It is time to put my ESL teachers hat back on. 6pm has just rolled around, and 10 students are in my class - Businessmen from the company just down the road, giddy School girls looking up pictures of G Dragon and Justin Bieber, a school boy sitting in quiet contemplation, and a bored housewife ( or 2 ) looking to escape the trials and tribulations of her life ( or their lives ) that day - all waiting in anticipation.
They are waiting for me.
I stroll into class and survey the situation, and the world while I am at. My second sentence above suggests that the world, and my classroom, have many kinds of people. Businessmen, Schoolgirls, a schoolboy, housewives - they sit like earth, wind, fire and water. Different elements all coming together forming some sort of balance. Reality, however, suggests something simpler - they couldn't find any other time to come, and they lucked out by booking the same class. They double lucked out by getting yours truly as their teacher. I could go on more about the 'potluck' of it all, but I might save that for later on. Class is in, and I have work to do.
I get the initial administrative formalities over and done with, and I start to engage in small talk with my students. I serve two purposes with this, both in getting the students warmed up for the class, and seeing who is talkative and who isn’t. Its also a good chance to assess the moods and feelings that might be present. The students begin to talk to each other, and I run a quick eye over my lesson plan. I can already tell that things may not go as I had initially planned, so
I CHANGE MY INITIAL ACTIVITY
The students seem to picking up the activity quite easily, so instead of just keeping going on the same track, I adjust things to give the students that extra bit of practice and challenge. Students do not grow if they are just repeating an activity that they are already good at. I decide to change activity and challenge them.
I keep an eye on how they do. Challenging the students to do better when they are already good is one part of the deal. Relaxing things a little for the students who are not so good is another part of it. I know that if my students are not so good then I am going to adjust the activity to suit the students abilities. Luckily, my students get it so now
I CONSIDER THROWING IN AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE
I like to give surprises to my students. Surprises come in the form of activities that I usually think of on the spur of the moment. I try to get the students to think in different ways. If the students are sitting down, then suddenly I get them to do an activity standing up. If the students are doing an activity inside the room, then I move them to a different, bigger room for some practical activities.
If the students are practicing small talk, I might just decide to get them to practice attracting each other like they want to go on a date. Heck if we are studying directions, I might just get one of the students to lead the others in the form of a tour group going around the different parts of the office. It all really depends on what I think of doing at that very second. Being able to think like that comes in very handy, especially when I realize that I do not have the text book available, and
I DECIDE TO ‘DITCH’ THE TEXT AND GO WITH MY GUT FEELING ON THINGS
This is actually far easier than it sounds, and I do this by
- Paying attention to the ‘rhythm’ of the class.
- Keeping in the moment and not getting too ahead of things.
- Getting involved in the class WITH your students.
- Being spontaneous.
I know these from experience. Keeping attention on the rhythm of the class and being in the moment allow me to control both my class and myself I can also ‘keep an eye out’ on the activity that you want to do in 5 minutes time as you will be in the flow and rhythm yourself. Two other things to do are be spontaneous and to get amongst it with students. By being spontaneous, I am sending out the message that I am thinking, feeling, directing and adjusting as you are going along and I am not stuck to just one plan or idea, and
I Push Myself to Ready Several Different Ideas For Any One Time
Having different things ready to go at different times is a very useful thing for the classroom. Think of it as having a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan OH NO, a Plan OH DEAR, a Plan OH HELL, and a Plan OH ….. you know what I mean. Keeping several idea’s going at once is like keeping an active substitutes bench going in a football game. Class, like a game of football, has its own ebbs and flows, each of which are capable of changing the course of how things will go. By having several ideas at the ready, I show that I am keeping up with things as they are happening and I am adjusting accordingly. Being adaptable is a very important skill to have as a teacher, as one size does not fit all. Students are unique, and like you, I am sure they say this many times
I AM MYSELF
I am not going to be like anyone else, and neither are my students per se. Each person has their own unique persona and character, and the students will bring their unique beings into the classroom. I should do the same !!! I am a generally chatty person, I can talk with my mouth full of marbles ( whilst underwater too ! ) and I am quite spontaneous. I see these as being strong points of mine and I make sure I bring them into the classroom. They are a unique part of me so I bring them in and make them a unique part of my class.
Thinking on my feet whilst teaching is an easy thing to do, though it does come with experience. I find that being myself, being spontaneous, being willing to change things up, having different ideas at the ready, and being prepared to ditch the known for the unknown are all very useful things for being able to handle oneself in the classroom. I hope you can find them as beneficial as I have, and you are able to find your own ways of teaching whilst thinking on your feet.