Becoming a better teacher
For a lot of teachers when they come here they have little to no experience and they are either fresh out of university or on a life changing path to a better future. I would agree that I am one of the latter party. I decided to come to China to travel, gain experience and, on the whole, enjoy a more relaxed version of what some consider work.
It’s been over one year since I first started and looking back at the first nervous steps in to the classroom, a lot has changed in my approach and, probably, my style too. York School has a few different levels of classes aimed at different age groups and within these there are also a lot of different types of class on offer. Some of these are similar throughout. For example a lot of the classes, no matter what the level or ability of the children incorporates speaking, reading and listening classes. For the younger students there are song lessons and for the older students they have more puzzle solving type classes. These are all designed to encourage of course and naturally the little ‘uns love bellowing out their lungs even if they have no idea what on earth they are saying.
What I have learned
I can notice myself however that my approach to these different classes has changed dramatically since the time I first started. On the whole the biggest changes have taken place in my ability to include more children in activities throughout a class and my sense of discipline. When I first started and I observed classes one of the key elements seemed to be the fact kids love throwing sticky balls around, trying to nail the flashcard on the board or something of this ilk.
I quickly learnt however, with a class of sixteen students, that it is hard for all the students to practice their English skills when only a couple of them can throw things around. They soon get bored of the game, bored of waiting and bored of English. This is probably the area I have improved on the most. Finding activities that can be shared across all the students at one time, so that they can all have fun, talk and practice is key. It might still be a work in progress for a lot of people, myself included, but there are also times when the sticky balls help for a game – it’s just a matter of being creative.
The other area that I feel that I do better in now is not caring if children get upset or cry. A crying child or a grumpy teenager isn’t something I feel warrants a lot of attention. Before when I started I felt like I had done something heinous to offend, upset or been unfair in my treatment. It’s something that has taken a while to become imperious to a crying child but also very important if you want to present a cohesive lesson for the majority of the well-behaved students.
Still more to improve
It’s important to keep learning yourself and introducing new games and activities so that students keep focused and responsive. A new game rarely lasts four weeks now, whereas before I perhaps relied a lot on the ability to bring a bouncy ball out and let the children play dodge ball. I’m sure it’s something that all new TEFL teachers go through in terms of progression and if the children have been through a lot of well mannered grammar presentation it is still nice to let them have some fun or let some steam off.
To allow the children to have fun, yet still learn is a fine tight rope walk to manage, but if it is done correctly it also makes teaching more enjoyable and effortless. The trouble is if something doesn’t work well as you had planned it is not the end of the world. Just go back to the drawing board, sort through some TEFL websites and carry on.