Today I got back into school. I am taking a course in Teaching ESL overseas. I figured a game plan on how to proceed would be beneficial. Thus far, it's a wonderful course. My teacher is a bright chap, with ample experience both as an ESL teacher and a creative writing instructor. I was literally mesmerized by his teaching style. It was filled with confidence, dynamism, and openness.
"When we notice that students aren't getting the material, what do we do?" I asked him.
"Well," he smiled. "It's usually a case of teaching material that is beyond their level. Go back to an earlier lesson, or simply think of other ways in which to convey the concept."
"What if you can't think of any other ways? Do you employ a different topic and come back to it later?"
"If you've exhausted ways in which you can present the material, and folks are still not getting it, then move onto something else, until you can come up with a different way to present the material."
He is truly excellent. I could also tell that he was a bit winded by my excessive questioning. He challenged me a few times. This threw me off a bit, and returned me to the old ways I used to feel in classrooms. In fact, I remembered a discussion I had with a professor in my undergraduate years, where after bonding in her office, she told me that when she first met me she thought I was this arrogant, know-it-all.
"It was the way you held yourself," she told me. "I didn't know if there was anything I could teach you."
"Are you kidding?" I laughed. "You are an amazing teacher. I love your class."
I find it surprising when people get this impression of me. I am such a lover of learning. There is nothing I like better. And this ESL course has been a godsend. We went over verb tenses, and I felt much more confident about the teaching practice involved. We also went through different ways of encouraging and eliciting responses from students.
According to our instructor, it was important to draw out answers from classes, rather than doing all the work. This practice encouraged a more active class, and lessened the amount of work we would have to do with instructors.
"Does anybody know what TTT is?" he asked.
"Teacher Training?" someone called out.
"Yes," the instructor replied. "Teacher Training Time. You want to make sure that you limit TTT, as I call it, and get the students involved. You also don't want this to be a "me" oriented classroom. Students pick up on this, and it makes them less than happy with their learning experience. This doesn't mean we can't have a bit of the performance side of ourselves exhibited. There's nothing wrong with that. But when it becomes more about you, than the students, they'll notice this. A better way to look at it is in the language we use to describe our classrooms. Did anyone notice how I described classroom?"
"You said "our," I said.
"That's right," he replied. "It is our classroom. We are doing the assignments. We are deciding what to do. When we make it about ourselves, the "me" attitude, than we are going to turn the class into a showcase, and no one wants that."
I really liked that idea. It's one I've tried to impart in my classes as well. I'll have to keep this "our" attitude in our practice lesson tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what comes up.