I’m halfway through what is definitely the craziest week at TEFL we’ve had yet. I’m sitting in the Globe café again – I got so much done here last time! – and I’m about to begin Lesson Planning Palooza! Round 2.
The first Lesson Planning Palooza! definitely took place on Monday night. I didn’t get a ton done on Sunday – I was pretty wiped after this weekend, so when class ended at 6pm on Monday, I really had to buckle down and get stuff done. Tuesday was a big day for us – we all had to give grammar presentations and then I was teaching again Tuesday afternoon and I was about 99% sure it would be observed (which it was). I was up very late on Monday, until about 2:30am (Tuesday morning, I suppose) getting everything done.
I got up around 7:30am on Tuesday to look everything over again, and I still needed to add a filler (exactly what it says on the tin – an extra activity in case you finish your lesson early) to my lesson plan for that afternoon. It’s a really good thing I looked everything over again, because my lesson plan didn’t add up to 50 minutes – I only had like 44 minutes or something. Apparently my math is not very good at 2:30 in the morning. So I got that taken care of, and then went to the school when it opened at 9 because I needed to print and make copies of assorted stuff.
When class started at 10, our trainer Dan had us line up in alphabetical order by the name of our first-ever pet. He’s always having us do stuff like that, so no one questioned it and it turned out to be the order we would give our presentations in. I was second – damn you Bun Bun! (Just kidding, Bun Bun. I hope you’re very happy in bunny heaven.) We all gave our presentations, and after each one Dan went through and it talked about what was good and what could be done better, etc. Mine went pretty well (I was teaching gerunds and how they are used to express likes and dislikes), and I got some good tips on things to improve my presentation. Dan then assigned us yet another grammar presentation for next week, which we be very similar to this one, but we have to find our own material this time. That took us all the way to lunch, and then after lunch I was up first to teach!
Emma and I were teaching the Elementary level, which is the lowest level at our school. We had 6 very chatty ladies to contend with. I was teaching my first full-on grammar lesson, and I was pretty nervous about it since I was pretty sure we were going to be observed. I knew I had really put a lot of work into it though. I was teaching the Present Perfect (I’ve been/I’ve never been) and they seemed to understand the grammar pretty well once I went through the presentation. The tough thing about grammar lessons (vs. the other lessons I’ve taught so far), is that you have to do a lot of the talking. There’s really no other way around it. In a speaking lesson, you just need to get them speaking really, but grammar has to be presented. I had mapped out how I was going to put things on the board beforehand, and had pretty much scripted my entire lesson, which was very useful to me. I snuck in a speaking activity at the very beginning as a warmer before they had to read some text, and I got a bit in at the end as well. I had a lot of pair-work activities to check their understanding of the grammar as well, so that broke it all up nicely.
After Emma’s lesson, our observer Karin (she’s the third trainer, but she doesn’t teach any of our lessons, she just observes when we teach) did our feedback. Since we’re in week 3 now, we get our feedback individually, so Emma left the room while Karin and I talked about my lesson. She asked what I thought of it, and I said that I thought it went pretty well. I stuck to my lesson plan almost to the minute, and I used all of my scripts, and thought they had understood the grammar. Karin said she thought overall my grammar presentation was almost perfect (I’m like, really?!), and that she could tell how much work I’d put into breaking it up and using language appropriate to the lower level. I’d managed to elicit all of my model sentences (which is when you ask a series of questions about the text they read and get them to say the exact sentence you want, which you then use as a model for the grammar on the board), which she said sometimes new teachers have trouble doing with the lower level.
There are things I need to improve on – the biggest problem Emma and I both had was that the students were speaking a lot of Czech when they were doing pair work during the lesson. I asked them a few times to speak English, and they did for a minute but they then went back to Czech. Karin said she wanted me to be more authoritative about that on Thursday, so we’ll see how that goes. She said it’s really difficult with the lower level because they don’t know as much English, so they slip back into Czech quite frequently. The trouble is that even if they’re talking about the lesson, they might very well be giving each other the wrong information and I’d have no way of knowing.
At the end, she let me know that I had passed. I did a massive internal victory dance (I’m three-for-three, bitches!), and felt a huge sense of relief because I’ve officially met one of the criterion for the TEFL certificate. I’ll still be observed and get trainer feedback in two of the remaining three lessons, but even if it’s somehow a complete train-wreck and I fail, it won’t really matter. Of course, I won’t let that happen – I’m damn determined to pass all five observations! – but it’s still a huge sense of relief.
Karin also said some really cool things that I didn’t expect. I hadn’t actually talked to her before now, and the consensus amongst my classmates is that she is an exceptionally tough and picky observer, which I really didn’t find to be true. I thought she was really nice. Anyway she said that she could tell that I was really enjoying myself during the lesson. She said I have a really natural ability to build rapport with the students, and it just makes the whole atmosphere very comfortable, even when we don’t quite understand each other. She asked if I had been nervous while I was up there, and I said that yes, I was, but mostly because of the grammar presentation which I was pretty worried about. She said she couldn’t tell at all, she was pretty impressed with how natural it all seemed to me. Personally I couldn’t believe that when she said it, but later that night when I thought about it, I realized that there is probably some truth to it. When I’m teaching, the inside of my head is a pretty quiet place. It’s not like high school or college where every time I had to give a speech of presentation I would basically be shouting internally the entire time. I don’t know how to explain it, but everything about this just feels so right to me.
Anyway, it was nice of her to say that. Dan and Kenny both keep their feedback pretty lesson-oriented. They don’t really ask things like “how did you feel during your lesson?” so it was kind of interesting to get a chance to stop and think about it, because I really hadn’t up until then. How did I feel? Focused. Intent. Entertained, even. I mean, the people I’m interacting with are really interesting and often really funny as well.
After we were done with the feedback, Karin gave me the material for my next lesson. I’m teaching first again on Thursday. My lesson is talking about experiences, and my topic is travel! I’m really excited about this one, I think we’re going to have a bit of fun with it. I’m about to get started on the lesson plan once I’m done here. I’m also meeting with my 1×1 student tomorrow, so I have to lesson plan for that as well. It will likely be another late night, but I’m ok with that. I think when you’re doing something you enjoy, the late nights don’t seem so late.
Oh! It finally snowed here. Just a dusting, but I thought I’d let you know winter has finally gotten to Prague.
No pictures today but, as always, lots of…
Love from Prague!