New Challenges

I can’t believe I am already saying this, but teaching is difficult!  Maybe this is just the “I’m new at this and am normally good at new things I try out and this is going to take some practice” jitters, but I don’t like it.  Working in a bank is much easier! I am appreciative of the challenge to teach, though.  I know that it is the healthiest way to live each day.  The problem is that I like to succeed at the projects I undertake as well.  Immediately.  I know it’s not a pass/fail test and that you don’t evolve into a fabulous conversation leader overnight, but I am going to need patience.  How is Andrew so calm and I am freaking out?  Oh, wait.  He has already been a teacher.  He’s good at it.  Deep breath.

Today I led a class that I think is going to be one of the most difficult I have. They are students that have already decided they no longer wanted to study and have tried their hand at finding a job in the big scary world.  They have, for some reason or another, decided they needed more education and have come back to high school to complete a ciclo formativo.  They are taking vocational courses in administration and are hoping to find a better job for themselves once they finish this two year program.  They have to take business English.  The challenge for me lies in that each student has a completely different level of English.  Some of the students comprehend what I say to the class, others stare at me blankly, and the last third of the class want a translation of what I said.  They turn to the students that understood what I said and get the Spanish version in seconds.  To suggest they only speak English seems impossible.

Today, I tried to get them to participate in a role play.  Three people worked together in each group. The ideas was to practice introducing themselves, simulate a phone call, and explain what they were interested in.  I thought “This should be a piece of cake.” They thought, “I have never been confronted with such a difficult task as this at 9:30am.”

From this experience I learned:

1.  Amanda please don’t take yourself so seriously, kids (even if they are 22 years old, just like you are) like to have fun.

2. Play games to get them speaking English!

3. Keep trying.

4. The teacher in charge of the class isn’t going to think you failed even if the activity you attempted failed.  She, in fact, is older and wiser than you and knows that you are learning.  There is forgiveness in Spanish culture.  Maybe even more so than American culture.

5. It is okay if you leave the class for the day and the students didn’t give an elaborate oration on what they would like to be when they grow up, where they would like to work and why.  In English or Spanish.  They don’t know, that’s why they’re here. The truth is that is why I’m here too.

Have you even been in a setting where you were the teacher?  How did you keep students interested and get them talking?  As a teacher of beginning level English students, how do you help them improve their conversational skills?

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3 thoughts on “New Challenges

  1. Auntie D. sent me a link to your blog. It looks lovely there. Don’t despair with classes. I faced the same situation when I taught Eng. here in Costa Rica. I took the easy way out because the institution was poorly managed and organized, but I’m sure yours is much better and professional. Enjoy every moment of your “honeymoon” life in Spain and eat lots of paella.

  2. Hey guys, I have just started making my way through your blog (the German within me requires I am methodical!) and I am loving it already 🙂
    The scared-about-teaching thing has massively struck a chord with me because it’s exactly how I felt when I arrived in Germany…we had a small induction course for 4 days (I don’t think they do that in Spain?) and then were chucked in at the deep end.
    Although German levels of English tend to be much higher than those of Spanish children of the same age (the Spaniards don’t seem to have cottoned onto the importance of English yet…), I found that making the kids talk to each other is always a good start, like your role plays. Walking around the class in an not-so-threatening away and making jokes about “oh, sorry, was that Spanish I just heard?” worked a lot with teenagers who thought I was being funny…
    Presentations and things where the students are on their own are generally not popular; group work (as much as I always hate it hehe!) is often the way forward 🙂
    It’ll get so much better, promise 🙂 x

    1. I am so glad you are liking the blog!! We are having a lot of fun with it and it has been a good outlet for when I need something other than school prep or internet surfing. It gives me purpose! No introductory course in Spain, only a one day, 9:30-4:30, we are glad you are here, here is an idea of how to run your first class. It has gotten much better since I wrote this post! some days are, of course, much more successful than others, but isn’t that just life? by all means, I am truly warming up to the idea of teaching, but I feel inadequate most of the time, especially since I have no idea what the present perfect tense (or any tense really, for that matter) is in English until I look in the textbook. playing games, charades, role plays have definitely been the most fun for everyone involved. I wonder how discipline was for you in concern to the students? well-behaved, mis-behaved?

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