My first CELTA lesson – I would like to be a teacher. I don’t like teaching at this particular moment in time.

24-Oct-2011

During my CELTA, I was in a teaching group of five trainees and was lucky because three of the others had to teach the very first lesson – and even though I didn’t have to teach myself, I suffered with the other trainees every step of the way. In preparation for our lessons, we’d been told that we’d be teaching a group of about 20 students so everyone had prepared accordingly. Imagine our horror when only one student turned up for our first lesson! Having five people sitting in the back watching and being taught by three different teachers didn’t help the student relax and my fellow trainees kept running out of things to keep their one-student lesson going. I think it was a painful process for everyone involved but I learned my first lesson:

1 Always bring along extra materials.

Two days later, it was my turn. I was teaching the grammar part with controlled practice and thought at first that I was so much luckier than my colleagues who had taught the first lesson, as I had FOUR students! Unfortunately, it became obvious very early on that these four students seemed to be at three completely different levels. After I’d gone through form and meaning of like + -ing and would like to + infinitive with them on the board, I handed out the worksheet I had prepared. From this moment on, I watched in horror as everything fell apart and I was unable to do anything about it. The students didn’t understand my first activity (it wasn’t very clear at all) and I spent some time explaining (not modelling and eliciting answers from them as I should have done). Then, the two strongest students filled in the rest of the worksheet in about two minutes while the weakest student still pondered the first activity, which taught me another invaluable lesson:

2 Never give out all of the activities at once – at least fold the worksheet so they can’t see all of the activities.

Luckily, I had my extra activity, which I gave to the students who had already finished, while I talked the weaker student through the rest of the exercises. She didn’t give the slightest indication whether any of this made sense to her and it was a laborious process to get her to fill in all the gaps. At least I eventually got the fourth student to help her out, which meant that I scored some points on the yellow teaching practice evaluation sheet for bringing my teacher talk time down and encouraging peer teaching. This enabled me to take a deep breath, lean back to observe my small class for a moment and realise that I had just learnt my third lesson:

3 Encourage pairwork.

In my evaluation, unsurprisingly, my weakest points were the fact that I had let myself be drawn into teaching an individual student while neglecting the others and time management. While I had watched my fellow trainee teachers struggle though their 20 minute sets two days earlier and improvising for several minutes because they had finished their lessons in half the time they had planned, I ended up running out of time! Explaining every answer to the weaker student meant that I didn’t have enough time for feedback in the end. Which then, of course, became one of my action points for future lessons: allow enough time to give sufficient feedback on activities.

Although I was absolutely exhausted after just 20 minutes of teaching and couldn’t imagine how people could possibly survive teaching two-hour lessons, I still felt some pride that I had made it through. And it did get better after this first, nightmarish, experience.

The next posting in this series will appear on Monday31st October 2011. Don’t miss it!

Kerstin

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