Things I wish Id known before starting the courseWhile the course has been tremendously informative and thought-provoking, I wish I had known beforehand how much I wouldn’t know until I attempted to put my learning into action in a classroom setting. The course made sure to cover the intricacies of such items as choosing a teaching style, managing classrooms, lesson planning, and engaging students, but it did not and could not prepare me for actually carrying out these activities live, in front of students. Teaching is an active, interactive, interpersonal procedure and reading and writing about it, even with well-timed feedback will never be able to convey as much as observing other teachers in front of their classes and actually teaching personally. The course readily acknowledges this fact but I wish I had realized how true it was when I began taking the course and teaching simultaneously.
When I watched my first classes, I discovered that not only did teachers have different styles but also, these styles would be different for every personality. Style and personality are not synonymous in a teacher. Some teachers are shy and introverted in personal life, but in front of a classroom are open and comfortably the centre of attention. The opposite is less common, but can also be seen, and more importantly, the variety of styles is endless as is the number of styles that one teacher can incorporate into her own. A teacher must walk the line between firm and lenient, joking and serious as often as needed in a class. She must find a suitable style for the tasks that need to be done and for the set of students before her. This dynamism is difficult to communicate and impossible to teach solely on paper.
The course espouses the importance of preparation and planning, two fundamental tenets of teaching english as a foreign language. I pay very close attention to my lesson plans and devote significant time and thought to them and the course has prepared me well for writing them. However, it could not prepare me for how implementing a teaching plan would reveal the limits of planning at all. A plan can give you an idea of how activities are linked but it cannot show you how a lesson will flow. The latter depends on the people in the room on any given day, their moods, their current interests, and how they and you generally feel during that class. A plan cannot tell you when students will get bored or tired, nor can it show how students will respond to teaching and explanations. Even if you think you know a group of students well, they can have their on- and off-days, which can change a plan. In writing a lesson plan, you include back-up activities and other options, but you don’t know that when you teach it, you will probably adapt it as you go along, even if there aren’t problems, just because it will suddenly occur to you that there is a more effective method of proceeding.
If I had known before beginning this online course
, I may have made adjustments to my work plans to allow for more time to study how to teach before jumping into my new job as a teacher
. I don’t think I shortchanged anyone, but I was certainly not as thoughtful a teacher as I could have been. In the beginning, I never spoke slowly enough for my students to understand, nor did I often play with my vocal range or intonation. My coursebook and accompanying manual were followed religiously and additional materials were only for games, never for the study stage. I was never confident with my classroom control because I was unsure of how to establish ground rules. I wish I had known just how beneficial it would have been to take teaching more slowly and calmly and be sure to have a solid theoretical background as well.