Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


by AJ

The intensive English program is very interesting.... and I like it. However, I feel like Im starting over. This is my first week, and to be honest, I am not doing a great job. Not even a good job. Something just isnt clicking... though I havent figured out what the problem is yet. What am I missing? What do I need to change? Where is my mojo?

Today I took a small step towards answering those questions. Another teacher sat in my class today, took notes, and gave me feedback. He had a couple of nice things to say, but what interested me most were his criticisms:

1. Not enough repetition.... speaking too fast.

This was his number one criticism. He felt I was zooming through the lesson and was not making sure that ALL students understood the vocabulary. For example, we came across the word "nap" while reading an article. I quickly asked the class if they knew the word. One student said "yes"... and so I said "great" and zoomed ahead.

My observer suggested I slow down and ask more questions...... dont just check with one student.. but with several (especially weaker students). Also, he suggested I keep a running vocab list each day on the board... and try to use those words many times throughout the day. Finally, he suggested I review the list at the end of the day and check each student to see if they understand the words.

All of these are excellent suggestions.

2. AJ, you talk too much

His other observation was that I talk too much in class. Again, this is on target. Im in a new class, in a new situation... and am a bit nervous and clueless. In such circumstances, I tend to babble. Which is what I did today. I talked, and talked, and talked. I interrupted students and blurted out my own explanations.

My observer once again suggested that I slow down and shut up! Be more patient and let the students take more control of the class.

I agree with this criticism as well.

3. Clueless

This is my own self-criticism. I feel clueless. I dont have a handle on what these students need or want. They are very different than my TU students. Their attitudes are different. They are more assertive (a good thing). Their expectations are much much higher (at TU, they basically expected teachers to show up and crunch through a textbook). These guys arent after a grade... or even a diploma. They want to MASTER English... they want native-like fluency.

I feel like Ive been bumped up to the major leagues after spending years in the minors. At the moment, I dont have a good handle on things.

Which is why it was nice to have an observer.... especially a positive and professional one. The simple truth is that most students won't tell you these things. You can ask them. You can beg them. You can bribe them. But most will still say, "everything is fine"... or "no complaints". They may despise you and your class... but most arent going to tell you (which is why I enjoyed teaching Hiroshi so much-- great to have such a blunt student!).

So, the next best thing to student feedback is peer feedback. Over the next several months, I hope to be observed more often. I also plan to bring in my trusty friend- the video camera... so I can see my painful incompetence directly :)

All of this done in order to try.... as best I can... to understand what the students' experience is like. If Im a boring windbag, I want to know. If I talk too fast, I want to know. If my explanations are non-sensical, I want to know.

And knowing, I hope to improve.