Becoming an ESL Teacher Abroad: 2nd Weekend of Classes

The second weekend of classes went well. We continued to learn about various methods of activities, what makes a good teacher, lesson planning, and classroom management. All of the activities we’ve done so far have been great for the most part.

Now that everyone is becoming comfortable with each other personalities are coming out. We’ve found our class clown (clowns in this case), the quiet students, the over achiever, the “hipster don’t cares,” the jock, and all the normal stereotypes. Yes, I said stereotypes but this isn’t a bad thing! It’s just a way of classifying people and giving the reader a better understanding of the classroom.

Stereotypes

Speaking of stereotypes… One thing I would like to openly discuss on this post is the over use of political correctness (PC). There are times and places for PC, but some people have taken it too far these days. It’s beginning to interfere with learning processes and hinders students when too much time is spent debating the political correctness of a word.

During one of our class discussions we talked about masculine, feminine, and gender neutral words. This is something most people have dealt with when learning another language. One of the girls spoke out and said that it’s sexist to classify terms like that, and we shouldn’t be using that kind of language when we teach. She had no idea how we would modify it to help the students, but claimed we needed to take out those words. Doing that would result in teachers not being able to provide a good reason as to why the same word is altered when used in different situations.

Let’s use French as an example. The word “content” in french is the same as our language with a little difference. The version used in the prior sentence is the masculine form in French. They use this when saying the man is content or using a masculine noun in general. When describing a woman, they add an “e” at the end. This is a subtle difference but one of the rules in French. There are the select words which are gender neutral: words that are spelled the same whether it’s for a man or a woman. The classification helps the students differentiate between the two versions of the word and when to use them. It’s not meant to be sexist. It’s meant to be helpful and classify things so that they are easier to explain and understand.

Spending time on PC is a waste in the classroom and takes away from the productivity of the students. Teachers should focus on teaching the students as much as possible about the language. They only have a short amount of time as it is and it needs to be well spent.

Lesson Planning

This is something I’ve been nervous about and still am. Lesson planning can be as detailed as you want it to be. Depending on your school you could be required to turn something in every week or present it to your boss during a class observance. Needless to say, these are a great tool for beginning teachers.

Having the lesson plans laid out for the week is a great idea, but there’s got to be room for flexibility. For the most part, the flexibility part seems easy, but then there are times when the teacher can be too flexible.

Part of our practicum during the final weekend is building a lesson plan and presenting the lesson. We get to choose any topic we want as long as it relates to teaching the English language. Creating the lesson seems to be decent, but the presenting part is going to be intimidating. For some people, like me, I get nervous in front of people. I’m better when I know I’m helping them and teaching them something new, but if I’m teaching them something they already know… that’s a different matter. I will update you on the results after this coming weekend.

Classroom Management

This is something quite a few teachers have trouble with. If you don’t establish rules within the first few days, you’re basically screwed unless you get a magically perfect class. Children sense fear. It’s their sixth sense!

For the most part, everyone will generally do well if they set down some ground rules.

We also discussed what qualities make a good teacher and how they relate to classroom management. A lot of key qualities pertained to patience, empathy, optimism, and organization. From my schooling, I’ve learned those qualities are completely true. When I’ve had a disorganized teacher my faith in their competency waivers. There will be those off days where things may be a little disorganized, but as the teacher you can’t let that run wild and inhibit you from teaching.

I think this is going to be one of the more difficult obstacles to overcome the first year. The first year you’re getting yourself grounded and learning what works and doesn’t work. You can have all the training possible, but once you step into that classroom you have to figure out which methods work for your teaching style.

When you add in the fact you’re teaching a class to foreigners culture barriers are going to become evident. Take eye contact as an example. In America we use it as a way to check that people are paying attention, give someone a stern warning, and show respect. In other countries it would be a sign of disrespect and students will not look you in the eye when you’re teaching. This can be disheartening for some teachers because they might feel as if they’re not getting through to their students. This is one of those examples where you will have to modify some of your teaching and the way you manage your class. It’s all about being adaptable.

End of 2nd Weekend

The second weekend was a whirlwind of information. A lot of it focused on lesson planning and classroom management. This was great because we all wanted to know more. Lesson plans are central to what we are going to do.

Other people in the class seemed to become more disruptive once they noticed how relaxed these classes are. There was a lot more talking while the teacher was discussing a lesson, people were interrupting each other, and there was a lack of personal space. Now the personal space is more of a pet peeve of mine than anything. It’s also related to cultural differences since we’ve got several different cultures in the classroom. Part of me wishes the teacher would have been a bit more strict, but she was still able to manage all of us for the most part. This is something I’ll think more about when I have my own students. There will be time to figure out what works and doesn’t.

The idea of creating a series of interconnecting lessons is thrilling. Yes, it’s very nerdy, but it’s okay. The whole reason we’re in this class is to help those other kids learn another language and English is hard. Hell, most native English speakers can’t even use our language correctly. I will admit, some of the foreigners I’ve met have a better command of English than most of us do at times.

When you see how far the students have come from the first day to the last day you will be proud. You will feel that all of your hard work was worth it. You’re getting to teach  them something they can use almost anywhere they go. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

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