In the Classroom

people coffee meeting team

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There was a light cascade of snow to complicate and complement my early morning walk to the bus stop. Its drops were so fine only the light from the streetlamps illuminated it.  Rather than get bogged down in thoughts of snow, weather, climate change, and global warming, I just put my head down and proceeded to the stop.  It was already a Monday morning, and I just didn’t want it getting any more Monday-ish.

As an ESL teacher, Monday classes are the X-factor. The students might have had an exciting (but tiring) weekend or they might have had a boring weekend.  Neither of these things is guaranteed to lead to easier teaching.  They might have done their homework or they might have “forgotten to do it.”  They might be homesick.  They might be experiencing their own personal “Monday.”  There might be new students who graduated from a lower level in the class, which might totally change the dynamics and the rhythm of the class.  There are many factors.

As a teacher my strengths are my creativity and passion. I don’t follow a list of master lessons that I have made.  Every time I teach something it is different, or at least different in some form, from the last time.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it fails because I forgot to work out the kinks in something or because I failed to consider something or because I overcomplicated the activity and didn’t spend enough time thinking about the directions I was going to have to give.

Currently my most challenging class is my Elementary writing class. It has students who are true elementary and beginner students mixed with some people who have improved their English and have changed levels to intermediate. I started this class in late December and some of the students are still the same.  If I repeat something that we did four months ago–which would benefit the elementary students–the “veterans” groan and say that we have already done it.

Having had a bit of time today to prepare, I went into class armed with a new idea. It would work for both the elementary and the pre-intermediate students–at least that is what I told myself.  I have already explained that I am creative.  What I haven’t explained is that not all of my ideas are usually fully formed.  They usually need to be tested and tweaked a few times before I can feel complete confidence.  A great idea on paper may not always survive the transfer to real life.

The long and short of it is that I had the time to really consider my plan before teaching it. I won’t bore you with the details but it involved me getting the students to write a story as a group by proposing information, forming it into paragraphs, presenting the information and doing a last minute correction of their story.  My execution of the plan was quite good and I am confident that it worked well for the beginners and the intermediates.

You’ve read the paragraphs and you’ve probably concluded with me that Today’s Perfect Moment is the development and execution of my lesson plan. Indeed it is.

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About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
This entry was posted in adapting, Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, ESL, lessons, Mondays, students, teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to In the Classroom

  1. Anonymous says:

    “… and compliment my early morning”
    complement: add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it; make perfect.
    compliment: congratulate or praise (someone) for something
    Perhaps as an ESL teacher, you’ll take note.

    • Anthony says:

      You know, Arizona, I am a big enough person to admit when I am wrong. I don’t mind you correcting me, but I cannot understand why you need to dig at me when doing it. I agree that you’ve got a great command of the English language, but you could work on your tone a lot. I was going to write “bit” but that simply isn’t true.
      To add to that, I accept your help with the language, and put up with your criticisms of me. However, I would like you to refrain from criticizing or correcting the people who took the time to leave comments for me. They were not initiating a discussion with you and did not ask for your help.
      I guess you know this or you wouldn’t have done this anonymously.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You’re an ESL teacher. Your responsibility to know the basics, and then some, of our language exceeds the average person’s. When you do not meet the standard, you do a genuine disservice to your profession, our language and above all the students. As for your commenters, I’m saddened to say that they are of little assistance in language. I bear a lifelong cause of advocating for and protecting language (a passion and calling similar to deeply-committed advocates of animal rights, for example). Were I poor in a subject (say, chemistry, which I am) I know I’d value and appreciate the knowledge and instruction from one gifted in chemistry. Sadly, you and/or your commenters take offense rather than appreciate the educational opportunity and expanded knowledge. So few care about language any longer. I do. On behalf of words and language, I cannot but cringe at a dearth of skills and command in anyone tasked with teaching them. Whom does that serve? Certainly not the students who take the time to show up and to learn.
    As for “commenting anonymously,” I didn’t. I was logged in prior (and am currently) yet WP has been glitchy and not recognizing me; must stretch tech muscles to figure out why.

    • Anthony says:

      I hardly know where to begin. First off, I am quite certain that I clearly stated that I accepted your editorial advice. I will also take back the anonymous comment. I am sorry that you are having issues with WP. I could tell it was you before I checked the IP address anyway. Your tone is easily recognizable.
      Equating your defence of language with that of advocating for animal rights is a stretch. My advocacy of free mass transit could not be weighted against capital punishment. You might feel passion for the language, which is something I could commend you for, but it just isn’t the same thing. Using this kind of analogy might up the ante for some, but screams of theatrics to me.

      Language is a fluid thing that changes whether you want it to or not. Holding on too tightly to rules that at one time did not exist, but were later imposed on the language is not necessarily a good thing. I do not see you writing like Shakespeare or Chaucer. At some point the language that you hold dear will change dramatically if it hasn’t already.

      You mentioned being and ESL teacher and wondered if that interested me–perhaps this was just a figure of speech. The truth is that it does not. I feel no kinship towards you because we are fundamentally different kinds of teachers. Based on the tone that your writing exhibits, and your need to demonstrate your superiority, you are probably a lecture based teacher that wants to control every interaction. I prefer to foster an environment where students can make mistakes and learn to use the language by manipulating it in a safe environment. I am looking for progress in communication whereas you’re looking for adherence to your rules.
      I am not knocking your teaching. I hope you have been successful and continue to be. However, I find the tone you use to be unappealing. Perhaps you don’t know you are doing it and you don’t mean to offend people. I did not feel it myself until recently, but it is clearly present in your writing, which is one reason among others that I do not follow your blog. I think you should ask people around you about it. It may not exist in interactions with them, but they might have seen it when you deal with store clerks or others. The answers might surprise you.
      As for my commenters not being of language assistance, I think you misunderstood the point. The point was to engage my readers and ask for their feelings. Since both the adjective and the noun were possible (in the sentence rather than the title) I clearly was not asking for a grammar lesson.
      I was also not asking you to teach them. They were not asking to be taught by you. Your idea that they should take advantage of your superior knowledge to learn something might sound altruistic to you, but bears further examination. Were you teaching them or lecturing them on why they were wrong? Do you think people respond well to that sort of thing? Do you think it possible that it might be better appreciated if your tone and style did not scream out your need to feel superior?
      I should remind you that when one of your mistakes was pointed out to you, rather than humbly accept it, you had opted to deflect it by stating that typing on the phone, or editing on the phone, was the culprit. I accept that as true. In doing so, I wonder why you do not apply the same standard to everyone else. You have no idea of the conditions which people are writing under. You don’t know what equipment they are using and how their environment might have affected them. If you make allowances for yourself, you should give others the benefit of the doubt. Some people, like myself, find it hard to spot their own mistakes when editing. I think it has to do with my mind remembering what I intended to write rather than reading what I actually wrote. It also doesn’t help that I often find myself writing at 2 o’clock in the morning.
      Yes, I should hold myself accountable for my mistakes. I think I have reacted to your editorial directions with enough humility. I should remind you that this blog is not my classroom. I am a great teacher regardless of any mistakes made of this blog.
      Honestly, I did not enjoy writing this. The negativity I had to deal with is the exact opposite of what this blog is about. However, I feel insulted and I feel the need to defend myself, my blog, and the people who took time to comment. You might be able to spot other people’s errors, but you do not have the right to diminish them. Your intentions might be good, though I suspect the underlying ones are not, but your method is suspect. I think it would be better for both of us if you stopped following this blog.
      Also, since there are bound to be mistakes in this lengthy comment, please don’t waste your time correcting them.

  3. Anonymous says:

    (As an aside, it might interest you to know that I’ve also taught ESL (from ages 2-62+!) so am acutely aware of those particular challenges and responsibilities …)

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