One of the volunteer teachers is scared that the students will fail; and therefore, has scheduled 3 classes a day for the students to sit through. My trainee feels pressured to keep up with his fellow teachers even though I gently remind him that they are not really teaching in the same way that he is and that he shouldn’t expect to be able to keep up with them in teaching as many in-class hours, nor should he need to as the way he now teaches reaches a deeper part of the learner’s brains.
The deep recesses of the brain are only reached through working and thinking; active engagement is crucial. Therefore, lesson planning is key. However, while I can block out the chatter of the locals in a far away language that I don’t understand, my student hears it all and can find it distracting. Like rehearsing a play, there are props to collect and lines to learn: where will he stand; where will the students sit; when will they move.
In a few days ago, the trainee came in unprepared for class. He gave some questions to the students, which they worked through silently and methodically. I told myself I should intervene; say something, do something. Turn this into a thriving, productive atmosphere. However, there has been a heat wave, and ambivalence is running high through the veins of everyone. I tried to plan this class. I tried to push for planning, but I can’t do it alone. I can’t push until it breaks.
Two days later, the same scenario. I felt frustration that we had planned this information yet we were not working to the plan. Where was the plan that we had meticulously poured over? My repeated mantra of the past 4 months has been that planning is paramount. My trainee knew that the lesson was not as good as usual.
Why were we once again in this forlorn state? I once, as a small child, took it upon myself to find out the temperature of a light bulb. My mum told me it was hot, but I didn’t really think she knew how hot. At least, she couldn’t accurately describe the sensation to my 4-year-old brain. I only touched a light bulb once. It was skin-blisteringly hot and I learnt on impact that I didn’t want to repeat my experiment. The problem with a bad lesson is that the impact is not instantaneous. The skin doesn’t bubble and peel in red hot strips. The damage is perhaps negligible; two hours of instruction surely can’t make a difference. I want to tell, to explain that yes, it can!
I am glad that a bad lesson re-confirms the need to plan. A planned class is in a different league, and my trainee can see the difference. We went home with renewed vigor and started to plan.
The next time, we entered the class armed with a plan. The students are engaged and content. They want to feel challenged; they like this new method of instruction. It keeps them occupied and focused. The more that they think and struggle, the more they will remember and understand. We have taken all of the speech from the first story in the government textbook, cut it into sections and the students are putting the sentences in the right order. They have to read the text, think about the context and what is a natural sounding conversation. By seeing each sentence individually, they have more chance of remembering it when it comes time for the exam in January.
We next need to plan a test for the students to asses their remaining areas of weakness and address those as need be. Planning is key.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer
Consequences of Not Planning
The Benefits of Planning
Going Backwards to Go Forwards
Changing Plans as We Teach
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