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14 November 2012

Diaries of a Teacher

Last week, I finished my first month of teaching, marked by the final exam for the level I was entrusted with (lower-intermediate). My heart swelled with pride as I handed them (almost all of them) their certificates. 

I wanted to take some time to reflect on the course and note down my observations, in the hope that I would learn from the experience. 


* I was anxious about how much wisdom I'd impart but I saw my students' vocabulary, grammar and conversation skills grow :) 

* I really enjoyed teaching, which is great validation for my decision to go into it! 

* My colleagues were very helpful when I needed guidance on  how to teach tricky grammar points such as the Present Perfect. 


* All my students spoke Arabic, more specifically, Jordanian. This meant that when a student asked me a question, like "what does X mean?" their colleague would translate it for them in Arabic. Although this was helpful sometimes, most times I preferred explaining the words in English and let the students see if they can understand it.

* The chairs in the classroom were fixed to each other in rows, which meant I couldn't rearrange the seating for group activities.

* The students could be critical of each other. For example, when reading aloud in class, if one student mispronounced a word other students would sigh or impatiently correct him/her. I think this may be a cultural thing - perhaps students were more direct in their approach.

* A few students' English was lower than the others and I just didn't know how to bring them up to speed without slowing down the class. This was a challenge for me as I wasn't sure how to effectively manage differing levels in the same classroom.

What I will continue doing in my next course(s): 

* Speak English only in the classroom. I can really tell that the students benefitted from this, and within a couple of weeks I was able to slightly increase my speaking speed without "losing" my students.

What I want to change/adapt: 

* I did not have any interactive and fun "warmer" activities at the start of the lessons. Part of it was the fear that my students would not want to take part and part of it was that I wasn't sure how much to deviate from the book. Also, some students prefer not to be too friendly to the opposite sex, again, a cultural thing I need to keep in mind.

* I would like to find an activity that develops the students' language. During lessons I asked students to read aloud but recently (re)discovered that this does nothing for language development.

* I'd like to incorporate the phonetics (IPA) chart into my pronunciation exercises 
(you can see one here). Although it looks like a foreign language, the chart is very effective when used correctly, as it illustrates the sounds of letters rather than what they look. This can be helpful with tricky letters such as "c", which can have an "s" sound or a "k" sound. 

* I feel that students are used to having the teacher "tell" them what they need to know, but I need to ensure that I am eliciting as much as possible from them and using concept checking questions to check understanding and progress. 

This month:

I have just started teaching a Basic level class, in which the students have no or very little previous knowledge of English. 

I have also been assigned the lower-intermediate level again, so I am excited about having a chance to put into practice the points above. 

Reflections on both coming soon - watch this space!



  1. Congratulations on your first teaching assignment. You described yourself as "outspoken" which will help you greatly in your work.
    I am an introvert by nature and teaching has been largely difficult and unrewarding for me...I don't know whether the job market has worked against me or my beliefs....

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I'm sorry to hear that you didn't find teaching rewarding :( I hope you do find a fulfilling career.


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