings that look random (the results are clearly not random, though).
Both have taught me a lot about the sorts of activities that probably take a lot of prep (posting 13 activities around the school, each with little parts, for one) and ones that take less prep but are still fun to do (finding your partner based on your connected sentences).
They’ve help us with what to do if your students are all late (skip the lead in) and how to quiet a noisy class (with noise or lights or voice).
They’ve modeled different ways to present materials – hi-tech with ppt and techless – and different times of distributing handouts (with ‘at the end’ being most frustrating for me).
Did I remember to mention last week that one of the trainers really successfully sold 9-page lesson planning in her input session? I was absolutely amazed by that.
Oh, and they NEVER STOP WORKING.
Never stop working, eh? Reminds me of someone /*braces self for next course*/.
Sounds great, Anne. It really does. Can I ask two follow up questions? What happened/happens with unsuccessful instructions and what’s your plan to improve in that area? And can you say a little bit more about the lesson planning bit (I’m piqued because it pings the topic of my previous post here and this TEFL Show Podcast episode I was listening to).
I better give you an example to answer the first question: just before a listening activity where the students were supposed to listen and put the pictures in order, I gave the instructions and checked them badly. The students were using a textbook and there were two listening activities on the page and I didn’t remind them not to do the other one. So they ended up doing the wrong one. At the end when I said something like, “Did you get the order?” a few of the stronger students in the class asked to listen again. (I bet you can see what happened to my timings from there, right?) What I will do next time is 1) anticipate problems better to forestall them and 2) monitor sooner to make sure they are doing the right task.
But let me move on to lesson planning. I read your TEFL Show blog post and it was really interesting – particularly the part about lesson planning. I can’t imagine lesson planning like this post-CELTA if I have 30 hours a week of classes. I am well aware that in real life there is just no time for this kind of planning, but I can see the value of trying. I think my planning is getting better now that I understand the process more and I feel like there is a purpose to the lessons I plan. I think one of the things that I was not very good at in the past was seeing where it was all going.
Very interesting. It seems like this recurring idea of the “unrealistically” thorough CELTA-style lesson plan as a sort of ‘hologram’ of the mental processes of planning actually taken forward into the field is being echoed in your experience here. The challenge of “seeing where it’s all going” in planning, as you nicely put it – I can relate to that! And, it reminds me of the idea of “preflection” (links here, here, here). If nothing else, maybe that’s just a good name for what ultimately grows out of all the super-intensive heavy lifting of the lesson planning requirements on these courses. Sure, you can produce a “professional” lesson plan for those times you’re getting observed, etc. But much more importantly for your actual teaching, you (ideally) come out of it with big ol’ preflective muscles.
Finally, you relayed several ‘memorable quotes’ from week 2. I quite like how they give these little spapshot glimpses into the life of a course. I mocked up a few below (and will steal the first one from your trainer forthwith, please don’t report me!):
In the parlance of this here blog, perhaps we could say that ^there is some evidence of a process of muddles transforming (or transmorgifying?) into maxims (even if one is “eat, child, eat“).
Anne, thanks for another great interview and good luck in week 3! Dear readers, it would be wonderful to hear from you this week. Have a comment or question for Anne? Experience to share? Hard-won tips on time management, grouping students, model sentences, or any of the many things Anne has brought to the table here? The comment box awaits.
In fact, this is now a full-tilt guilt trip – if you’re reading this sentence and not going to comment, feel it: feel the burn slowly rising within, higher, higher. Until it forces your hand. You’ve got so much to contribute – DON’T deny us your comment. 🙂