Well I successfully made it through my first week of the TEFL course. I meant to write on Thursday but I was so busy, there just wasn’t time! Let’s see if I can back up and fill you in on the highlights of the week.
I taught my first mini-lesson Tuesday afternoon. I had the last part of our 50-minute lesson, so my teammates (Emma and Matt) taught for about 15-17 minutes each, and then it was my turn. The topic/theme of our lesson was gift-giving customs in different countries (ie giving flowers or wine to your hostess, etc) to an Intermediate-level group. The first two parts were OK, but a bit pretty quiet. The students were mostly working quietly by themselves, when really our goal is to get them talking. When it was time for my part, I got up there and wrote my name on the board and just smiled and said, “Hi, I’m Holly,” and they all smiled back and said hello, so that gave me some confidence. They had been working on some writing activity when I took over, so I went through that and then asked them about what gifts they would give to a hostess here. They all said things like beer and wine and chocolate, so I joked about how they would all be welcome in my home then, and they thought that was pretty funny. I had them all change seats to talk to different partners, and got them all talking quite a bit, and then we were out of time so I thanked them for listening and sent them on their break. I couldn’t believe it was over!
Since the mini-lessons were just about getting our feet wet as teachers, we were able to leave for the day once our group was done teaching (Matt and Emma and I will always observe each other, throughout the whole month). So once we were done I was so elated that I basically floated out the door, down the street, and up the four flights of stairs to my flat. I can’t even explain the feeling properly, but it was really fantastic. I nailed it!
We taught another mini-lesson on Wednesday afternoon. This time I was I was teaching the first-third of the 50-minute lesson to an Upper Intermediate-level, which is the highest level we have at our school. Their English is really quite good – they speak pretty naturally, with really good flow and vocabulary. Our topic was a newspaper article called “The Party from Hell” about a teen who threw a massive party when her parents were away. I had to teach the vocabulary (I basically picked out tricky words in the text), and I had to try and elicit them from the students. I thought it was much harder than the lesson on Tuesday, because I wasn’t sure what the upper-level students would know or not know. It went OK. I was successful, but I didn’t feel like I’d built as much rapport with the students, and I would have liked to get them talking more.
After Matt and Emma had taught the rest of the lesson, our trainer Dan came around and gave us the topics for our first full-length lessons, to be taught on Friday. Afterwards Alexa and I went for a drink at the pub downstairs, before going back to the flat to start thinking about our lessons.
My group had Thursday afternoon off (the 11 students in other group taught their first full-length lessons on Thursday, and then had Friday afternoon off while we taught), so Alexa and I went to the mall up the street and spread our on a couple tables in the food court to work on our lesson plans. My lesson was a reading lesson for the same Upper Intermediate group that I had taught on Wednesday. I was actually pretty nervous, because my lesson with them on Wednesday was OK, but it just hadn’t gone as well as I wanted it too, so I really wanted to do better with them. My topic was cross-cultural miscommunications (ex: tipping in America vs. tipping in the UK), and how they can cause embarrassment or confusion when someone behaves inappropriately for whatever country they’re visiting.
(P.S., if anyone reading this has an education background or experience in teaching, sorry about the long-winded explanations. I’m just personally finding this all so fascinating because I never at all thought about it as a student!)
Emma taught the first lesson, and then the students had a 10-minute break while I got set up for my lesson. When the break was almost over, I walked around and asked each of them their name so I could take attendance. I even used their names during the lesson and was pretty proud that I managed not to butcher any of them.
I had some vocabulary in my lesson: delighted, mortified, baffled, appalled, out of place, and intrigued. I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out how to introduce them when I was lesson-planning, because they’re sort of feelings/emotions and it’s not like you can print out a picture the same way you can when you’re teaching the word house or boat or whatever. I did end up starting with pictures. I knew they weren’t going to get the vocabulary words, but I wanted them to think about words similar to the new vocabulary I was about to give them. So for mortified, for example, I put up a picture of a guy picking his nose. I said, “What can you tell me about this picture?” And then said some of the obvious things, “man picking nose, dirty, etc.” And I said, “Would you like to sit next to him on the bus?” and “are you a little bit embarrassed for him?” and so on, and then eventually gave them the word mortified and wrote it on the board and spelled it phonemically. So I did that for all six vocabulary words, and then had a few extra pictures and said, “So which of the new words on the board would you use to describe this picture?”, and they got those all correct. I picked pretty funny pictures, so I got them all laughing right away which made things much more pleasant, and it gave me confidence. I’ve always felt that if you can make someone laugh that makes everything better.
After that I had them do the reading in their book which was fairly short, and had them summarize the three short stories about these cross-cultural miscommunications (basically, a Canadian guy was appalled when his English friend left a horrible tip at a restaurant, a Korean was mortified when their Italian friend showed a lot of PDA in public, and an Australian felt very out of place at a party where nobody danced or played music). They had a couple activities in their book to do, so I had them do those in pairs and just monitored while they did that. We did some discussion after that, and then for the final stage I wanted them to write about their own miscommunication. I gave them an example and told them a story that my dad told me, about a time he visited a Buddhist temple in Thailand and saw another guy get physically thrown out of the building because he’d been lounging on the floor of the temple and displayed the bottoms of his feet to the Buddha statue, which is horribly offensive there. So I told them the story, and even went and sat on the floor like that and asked if they could guess why that would get someone thrown out of a building, and it was fun listening to their speculations. After that, I set them to writing, and we had just enough time for four of them to share what they’d written before my lesson ended. I thanked them for listening and sent them on their break so Matt could get set up for his lesson. They were all really lovely and thanked me for the lesson in return.
Matt taught last, and then we each spent about 5 minutes writing down reflections on our own lesson before our trainer Dan came and went through feedback with us. Dan had observed our lesson (5 of our 7 lessons are observed but we do not know which ones in advance, and we need to “pass” at least 3 of the 5 observed lessons as part of the criteria to get our TEFL certificate at the end). Since Emma had gone first, we did her feedback first. Dan asked Matt and I to give her some positive things she did well, and some suggestions for improvement, which we did. Then Dan talked about her lesson for about 10 minutes, let her know how she did overall, and the moved on to my lesson since I had taught second.
First he asked Emma and Matt for feedback on my lesson. They were both quite positive, and Emma even had a couple of small suggestions which I appreciated. Dan asked what I thought of my lesson, and I said I felt it was a solid first attempt. I liked what I had done with the pictures at the beginning – that was actually really fun for me – but it took nearly twice as long as I anticipated, so I cut a different activity that was in my lesson plan. I also thought that I had gotten them where I wanted to go – they successfully understood the reading and were able to write their own version. I didn’t like the activities I assigned them sort of in the middle, they were kind of boring and my instructions were basically, “Now please do activity 3A on page 63,” and I wished I had a more creative way to do that.
Dan talked about my lesson for about 10-minutes. He agreed that it was a solid first attempt. He liked the pictures I used at the beginning, thought it was a good way to break the ice and intro the vocabulary, but I should have cut it off at the time in my lesson plan, rather than going over. He also said it ended up being more of a writing lesson than reading, since I had them write at the end. Maybe I just default to writing. He suggested I just have them talk/share in pairs instead of writing at the end. There were some other small bits of feedback, but in end he told me that overall I had passed. I was so relieved!
We moved on to Matt’s feedback after that, and then we were done for the night. It was about 7 o’clock by then, and most of our class was planning on meeting at 8:30 on a corner up the street to get celebratory We Survived! drinks. I went back to the flat with Alexa for a while, we ended up in the hallway with all four of our neighbors Julie, Helena, Tony, and Kevin. They had all passed as well, so we were all really excited.
We met the rest of the group at 8:30, and it took us a couple tries to find a place that could handle us (there were 17 of us, which is almost the entire TEFL class). Eventually a waitress from one restaurant had us follow her to a place two-doors down with a huge back room, and we converged on two big tables there and had a grand ole’ time. A few people left, but when they closed at 12:30 there were still 11 of us there, having far too much fun.
I’m just so elated that I passed. It’s a seriously fantastic feeling. For once in my life, I’m not doubting myself. I’m not worrying if I’ve made the right choice. I’m just jumping in with both feet and actually giving it my all. And I’m doing well. And it’s fantastic.
My god, this is a long post. I suppose this is as much for my benefit as anyone else’s. I hope I keep up with this so there’s some record of all the silly little details of this experience. It’s tough because I’ve been so busy all week, that when I finally do get to write it ends up being a massive amount of information.
No pictures for you just now. I’ve decided to take Saturday to not think at all about the class. When I’m done here I’m going to take the metro to Prague Castle and explore on my own again for a while. There’s something really magical about that for me. Anyway, maybe I’ll have some pictures to post before the weekend is over.
Oh – and if you’re wondering what the title of the post means, it’s “anything else?” We learned it in our second Czech lesson, and I just think it’s fun to say. It’s pronounced sort of like “yesh-jay knee-et-zo,” but you have to say it really fast. Go on, give it a try.
You know you want to.
Love from Prague!