4 Things I Learned My First Semester of Teaching
001. Trust your prep.
Follow the lesson plan chart once you start the lesson. Don’t let all the time and energy that you put into picking the right activities and tailoring the best time frames to use to reach your daily objectives go to waste by not sticking to your plan. The World-Readiness Standards for Language Learning lesson plan template have helped me narrow the focus of individual lessons and situate the daily classes within the overarching contexts and goals for the class as whole. A second thing, don’t just build a lesson plan based on the template with the goal to fill each box: I experienced a few times the challenges of getting through an entire lesson when there just isn’t enough time. The anthem “less is more” carries all the weight. It is better to have a single activity that you approach from several different angles over the last half of your lesson time rather than rushing through 3 activities that really only provide input and output opportunities the students can take advantage of at home on their own. I found that taking the “less is more” approach gives students a moment to think. They often know the answer, they just need the extra space of encouragement to speak up.
002. Be intentional about connections.
Spend a few intentional minutes to find connections between what you think, what you change your mind about, and what you implement in each lesson. Take10 minutes after each class to jot down one or two questions you still have about the topic and dedicate 10 minutes the following week to find yourself some answers. Questions often show the tip of a knowledge-iceberg: don’t make the titanic mistake of not paying attention to your own questions. Judith L. Shrum and Eileen W. Glisan, authors of the Teacher’s Handbook (2016), repeat time and again the the field of language learning and acquisition depends on always exploring what can make the field more effective and touch more students. Knowing that I, myself, am and will be a student my whole life is a constant reminder to not let curiosity freeze over for “productivity’s sake.” Don’t let the bad days ruin an otherwise sweet disposition.
003. Observe, observe, observe.
Observe those that understand more than you do and those that understand less than you do by watching, asking the simple questions, and taking the good advice. You will grow from listening to both, and find the similarities between yourself and both ends of the spectrum. Observe yourself, too. Sometimes taking the day off but let your mind wander on what would work best if that's where it goes.
004. There's so much to learn. Be open to the growth.
Knowledge on education theory may become your pleasant demeanor's best friend. In general, I don’t find it difficult to take the gentle approach to most situations. This personality trait showed up in the classroom after my first and second opportunities to microteach for the mega-section of the elementary French I class when my mentor and observer noted on the evaluation that I maintained a “positive attitude” and “created a friendly atmosphere for learning”. I remember feeling during both microteachings that although I was able to maintain an open and fun learning environment for the students even over an online format, I felt that some of my explanations were often either long-winded or not specific enough. I think moments like these throughout the semester during planning or evaluation meetings most pointedly showed that a sweet disposition may get lonely or feel unsatisfied in the classroom without sufficient theoretical background to support your instruction when you are unsure or feel inexperienced. Just like people need support and encouragement in whatever way they may need it, I feel that teaching teaches me every day the necessity of pairing knowledge with personal strengths and gifts.