Knowing Your Strengths and Weaknesses
It has been eight months since I arrived in to China to start my teaching job with York school and it has been an interesting and wholly pleasant experience. As you may have read, I started my TEFL training in Prague, teaching some classes and getting to know the basics of what would be in store for me once I found a school to employ me. The transfer from student to teacher has been a quick one and I now find myself being reflective of my development.
Looking back at those first tentative steps in to the TEFL classroom of Chinese learners was both exciting and a little daunting. I have never found it comfortable talking in front of large groups of people I don’t know my own age, but talking to children is much easier. Getting to grips with the material as soon as possible was key and although I did my best to make things fun and interesting, my classes probably weren’t as well rounded as a more experienced ESL teacher.
It is important to understand that although you might be hitting your targets and children are passing their tests, you should still maintain a thirst to improve not only your pupils grades but also your own ability to teach. This is when you should be well aware of your strengths and weaknesses and something that York School also works hard on pin pointing to aid your own progress.
Since I have been working at York I have been observed perhaps a total of eight times, not always by the same person but always with the same constructive feedback. Going in to a class knowing that one of your superiors will be watching your every step can be a little off-putting but it should be remembered that it is for your benefit.
Since May 2012 I have seen my classes steadily improve and become more interesting to a wider spectrum of students, from the youngest at five years old to the oldest at fifteen. It is important to recognise before a class what your weaknesses are so that you can work to improve those the most. Everyone is different and personally I feel that my discipline is quite laid back when it should be stricter and that my ability to convey grammar forms to senior students can often be overly complicated. Having the observations also helps focus attention on where you might be going wrong and is always administered with hints and tips from far more experienced teachers.
I have to remember that I have only been doing this for eight months, and I feel like I am in the right line of work, yet I understand that I need to keep on improving and learning just as my students are. We also have feedback from the teaching assistants who write a short summary on how they think your classes are going and these are also very helpful – the good comments and the bad. It shouldn’t be said that everything is negative during feedback sessions and everyone is quick to point out your strengths just as much as areas to get better and as long as the good points weigh out the bad, then you can acknowledge you’re at least aiming in the right direction.
For me, I want to be doing this for a number of years as I travel around the world and I really enjoying teaching children a new language. It is interesting, fun and there are no two days the same. To continue to do this requires me to learn as much as possible and perpetually. Analogy wise I guess it would be like making a puzzle; you continue to put things in to place until the last piece fits in and you become a well rounded and complete teacher. I know I am not there yet, but feel that I am in the right environment to achieve this status.