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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 3rd, 2007, 06:16 am
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Default A humiliating day - help required

I am new to teaching and have been told I need to teach from the book, so I have used it a little just for the topic and that is it. The other week I got told my lesssons are boring, so I spent ages looking up games which is hard for such a large class of 60. The other teacher has been told his lessons are boring as well. I spent a day at one school trying out my games and they were a real hit. So I went to the other school and tried Chinese Whispers ( maybe it was too early, I don't know 7.45am) and they weren't over ethusiastic, and then one of the students ran to the board and wrote this lesson is boring. I felt reallly upset and humiliated but kept it inside and said ok tell me what you would like to do and what you would like to talk about. The response was silent. After the lesson the lad came up to me and said he was sorry he doesn't know how to express himself, I said its ok I am glad you told me but next time can you tell me in private, he said yes. Two other students came up to me and said don't worry it will be ok.

So for the rest of the day, I asked the students what they would like to chat about, I spoke about myself, then got them to come up to the front and speak about themselves, this worked and got a few laughs. The last teacher just let them play on the computer and watch videos, also he spoke fluent Chinese.

Where do I go from here, I want to be a good teacher and I want my lessons to be interesting? Surely if I have to come up with an intesresting topic each week I am going to run out. The Chinese students just seem to want to sleep as they study so hard all day. Sorry to waffle on it has been a bit of an upsetting day for me so I guess I have a lot to say...
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Unread Apr 3rd, 2007, 08:05 am
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

Hi Marie,

Don't let this get you down - it seems to me that you've reacted really, really well to everything that's happened and that you've been working along the right lines from the start. Your openness to discussing criticisms with the students is particularly nice and the fact that other students were being supportive shows that you're doing OK.

A few things to keep in mind - whatever training you've had, the first year of teaching is always an enormous learning experience (actually, so is the second, and the third, and the fourth, and the ....). You can't possibly expect to do everything right from the beginning - the important thing is that you try things out, evaluate them, change what didn't work etc. And yes, you'll find that what works with one class doesn't always with the second - maybe they were a different age, or level, or it was a different time of day - all these things and many more can have an effect.

I wonder if the student found the games boring because they were just there in their own right rather than contributing to the overall language objective for the lesson? This is where the book comes in. As a new teacher, yes I do think you need to teach from the book to give structure and coherence to the course - providing it's a good book. If it is, then the activities it provides should be interesting enough in themselves that "entertaining" the students shouldn't need to be something to worry about- it should be a natural consequence of the activities themselves. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't add, subtract and generally tweak a bit. This is where games come in. Add in a couple of games to a lesson because they practise the language point you've been teaching, or use them as warmers or finishers - but don't let them "take over" from the teaching.

I don't know if you've done a TEFL course? If so, it should have dealt with using and adapting a coursebook to suit the needs of your students and should have given you a lot of teaching techniques to draw on. If not, you need to acquire that knowledge as fast as you can. Get yourself a good basic book on Teaching EFL, and start looking at methodology sites as well as those which provide activities. It won't replace a course, but it's better than nothing. I won't go on because if you have done a course it's irrelevant, but pm me if you want some concrete suggestions.

But - back to feeling humiliated. Don't - there's really no need. I'm sure that every teacher reading this could point to a similar experience somewhere during their career. The difference between good and bad teachers is not that the good ones don't mess up sometimes or get criticised, but that they're the ones who care about it, and even more importantly, do something about it. An NLP saying is that there is no failure - only feedback.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 3rd, 2007, 09:43 am
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

[quote=susan53]Hi Marie,

Of course, that doesn't mean you can't add, subtract and generally tweak a bit.

Make your students laugh by adding a joke, a riddle...And
why not ask your students to tell a joke? ( taking turns as you have a big class There are lots of books to practice vocabulary and idioms using jokes for beginners to advanced students.
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Unread Apr 3rd, 2007, 10:37 am
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

Hi

Thanks for your feedback.

Yes I did do a TESOL and TEYL. Basically the students have Chinese teachers that teach them from the book and they do not want me to teach from this book at all, not even the topic as they said it is boring and they have already learnt. Therefore for my lesson to not be boring they are expecting me to come up with something exciting and new each week that has nothing to do with the book. I think the headmistress is expecting me to use the book so this could cause problems.

The TESOL course was helpful and I did very well in it but I think nothing beats a bit of practical experience which I could do with. I think the first year is definately going to be about finding my feet and finding what works and what doesn't, and maybe having quite a few hiccups a long the way. It's not until you start teaching that you can even begin to realise how difficult it can be, I guess that is my lack of experience again.
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Unread Apr 3rd, 2007, 11:40 am
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

Hi - if the school expects you to use the book, use it, in the sense of follow the syllabus, and use at least the odd exercise if only by setting them for homework - and tell the students there's no choice. Be as open as possible to student wants when you can satisfy them, but don't put your relationship with the principal or even your job on the line. Which of course doesn't mean that you can't discuss the situation with the school and suggest an alternative - decide what you want to propose before you raise the subject so that you show that you not only have good reasons for saying "no" to the book, but know what you want to put in its place. And make that another book - at least as the basis of a course. The students don't necessarily have to have it, but it will give you something to follow. That means you don't need to decide what to teach and worry about planning a coherent syllabus - that's done for you.

Then, whichever book you're using, you just have to decide how to teach whatever the next topic is. I have to say that with 60 students, you're in an enormously difficult situation, and I'm not surprised that other teachers just let them play on the computer and watch videos. But hey - that means you've got computers and videos in the classroom. Why not build on that? There are loads of free materials on the net -some of them on the sites of people who contribute to this forum. If there are computers at hand, have a look at what's the next language item in the book that you're following, do a T-centred presentation and then let them do practice activities from the net. If the class are working autonomously it will give you a chance to circulate, monitor and help individuals - which you'll never be able to do with 60 people working in lockstep.
Then come back into lockstep for IW/PW/GW activities - which may be written or spoken drills, games, information gap activities or conversation, but always on the objective of the lesson.

Or if it's a topic based course, look on the net for a questionnaire on that topic, then some reading or listening work. Or a video on the same subject. There are plenty of ways you can use video which are productive didactically. There's a two part article here and here that describes some of them.

This constant change of focus will bring variety into the course and that in itself will add interest. But avoid long teacher-class stages - with the best will in the world you'll find it difficult to make that interesting for someone sat at the back of sixty others.

I'm presuming that they're at least teenagers if not older and intermediate level plus. But even if they're younger there's stuff on the web that you could use.

As regards the tiredness problem - start the lesson with an energising warmers, and always have some up your sleeve for if pace drops in the middle. Pace really is the key factor in determining whether a lesson is interesting or boring, and the more tired the students are to start with the more "peppy" the pace has to be to re-energise them.

I'm fishing in the dark here as without knowing your exact situation it's difficult to make concrete suggestions. If you want to follow up on anything in more detail pm me or go on with the thread. But as before - don't beat yourself up about it. You're in a hugely difficult situation and so far have done everything right.
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Unread Apr 3rd, 2007, 05:54 pm
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

Hi

The last teacher had his own laptop I think. He was American, had a lot more experience and could speak fluent Chinese, he was very popular with the students, although some have admitted he spoke too much Chinese in the classroom. The students are used to the American accent and not the English accent.

The students ages are 17, at one school the teacher said I do not need to use the book, the students are at a lower level of English at this school and last week the topic I covered was describing people, this went down well as they thought it was funny describing each other.

This will definately not work with the other school who are a little of a higher level and seem to not be so easy going in what I teach. Maybe I will speak to the headmistress and say the students don't want me to teach the book and gage her reaction. After trying the game that seemed to flop so badly and having to think of topics that they are happy with for a year, I am not looking forward to the year ahead, with no photocopier, printer or computer and 60 teenagers it feels very difficult.

Thanks for your advice, its very much needed with my lack of experience.
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Unread Apr 4th, 2007, 10:02 pm
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

We've all had to work from bad or boring textbooks at one point in our teaching careers. Being a native English speaker, you should have options and ideas that non-native teachers maybe haven't thought about... or don't feel confident enough to pull off.

I like Susan's idea to incorporate the book as homework. This is one way to use the book, but not use the book (if you know what I mean)! Also consider extending the activities listed in the book. For example, a textbook that I have to use at my uni had the following activity: With a picture of New York, the students had to imagine a vacation there. They were to write sentences, and then present to a partner. I didn't like this very much. It was also too hard, because it didn't have enough prep work for the students to give some interesting sentences. So I did the following:

1) I gave a listening exercise of eight sentences about a trip to New York. It had some basic ideas, as well as some interesting/funny events. Everyone listened, and answered comprehension questions at the end.

2) Next, I had the students image their trip to New York, and write about it. They had a worksheet with some of my sentences from the listening, plus a few more, to help them along. The students took that info, added to it, and created a story of about fifteen sentences. They did this in pairs, then presented their vacations in groups of four.

3) Lastly, they chose a place they wanted to visit, imagined a vacation there, and told about it to a partner with only a few minutes to prepare. The partner could also ask a few questions in order to generate a conversation.

With the above activity, I still used the book. I also covered the grammar/target language of the unit. But by expanding on the idea, using my experience as a traveler, native speaker, and teacher, I created an activity that was a lot more interesting and rewarding for the students.

In your classes, I would suggest the same: take a grammar point from your textbook, and expand on it with speaking activities. If it's one thing I've noticed in my years teaching, it's that non-native English teachers are less willing to stray from the book -- use that to capture your students' interests.
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Unread Apr 5th, 2007, 07:46 pm
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

Hello Marie,

Ouch! Your story brings back memories for me, too.

What I've learned about Chinese students, though is that 'boring' is not as harsh to them as it is in English. When we say 'Your book is boring', that's like a huge insult to the author, but for the Chinese, it's just a way to say 'I don't like it that much'. Add this to the fact that they're kids and they don't have a good grasp of the language.

So when the student said your lesson is boring, it could mean many things. For example, it could mean 'Your lesson is frustrating to me because I don't understand it and you talk too fast'. Or, of course, it could really mean that it's boring, but somehow I doubt that since you put so much effort into making it fun for them.

Also, a class of sixty kids is too much, but that's probably beyond your control!
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Unread Apr 6th, 2007, 01:27 am
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

[quote=emile]Hello Marie,

Ouch! Your story brings back memories for me, too.

We all live in a world where everything goes very quickly and children get bored quickly. They are used to playing games on the computer all day long. I've noticed ( French children) that they don't want to write anymore!! Actually they don't want to do anything! I'm sure you will find something to get them interested in your lessons. There are so many activities in ESL sites and teaching a language makes creativity possible while other subjects don't.
Don't let this dishearted you!
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Unread Apr 6th, 2007, 01:55 am
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

I'd just like to add my support. Try not to worry too much, and just take it as a learning experience. We all have classes that go very badly. And when you're put in a bad situation (too many students, little institutional support, etc.) that makes it even harder.

I like the idea of involving the computers, but (as someone who is also teaching large groups in China) I doubt that students would really stay on task. And watching videos is fine, but I don't personally spend a lot of class time doing that.

I like what your trying to do as far as getting the students to let you know what they're interested in learning about. In my experience, Chinese students don't seem to be used to the idea of taking part in shaping their classes, though, so it might take a while. I'm currently in the midst of doing this with my classes (50 or so 18-19 year-olds) and I'm starting to make headway. I just try to make it very clear to them that they need to share some of the responsibility for deciding content, because I don't know what they're interested in unless they tell me.

Try to make them feel like part of the team. Acknowledge that sometimes some lessons may be boring, and try to get them to help come up with ways of learning that are more engaging to them. This runs the risk of them seeking cop-outs like watching movies, though. Anyways.

Good luck. You're doing fine, and the fact that you're reflecting on your teaching and trying to improve it puts you head and shoulders above the crowd.

Take care,
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Unread Apr 7th, 2007, 12:08 am
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

Thanks for all your support, it has made me feel much better.

Hue - I can not set them homework, the Chinese teachers do this. Your lesson plan has given me an idea.

Michele/Emile - Ouch is the perfect word, it was very ouch.

Dave - Thanks for your reply, I am going to keep on at them to make suggestions as I agree they are partly responsible, it should be a bit of a team effort.

I am very limited on resources, I thought I may print off some photos from my trip to Australia, maybe that might interest them, especially the Aborigines, Dingos and Jelly fish, but even to do that I am having to email a student to get her to print them for me as I have no colour printer. This one lesson may be a bit more teacher talking time but at least I can try and work out if this type of thing may interest them or not.
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Unread Apr 9th, 2007, 02:43 pm
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

WOW. 50-60 kids in the classroom!! I wonder how you do it. Really. One of my 8-year-old classes is made up of 16 students and I have to really struggle to keep them on track and not have them walk about the classroom and hit each other... And I really felt good about myself for having achieved this atmosphere of cooperation after teaching them for 21 weeks. ........I'm sure I couldn't have done it with 60 students.
I teach in a state school and I have to teach certain very old books. Even though I feel that the books are no good I make sure that I do the lessons in the book as well. I teach the grammar, vocabulary however I think it is best, and then I use the lesson in the book as consolidation. Besides the fact that I am paid to teach the books that the ministry of education has given the kids I have found that students and their parents start complaining and consider that nothing has been done in the classroom if some progress in the book has not been made. So I make sure that the lessons in the book are done as well. I find that students enjoy it when, after they have learnt the grammar and vocabulary , they open their books and understand everything that is there in the lesson. Makes them feel confident when they open the book and the book is a piece of cake for them because they have already learnt everything that a specific lesson is supposed to teach them.
After teaching for 25 years I have reached the conclusion that in order to be effective we don't really have to be entertaining every single lesson. Kids also like to work hard and have the teacher appreciate their efforts.They also like the teacher to be in charge and lead them towards a specific goal. I started out
trying to please my students but I think I really started being a good teacher when I stopped worrying so much about them having a good time but started worrying more about the amount of language they would learn during my lessons. That doesn't mean that they don't play games, (boardgames, cards, slam, snakes and ladders, all subscribed to the teaching objective, of course) but not during each class. I usually do such activities when I have classes towards the end of the school day when kids find it more difficult to concentrate and do some teacher centered teaching (I really think it is necessary to model pronunciation) and writing and reading during the classes that are earlier during the day. I teach each class 3 hours a week . Kids
feel it when they make progress and appreciate the teacher's efforts. I think it is important for them to learn to use language the way a native speaker would use it. Learn how to introduce themselves, offer and accept things, invite people to do things together, talk about their family, lifestyle, possessions, holidays, free time, likes, dislikes etc. And I find that revision, time and again, of the language taught so far eventually leads to fluency and a feeling of accomplishment. It is also good, I think, to pinpoint at the end of lessons what they have learnt during the lesson. When they feel they have made some progress being bored or not bored is no longer such an issue.
I can understand how upsetting the experience you describe must have been. I have been in such a position myself and maybe more than once. You'll be fine. You'll find your voice.
Meanwhile, "happy teaching". I'm quoting Mark, the webmaster of www.mes-english.com You might find some good teaching ideas on his site as well.
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Unread Apr 10th, 2007, 11:14 pm
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Default Re: A humiliating day - help required

Manuela

I agree with everything you said, I was actually thinking the other day, what are they actually learning by me just trying to please them. China is not the easiest place to teach, the students are known for being shy and never putting up their hands, for sleeping in lessons and reading newspapers, high school students can be difficult. We as teachers are employed just for oral, at the schools in China. On a positive note one of my students came running up to me after class yesterday and he had written me two pages about the difference between England and China, I was well touched, he wants to be a writer, I told him that I think for him this is possible.

I learnt a lot in my tefl but trying to do everything at once, theres probaly a few minor but important points I need to keep on top of, and one of them is a log of every lesson and what worked and didn't work.

I also think what you said is a good idea, more games for the afternoon when they are tired.

As for "happy teaching", I haven't quite reached that point yet, I have moments, but one day I hope I will really enjoy.

Marie
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