There are so many things to think about when you’re being observed, it’s easy to forget the obvious. Here are seven ways to make sure you rock your next observed lesson.
Hold it! Step away from the photocopier. Do you really need those extra materials for your next class? Are those handouts going to help your students learn or just clear a couple of inches of Brazilian rain forest? Before printing anything more, check your materials (or ‘mateRRRRials’) against the four ‘R’s (real life, relevance, reaction and recyclability) and make sure you and your students get the most out of them.
Can you remember some of the things you were “forced” to do when you were a child? Forced to wear a school uniform. Forced to go to the dentist. Forced to eat vegetables. Being forced to do things sucks. And yet every week we force teachers to attend training in the hope teachers can be forced to develop. They can't.
What do you think of when you hear the name Barak Obama? Some think race. Some think drone war. Some think health care. I like to think education. Here are my three favorite Obama quotes and what they mean for teachers.
When you see a police car in the rear-view mirror, do you drive more cautiously? Do you work later when your boss is staying after hours? Researchers call this behavior “the Hawthorne Effect.” And, it affects your ESL classroom more than you think.
In 1998 the United Nations decided that it was going to eradicate drugs from planet earth by 2008. This project was doomed to failure from the start. Human beings have been getting high since prehistoric times. How could the UN ever obliterate in 10 years something which has been in used for 10,000 years? Instead of removing narcotics from society, the war on drugs created public health crises, mass incarceration and violence. Counties are now trailing alternative approaches - Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and drug use hasn’t increased there since. In many TEFL classrooms a similarly futile war is being waged. I call it the “war on L1” (L1 = students’ first language).
Yesterday, I was Cc’d in an email. My coworker, Annie, (who handles all the online payments in our department) emailed our mutual boss, Gary. The email read,
“Hi Gary, Ross is asking me to pay the website fee for 149.95USD, but the bank is asking for a verification code to complete the payment. What should I do? Thanks, Annie”
I read this and thought, ‘what a bitch....
How many of us start lessons by asking students to put their mobile phones away? Probably too many. The vast majority of our students come to class with a computer more powerful than all of NASA had in 1969. NASA used their technology to put men on the moon with a rocket. Our students use their technology to fight zombies with plants. Doesn’t that sound like a waste?
Listen. You can’t hear learning taking place, can you? You can’t hear the cogs in students’ brains turning as they try to get their heads round a new language concept, can you? You can’t hear the humming of a learner’s’ brain as they internalize a new word, can you? Well, I think you can. The best classes I’ve ever observed and taught all had this sound in abundance. You’ve heard this sound before. You know what it sounds like. What’s the sound?
At some point in the past, we decided on a “native speaker” model of English. We recruited millions of “native speakers” as teachers. We recorded and played thousands of “listening's” featuring other “native speakers”. And we forgot about all the other English accents in the world. Now, we have millions of students who can understand American English and British English. But what about the other Englishes?
If you have, you’ll know one of the reasons that Fight Club is great is because of the ending. Ed Norton and Helena Bonham Carter look out over a sea of destruction while Black Francis croons and creams an apocalyptic tribute to mental illness. Brilliant. But what does this have to do with teaching English?
A few days ago I observed a class. The students were engaged, spoke lots of English, stayed on task and laughed when the teacher made jokes. There was just one thing missing. The thing that learners desire above all else. Feedback.
As soon as the lesson finished, I thanked the teacher for letting me observe and asked her if she’d like to chat about the class. “Absolutely,” she said, “I’d love to get some feedback.”
Last summer, somewhere 37,000ft above the Middle East, in line for the bathroom, I overheard these words: "They're so rude. They never say please or thank you."
You get no prizes for guessing who the flight attendant was complaining about: the hapless Chinese passengers on the VS251 from Pudong to Heathrow.
In one of his TED talks, Wade Davis tells how in 1957, five missionaries attempted to contact the Waorani tribe in North Eastern Ecuador and made a critical mistake. They airdropped 8”x10” glossy photos of themselves in what they considered to be friendly gestures, but forgot that the rain-forest tribesmen had never seen anything two dimensional before in their lives. Picking up the photos from the forest floor, and failing to find the figure behind the form, the tribesmen concluded that the photographs had to be calling cards from the Devil. When the missionaries arrived a few weeks later, they were speared to death. The moral of the story? Know your audience. Here are three things I have learned about my audience, Chinese students, now the world’s largest TEFL audience, over the last decade