Teaching can be rewarding, right? Teaching can be amazing, do you concur? Teaching is never easy, agree? Teaching is plain-sailing, sometimes? Writer John Acton adds a few tips, that may add ease to the life of a teacher.
I dislike money, I never seem to have enough or more appropriately, I’m totally irresponsible with my hard-earned dosh. I earn my bread and then redistribute it on a combination of soft drink addictions and the need to add bits to my bicycle having shredded one part or the other. I’m told you can save money easier by taking on extra jobs. “Where can I find more work?” I’m glad you have asked. There’s the internet with forums like Dave’s ESL Café (www.eslcafe.com), there’s more regional classified adverts (like on Hubhao), social media like QQ, Facebook and WeChat groups. Placing an advert in a bar or public place generally gets you spotted quickly. Beyond the school gates in amongst the masses of parents is a good place to hand out your number and simple advertisement [Disclaimer: check with your school first, and your teaching contract if this is okay]. Asking senior teachers if they know of anybody looking for private tuition will find you work. In sunny Houjie, I have had a dozen requests each month and I usually delegate them to my immediate colleagues or friends. Some of us like free time too much!
Ever had an idea during a class? A bright spark followed by that lightbulb moment? Yes, we all do. Note it down for later. During my summer vacation I plan to tailor images, bring props, bring some real things from home, kidnap my parents and force them to move to China… and so on. There are gaps that can be brought to life in every topic. I just need to get a life size replica of the Eiffel Tower into China… oh, wait, that’s already been done!!! I plan this summer to collect magnetic board games including a giant Jenga; some English story books; more things to do with Manchester and the U.K. in general; prizes for games and competitions; seashells from the U.K. and many, many new holiday photos with friends and family. I am a guest in China, and I want my students to be guests in my life and happenings.
Notes, not of the musical variety, although that does help occasionally… “Old MacDonald had a farm… A-E-I-O-U.” I mean notes, as in minutes, records, transcripts or observations are important. I average an A4 sized notepad every quarter of a year for a reason. I rarely write anything beyond words, short sentences and abbreviated squiggles. This is my idea factory. Some ideas never bear fruit or even blossom. Others get filling, direction and fill Powerpoints, games, review tasks, ideas to brighten the school walls up, become performances, songs, poems etc. Notes, to me, are the foundation blocks of teaching. Plus, every now and then, I look back at my notes from years gone by and find a piece of gold dust that gives rise to something big and wonderful (like posters about European nations and their culture etc). Creativity can be born from one note. La, la, la, laaaaaa.
Instructions and examples.
Before travelling somewhere unfamiliar for an interview or appointment, I look at the mode of transport, costs, timings, practicalities, possible weather and climate, etc. The same applies to teaching instructions. My sets of instructions have to be clear, broken down into steps, with the relevant introduction and content. Without this, I am asking for anarchy and pandemonium to visit our classroom. Alongside the clear instructions, support must be provided and clear examples given. From knowing my classes I select the best students (and not always the same ones each time, to keep it fair overall) to assist me with demonstrating what we must do. On the projection wall will sit a further example too. I will enter the arena and probe around the classroom looking to see demonstrations being practiced before calling forward students to review their collective effort.
Don’t jump to conclusions.
Guess what? As a teacher, you’re not a student. You’re a teaching expert. Reading between the lines, filling in gaps, and applying our own comprehension is instinctive. Sometimes we must switch from autopilot mode into something more appropriate. We can’t cycle from Chengdu to Paris, without the adequate preparation. Students need to avoid confusion. We must prevent them connecting two dots to form a line that is so wonky, one dot may fall off and land in a pile of previously failed dots. Breaking up duties ensures that each instruction is followed step-by-step along the floor, then up some stairs and high above into the mountains before flight is encouraged. Take nothing for granted, share how you think as an expert. The parrot copies human voices for a reason and then applies the skill with precise action. Your students can do anything with clear, concise instructions.