TEFL Certification Day 14 & 15: Practice Practice Practice

I had my second and third days of teaching practice this week. Tuesday was better than my first day and I’ve gotten some nice praise from the trainers. This morning I was a bit off my game but apparently it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Internally I was more nervous. I made a slight mistake at the beginning in a structured lesson and then it threw me off. I regained myself and finished the lesson well. The students are so much fun to interact with. We’re struggling though, because it’s school break right now so they are having a hard time finding students to volunteer to come in. Some of the ones that do come in are really young and a just bodies in the seat. They are too young for the lessons and then become distractions. The ones that the lessons are age appropriate for really seem to enjoy it. It drags pretty hard towards the end of the 4 hours.

I had the unfortunate or fortunate task to go on in the fourth hour yesterday after some of the students just heard the same exact lesson. It was up to me to try to find a way to engage them. I did the best I could with gesturing since my chalk board skills are pretty bad. It’s one thing I really need to work on. Although, most schools will probably have white boards anyway. If you go on fourth you get all the trainers watching, all of your classmates and both classes combined. I found it better this way as having more students feels natural. I’m not afraid of the trainers because they both give really good feedback and I’d rather get truth from them than not know what I’m doing.

I’m really beat and just realized that I feel like I’m not putting a very good blog post together here so I’m going to go to bed. I have super exciting news but I want to wait till tomorrow to share it.

TEFL Certification Day 6 & 7: Student Monks

It’s now Monday and the first week of the course is completed. So far things are going far better than I expected. My confidence is through the roof and I have the itch to start teaching already. I enjoy standing up in front of my peers practicing and can’t wait to get more practice when the actual lessons begin.

Thursday was our first contact with students. Our goal was to spend an hour with student monks at a local school in order to get them comfortable and talking to us so that we could return Friday and record a short speech sample. We arrived at the school after a couple hours of planning what we were going to do. The students were standing towards the back of the classrooms and we chose seats. Then whomever’s seat we sat in would come and join us. I sat with a 14 yr old boy named Win. He was the smallest of the students as well as one of the shyest. It took 10-15 minutes to get him to speak to me and even then his answers to my questions were short. We were warned that the first day would be difficult as the students are usually too shy to open up but some of my other classmates had no problem. Their reading and writing levels were all different. Win was very good at writing and I suspected he was also better at speaking than he led on.

I interviewed him on his family and his daily schedule which were not a lot fun for him to talk about but when we moved on to animals he opened up much more. I got more comfortable as the hour went on so I think he fed off of that. I would ask him about different animals and then do one of my world famous imitations to get him to smile. The hour flew by and before I knew it we were saying goodbye. I told him I would see him again tomorrow and we were off.

The next day we spent the morning learning about culture shock and then in the afternoon we planned our second hour with our students. This time we were meant to have a more open discussion with them in order to get a recorded sample of their speech. I was worried about this because Win was very shy and his replies to my questions were usually one word answers and he didn’t understand me when I tried to explain that I needed full sentences from him. When I first got there I was much more comfortable and started rolling right away. Win took some time to get back into it. Since he wasn’t really answering questions with full sentences and I needed a large speech sample, I decided to write down what he should reply with if I ask him certain questions.

For example:

Teacher: What is your birthday?
Student: August 12 (he really does share my birthday!)
Teacher: OK, so you would say, “My birthday is August 12th.”
Student: no response

Then I would write down what I wanted him to say, point to the words and use gestures that I wanted him to speak. I modeled that for him a couple of times and then eventually he picked it up on his own and I wouldn’t have to ask him to read it. I’m giving you this much detail because this was the first moment I felt like I actually taught something and it felt really good to model for a student and then have him pick up what I meant for him to do. And on top of that he continued doing it with out me having to ask him. It was kind of an, “OH! Maybe I can do this!” moment.

After I gathered enough information we both went over to the tape recorder where I asked him the questions again and had him respond. He read a couple of paragraphs as well and responded to questions about them. He was very soft spoken but he read really well. He only stumbled on certain words but we were instructed not to correct spoken language. This is true for anytime I will be in the classroom.

My first session with a student was successful. There wasn’t too much writing to do about it so I finished my assignments for the weekends right away and had the weekend to myself. It was relaxing. Now it’s back to the grind and this week starts off with a load of grammar.

TEFL Certification Day 4 & 5: Going through the motions

Disclaimer: I want to warn readers that these posts are usually written after a long 8 hour day in the classroom after already completing my written assignments after class. Please do not expect perfect grammar as I’m not going to do any editing and will only be free writing as quickly as possible. I am fully aware of the irony here, don’t worry! :)

The last two days have been spent going through the motions of what we will eventually be doing in a couple of weeks. We are peer practicing so that we can used to the structure of the models that TEFL International uses in their course.

I’m really enjoying the course right now since the days are broken up nicely into different parts. We never spend too much time on one item. This will change next week with grammar but for now I’m just having fun. Usually, first thing in the morning is dedicated to a new phase of the structure models followed by some sort of activity that gets us moving around a little. The first day we did some acting and improvisation, the second day we played pictionary and today was charades. All of this ties into teaching English as a foreign language as illustrations, gestures and body language are all very important. With out these skills being able to communicate effectively with a student who doesn’t understand you would be nearly impossible. I’ve always been pretty good at acting and having a good time but I have to be careful with this. One phrase, often repeated in class is, “Be entertaining, not an entertainer.” There is a fine line between entertaining the kids and then going too far where you go overboard. I’m anxious to see how I handle this once I’m in front of the students.

Some people in class are having a harder time than others but I’m sure this is normal. I’ve found myself far more confident than I expected to be. Instead of being nervous about going up in front of the class, I’m usually eager to do it so that I can get more practice. I think in my free time, I’m going to go into the classroom to do some black board practice. My handwriting is already bad, so any chance I can get practicing my writing and drawing skills will be good. Living at the school has its benefits because if I ever have a night where I can’t sleep I can always walk down a quick staircase to the floor below and practice my lessons.

Last night there was a welcoming party where they cooked Thai food and served soft drinks. The food was amazing! I had a curry, sort of like massaman with chicken wings in it as well as a spicy beef dish called Lam. There was pad thai and morning glory served and we got to hang around the staff and administration.

Tonight, they are taking some of us into Rayong, a bigger city about 20 minutes away, so that we can get any clothing items that we still need for teaching. I need a couple of button up shirts as well as khaki pants. Then we’ll head over to a big night market to eat.

That’s about it for now! Tomorrow we meet with students for the first time to do a student profile. We’ll observe our trainers first and then be on our own with a Thai student for an interview.