Monday, April 12, 2010
Becoming a better teacher (What I’ve learned so far)
For me, teaching will never be easy. I find new challenges in every class everyday. However, I’m finding this semester to be a lot smoother and therefore a lot more enjoyable. Why the change? Three things: I acquired new skills, put in place procedures and, for the most part, tried to have more fun during class. Here is what I’ve learned:
1. Take advantage of technology
For a long time I put off using a portable amplifier and microphone. I thought the sound from the amplifier was muffled and, more importantly, the thing looked silly. However, the school gave me one for Christmas and since then I’ve been a huge fun. As soft-spoken as I am, I don’t believe all of my students could hear me clearly. Although the amplifier does not have a crystal-clear sound, it is still better than me trying to yell at the top of my lungs. Another advantage: I used to be plagued with sore throats and coughing because I was shouting for 45 minutes straight. Now, no more sore throats and coughing.
I also recommend taking advantage of computers and projectors. I was spending a lot of time during class writing sentences on the blackboard when I could just have the students reading them right away if I had a PowerPoint presentation. This semester I have been wholeheartedly devoted to the PowerPoint. I prepare a lesson on my laptop, bring my laptop to the classroom and just hook it up. This way I can include a lot more visuals. I can also use my laptop to play English songs for my students if they are good (see #2).
2. Have a system of both rewards and punishment
Last semester I established a system of consequences ranging from a verbal warning to being kicked out of the class. However, I had no system for rewarding good students. This semester I started a “star and check” system. A student gets a star for good behavior, such as volunteering to answer a question or to read a dialogue. A check is for bad behavior, such as talking in class or causing some other disruption.
Logistically, I simply had to get a class roster for each class. During class, I have the class monitor, a student leader, draw the stars and checks. With a reward system in addition to a punishment system, students are overall more well-behaved. In my classes, the incentive for good behavior has decreased the bad behavior, so I’m spending a lot less time disciplining and more time on the actual lesson.
If the whole class behaved well and a lot of students participated, I usually play an English song before the end of class. They love anything by Michael Jackson.
3. Have a protocol
For common tasks like passing in papers or answering questions, do the same thing every time and do it effectively. I am working on the passing in paper procedure now. Students in the back pass forward and then I collect from the students in the front row. Sounds simple, but with classes of up to 87 students, this takes some practice. I recommend taking the time to practice.
In answering questions, the rule is obviously to raise your hand. However, I sometimes have trouble getting new people to raise their hand. So, if I want two students to read a dialogue, I choose a student who has volunteered and I let that student choose another student who has not yet read during the class. This encourages students to raise their hand so they can call on fellow students, and it also saves me the trouble of picking students and looking like I am picking on certain students and not others.
I don’t mean playing the game in class. What I mean by ‘Charades’ is that as a teacher you cannot simply explain something with words. You must use your facial expressions, your gestures and sometimes you must turn into a performer. I incorporate a lot of dialogues into my class. Sometimes these dialogues allow for actions. I’ve discovered that the action-oriented dialogues to be the best crowd-pleasers.
Well, maybe get permission first, but I recommend sitting in on another teacher’s class. I sat in on a couple of classes that I was having a lot of problems with, mostly chattiness. Having this different view of the classroom (I sat in the back) allowed me to break down the problem areas. (Oh, those boys sitting together just won’t do. They are just talking the whole time. And those two over there definitely aren’t listening; they’re playing chess.) I must also give a lot of credit to my boyfriend. I have watched a few of his classes and he is quite the teaching master. He's one of the few people who is a natural at it. Watching someone who is good will help make you better.
6. Don’t lose your head
This last tip is the hardest one to follow. Obviously, one will ask, How does one not lose one’s head? What’s changed for me is that I stop taking things personally. Before, when students talked continually, I used to think that they were purposefully disrespecting me. But, as one English teacher pointed out, “You can’t treat your students like adults. They are still children and they will act like children.” So I remind myself of this.
Learning to be a teacher means constant self-evaluation and adaptation, so I’m always changing as I go along. Who knows, I may have a new list of tips a couple months from now.