Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Specific Ideas For Upping My Game

by AJ

How am I gonna do it? What changes will I make next semester? How can I make dramatic improvements in my second semester of teaching at a University?

Here, in no particular order, are some random ideas:

* Physical Space. The school classrooms are hopeless. Butt ugly and not much I can do about that. So I can move some of my classes to more stimulating environments: outside, a coffee shop, the library.

* Set Incredibly Demanding Goals. Perhaps my biggest mistake this semester was equating "friendly" with "slack". In a thousand subtle and direct ways... I sent the message that I expected very little. Thats just the opposite of what I should do. Somehow Ive got to translate my own inner motivation and demanding self-standards to my students. Im always leery of doing this, but perhaps I disrespect the students by assuming they cannot handle and rise to the same standards I have for myself.

* Performance. Much of teaching is performance. You are on stage. Your voice, your body movements, your sense of pacing.. they are all vital. Im energetic and generally enthusiastic. However, as a speaker and presenter Im monotonous. My voice stays in a very narrow (though loud) range... at first jolting the students awake... but eventually lulling them to sleep like a non-stop machine buzz.

Also, when I get excited I often talk too fast and then many students cannot understand what the hell I am saying. I need better speaking and performance skills.

* More individualized coaching. Ive got to start meeting with students individually much more often. But not only that, Ive got to find ways to inspire them... figure out what they love and help them tap that for learning English. Ive got to also find a way to translate my high expectations to each and every INDIVIDUAL student.... one on one, eye to eye,...

* Re-design the in-class experience. My strengths are curriculum design, projects, and encouraging autonomy. My glaring weakness is the in-class experience. This semester I succeeded, hit and miss, with encouraging many students to do great things outside of class.

Perhaps the simplest example were extra credit articles. What I started as a throw-away means of giving extra points evolved into a powerful learning force. Students in my freshman classes started reading like crazy. Some were bringing me 5-10 articles EVERY class. I have no doubt that those students learned more vocabulary and implicit grammar from their extra credit articles than from anything we did in class.

But we do have class. However, Im still not sure what its best purpose is. How do I create an in-class Wow experience? Where do I find the simple yet powerful in-class equivalent to the extra credit articles? Hmmmmmmmm.........

* Beyond Borders
Next semester Ill launch the first international project with Aaron in Kyoto. My Thai classmates will communicate with his Japanese classmates via various internet tools. They'll form international teams and complete projects together. Likewise, one of my classes will work with one of Mick's classes in Ubon, in much the same way.

* Get Help
Ill work to create a volunteer/mentor program next semester. I hope to bring foreigners into my classrooms so that English becomes necessary for the students (and not just my desire).

* Food and Drink
Just say yes to drugs! I will encourage chemical enhancement during my classes.... Caffeine is quite a magic substance- and I plan to encourage its use.

Those are a few of my off-the-cuff ideas. I welcome any and all suggestions.