I Haven’t got the Time! Strategies for Time Management

There are a lot of struggles when it comes to teaching in any educational establishment and I have found a few workarounds when managing time. Here, you’ll find some helpful advice on how to manage your time effectively whilst teaching, when you’re in your free periods or after work, and on the weekend.

 

Time Management in the Classroom

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Time management is one of those subjective things that are wholly dependent on the class that you are teaching, i.e. what ability level they may be, what style of learners you are teaching, what the curriculum tells you to teach and in what way, whether their language complicates their translations of the English language, etc. However subjective time may seem to you, within a classroom setting, try to be as objective as possible about it.

Always give a time limit on each task and voice it to your students. Use an online timer, stopwatch or something visible/tangible so they can comprehend how little/long each task might take and what is expected of them. This way the students are under pressure enough to think clearer and what the best way to go about completing the task is for them individually. Be warned, though: too fast a time limit will discourage your students because they could not adequately complete something, whereas too much of a time limit will cause disruption once the task is completed. As a general rule, if they start becoming chatty or boisterous and you haven’t prepared any extension work, get them to feedback what they have already completed – chances are they’d finished the task and want to move onto the next one. The pupils won’t let you know if they’ve finished either (and this is cross-cultural), so always be on the lookout for individuals who look as though they’ve completed the task.

Write a time frame for each lesson within your lesson plans (and, if you like, have a running total of how much time you have spent). If you run over the time limit because the task is harder for your students than you anticipated, ignore the timer and add on extra minutes. If it’s too slow, reel them back in and get the feedback to show they’ve definitely got the gist of it. Oh – and a piece of advice – always remember to leave time for your students to feed back what they’ve learned. I used to forget adding this in a lot of the time, so sometimes I would have to roll the last lesson into the next lesson. Click the link below for an example I made with timings).

Lesson plan 3A – Your day

Keep up the pace in the class. Nobody enjoys sitting around in silence or focusing on one or two tasks for the whole lesson. If you have a big task that needs working towards, try and make the building blocks compact and fast (maybe 5 minutes max per task set). Doing this allows no time for disruptive behaviour and it becomes more engaging for the students. Some really good activities that I’ve used in the past are table-switching, carousel, speed-dating, Chinese whispers/telephone line, popcorn, countdown, musical chairs, ball-throw-questioning, etc. Basically, anything involving kinaesthesia with a fast-paced lesson will almost always work.

If you have a free period, your class is having an assessment, or you have set them a long writing/reading task, then get on with your paperwork. The more paperwork you get done at work means less paperwork to take home with you afterwards or at the weekend. Obviously, don’t sacrifice precious class time for marking or planning or policy stuff: ensure the students are all doing the task right beforehand. Give support to your lowest ability students, offer guidance with your middle abilities, and provide higher-level and complex ideas to your highest abilities.

 

Time Management out of the Classroom

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As aforementioned, if you have any free time whilst at work, try and mark books, plan lessons, create resources for other lessons, policy paperwork, homework, etc.

Try and always stay ahead of the game. This means that if you have to have a few sleepless nights for the first couple of weeks to get ahead by a couple of months, do it. It’ll save you a massive headache in the long run. Then, keep on top of the workload so you’re always ahead by at least one week. Doing this also allows for any hiccups to not interfere massively with what you have planned for the next week.

Find out how to do everything the right way from the very beginning of the year. This will minimise your workload tenfold because you won’t be having to figure everything out on your own, or constantly messaging colleagues back and forth on how to do something. Learn how the marking policy works and how the syllabus is marked (and same for the homework you set), learn how to input information and data accordingly on the internal systems, and attend all the CPD you need to (unless you’re a trainee, where it is usually mandatory). By doing this, you know exactly what you’re doing and how to do it properly. This way you’ll have less stresses when it comes to working from home, which is obviously where you want to relax, not tear your hair out.

When you’re at home, try not to procrastinate (he says, whilst procrastinating…). Give yourself time to make food, go to the gym, play your games, watch a movie, or whatever, but always keep in mind that you still probably have work that you could be doing. Look to the future and think of how much stress-free free time you’ll have near the end of the term/year. Give yourself maybe 3 hours of leisure time and 2 hours of work time; that way, you’re still getting stuff done with more time spent on doing what you want to do. Sometimes, it’s best to just stick some music or the TV on and do both at the same time, tricking your brain into thinking you’re not doing as much work.

Resource creation is a CHORE, no matter how much you want to sugarcoat it. Do not create something really time-consuming from scratch. TeachIt and TES are great sites that allow you to type in whatever it is your students are learning, then a whole list of resources will be available for you to take, providing you have an educational email address. Teachstarter is useful and similar, too, but you don’t need a subscription or login to access some of the stuff. Pinterest has some great teaching ideas if you don’t want to sift through TeachIt, TES, or teachstarter (or any websites similar). Also, do not spend loads of time searching for something that can be easily created. You have a brain so use it!

Always ask for help in the best way to time manage. Chances are someone who you work with has found a far more effective and time-saving way to do a lot of the things you’re attempting to do yourself. They might even have resources available to you that you can utilise with your classes, allowing you to skip the drudge of sifting through numerous websites (or blogs).

If your students did not manage to complete a task due to lack of time or from their own disruption causing the work to be incomplete, set it as homework for the next day. Use that homework instead of the starter you had (hopefully) prepared and use this time for adequate feedback and mistake corrections. This way, you’re not wasting precious time in the lessons and the work is still getting completed. If there are issues with students not completing homework, you have to remind them that there are school rules, and sanction them accordingly. Ensure them in an advisory manner that, should the homework not be completed, they will fall behind in class and then that will ultimately lead to a lower score or failure entirely – make it about them and their learning, not about how you are going to punish them if they disobey.

 

Time Management at the Weekend

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RELAX. A LOT. This is your chance to sleep in, your chance to stop thinking about work so much, your chance to actually enjoy your own free time.

You may still have work to do at the weekend, but this is where you need to organise your free time with your work at a ratio of 80:20. Personally, I think it’s better to get up, get showered and dressed, make breakfast, then sit down and get all of the work I need to do out of the way. That way I have the whole day and night to do whatever I want. AND, should the work take longer than usual, you’re not staying up and panicking or rushing to get it completed.

Unless you have something of vital importance, for example an observation or a marking check, then don’t stress. If you do, then split your time 50:50. If you give yourself 1 hour to watch an episode of House or Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, then give yourself 1 hours worth of work to complete after. Either that, or complete both simultaneously, even – that works.

That’s basically it, really.

 

 

Laters!

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English Language Teaching in Cambodia

Here are a few things that I have been accustomed to when teaching English as a foreign language to the Khmer people. The age ranges I have taught are from 16-40 years, with class sizes of up to 8 people.

 

Many Cultural Differences

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Of course this is obvious; the Khmer people are from South East Asia in a country which is developing (and at quite a considerable rate), yet they still have a large minority in poverty without access to food, drinking/washing water, a decent healthcare system and good education systems. With the absence of even the most basic of human needs, it means that there are still a lot of uneducated people – the last thing an impoverished individual will think about is how their own grammar is formed when they haven’t even eaten in days. And that’s not all either. Because of their lack of education, they are not educated in the simplest of things that the West considers to be of high importance. For example, most of the students I teach turn up late to class (sometimes even 45 minutes late to a 1 and a 1/2 hour class!), some of them don’t turn up to their exams, some of them don’t even venture outside when it’s raining…

In contrast though, Cambodians have a really high family and friends ethic. They will put their families first above all else. For instance, if one of the students’ grandma sneezed, he would have to stay in the province to look after her to ensure she didn’t sneeze again… because apparently sneezing is really life-threatening y’know. Next, comes their work ethic for their jobs. If their bosses call them at the weekend to do extra work, they will more than likely do it. If their boss tells them to work overtime, they will more than likely stay for an extra hour or two. If their boss criticises them for not working hard enough, they will pour their heart and soul into the job the next week. Thirdly, they have a high education ethic for those who are in educational establishments such as High School, College, or University.  After these three things, the Khmer people can finally do whatever they like; whether that’s hanging out with friends, dating (though not openly in majority of cases), chilling on their own, or going to the provinces to explore.

But the on the flipside, the new generation of young adults and children can have extremely hard work ethics. Some of the pupils, especially girls and young women I teach and have met with, wish to go on to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, businessmen and women, etc. It seems that ever since the Khmer Rouge, there has been a huge gap in intelligent individuals because most of them were executed as part of political strife (and that’s about all I can report on the matter as it’s not considered a good topic of conversation in their culture). It is, therefore, that the students know there are huge opportunities for them. And it’s not just about what they can gain, either; they have a genuine attitude to return Cambodia to its former glory, no matter what the cost. They have a patriotism which differs completely from the West. The West want to gain money, power and status for themselves majority of the time and British patriotism can sometimes be looked upon as idiotic, whereas the people here wish to rebuild and transform Cambodia into a thriving country.

Cambodians have a culture of ‘saving face’ meaning that they are very humble, modest and do not like to be embarrassed. However, saying this, the Khmer people are generally very open and honest about almost everything. I once set a task for my students telling them to describe their best time in their lives and the worst. One girl wrote about a time when her mum died from cancer six months previously. Obviously, I was in complete shock when this was being said, but all of the others had no judgemental faces or were surprised in any way whatsoever. In fact, they offered condolences and expressed empathetic sorrow for her, using their own experiences to reinforce their aid. It seems the Khmer people really understand tragedy, sadness and negativity (I mean, almost every popular song over here is about a tragic event, usually to do with love loss or relationships not working or emotional upsets). Cambodians always help their fellow Cambodians. In Britain, stating about one’s mother dying from cancer might be seen as attention-seeking behaviour, or wanting the sympathy vote; we are taught to have a stiff upper lip and never really discuss emotions unless they are positive or neutral. In fact, maybe that’s actually a whole Western culture? And in Cambodia, if you look good or look happy, they will tell you… but they will also tell you if you look sad or if you smell bad or look like garbage. It’s not offensive. It’s just the way they are.

Moreover, the Khmer students seem to have a very playful and humorous attitude. They love poking fun at one another – but it is always in jest, never as a fault or criticism of the individual. This was excellent because Britain loves banter. They really loved me as a teacher because we would always laugh during lessons about something; sometimes it was mispronunciation of words, other times it was being silly during games, or even laughing at times when they have been stupid. Even as I walk around Aeon Mall or through the markets, there are groups of teenagers and young adults that are constantly smiling and laughing with one another. It is in complete antithesis of Britain where if a group of people are having fun, they are noise polluters or disturbers of the peace.

Overall, the Cambodian people are super friendly, work hard, and empathise very well. And this makes for an awesome classroom atmosphere when teaching.

 

Pronunciation, Phonemes and Phonetics

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In the Khmer language (a relatively simple language to learn in comparison to English), there are many phonetic differences and difficulties when speaking in English. They are hilarious – and, as aforementioned, the students love laughing at their mispronunciations. And, so do I.

They often omit the last consonant (or in rare cases, whole syllables, such as Pannasastra University sounding like Pannasa University), which, when trying to speak English can be difficult to determine when they are using correct tenses, or correct verb-agreements. For example: ‘I go to the shop’ versus ‘She goes to the shop’ – the ‘goes’ can oftentimes sound like the present tense form when agreeing with the first person pronoun ‘I’.

Furthermore, in the Khmer language, they only have the present tense of verbs. They, instead use adverbial constructs (always fronted at the beginning of the sentence) to determine when the action was completed. So: ‘I went swimming yesterday with my friends’ = ‘Yesterday I swim with my friends’. This can prove difficult for lower ability learners as they might not even be able to conceptualise verbs changing to suit tense changes. And, to be frank, my highest ability class still gets it wrong every now and then.

Below are some examples of mispronunciations using the phonetic alphabet (copy this link:   https://alphabeticcodecharts.com/One_side_ACC_with_IPA_symbols.pdf   if you want to try out phonetic spelling or you want to understand how Cambodians pronounce things). The English phonetic spelling is first, then the way it is usually pronounced wrongly in Khmer is after the double equals:

  • The g (as in gap) can sound like a c/k (as in car/koala); the a (as in cat) can sound like ay (as in fray). Sometimes the b can sound like p too, so essentially, grab can sound like the word crap (haha).

Grab = /’græb/ == /’kræb/ or /’kreɪb/ or /’kræp/

  • The a (as in cat) can sometimes be o (as in got); and the stress of syllables can sometimes be wrongly placed (which is why I haven’t written any examples with 3 or more syllables because there’s overall confusion when it comes to stresses).

Camping = /’kæmpɪng/ or /’kæmpɪŋ/ == /kɒm’pɪŋ/ or /kæm’pɪŋ/

  • The sh (as in shoe) can sometimes be s (as in sap); sometimes the end consonant is omitted altogether.

Bushes = /’bʊʃɪz/ == /’bʊsɪz/ or /’bʊʃɪ/

  • The ch (as in churn) can sometimes be pronounced as sh (as in ship) or as separate consonants of ts joined together, like t (as in toes) and s (as in so).

Which = /’wɪtʃ/ == /’wɪʃ/ or /’wɪts/

  • The c/k sound for words that contain ch (as in character) are often pronounced as the general rule of ch (as in charity).

Stomach = /’stʊmək/ == /’stʊmʊtʃ/ or /stʊ’mʊtʃ/

  • The (as in vial) is almost always pronounced as w (as in wild). You must teach them how to pronounce this phoneme by using their top teeth line and curling their bottom lip inwards, then vibrating the air between them.

Very = /’veri:/ == /’weri:/ or /we’ri:/

  • The (as in Belfast) can sometimes be mispronounced as r (as in barn). This only happens when the l is within the midst of a word, rather than beginning with this letter.

Self = /’self/ == /’sɜ:lf/ or /’sɜ:f/

  • The th (as in these) can oftentimes be pronounced as d (as in day). Focus their tongues in between their teeth and vibrating the air through the middle to pronounce this phoneme. Also, sometimes they will try and pronounce the ei sound (as in their) as the ei sound (as in weird).

There = /’ðɛə/ == /’dɛə/ or /’dɪə/

  • The th (as in thirsty) can sometimes be confused with the th (as in that) because the first is aspirated and the latter is vibrated. And, sometimes the (as in passive) can be pronounced as z (as in critisize).

Thistle = /’θɪsəl/ == /’ðɪsəl/ or /’ðɪzəl/

There are also difficulties in the Khmer people learning count and noncount nouns. I believe this is because in the English Language, coming from a native speaker, it is something you grow up and learn, i.e. there is not one definitive overall rule to it. So you will frequently hear the students saying: ‘Sorry teacher, there was a lot of traffics,’ or ‘There was a lot of rains today,’ or ‘My hairs feel wet because I am hot.’

This is similar to the gerund constructs we use too. There seems to be a generalisation or grey area about the rules regarding this in the English language. You will often here or see written: ‘I am going swim today,’ or, ‘I was going buying something from the Mall,’ or ‘I am study accounting.’

And the rules for omitting the article/determiner randomly are, again, not really defined. So you will sometimes see or hear: ‘I went to the school yesterday,’ or ‘I had to go to the bed really early last night,’ or ‘I like to go to   movies with my friend.’

There are, of course, more situations where the language is pronounced differently too, but this is a good summary of some of the things you may encounter and how to deal with it when teaching EFL learners.

 

Problems When Teaching in Cambodia

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Yes, there are some problems when teaching in any EFL school, and I’m not talking about how to teach, here – I’m talking about what is appropriate to discuss and what is not and how to act appropriately towards your students.

Politics is a big no-no when teaching Cambodian students. If you ever have any topic that comes up about politics, war, law, the justice system, bureaucracy, etc. it is best to avoid it (unless it’s essential for the syllabus). And try not to compare your country to theirs. This is because of the Khmer Rouge about 50 years ago and, since then, Cambodia has not exactly stable, politically speaking; maybe it was for the first ten years after the genocide, but not now. One student had told me that there are often protests and sometimes even violence on the streets leading up to and proceeding the elections, even warning me to not venture outside the apartment for a couple of weeks. To some, this may sound distressing – to others it may sound like hogwash – the important thing is: don’t talk about it and don’t acknowledge it unless you really have to.

There is a big debate on whether the English, Chinese and French languages are imposing their cultures through teaching them – and I have to agree. The Khmer language and any Khmer history or geography (or whatever) should always come first. Cambodia is a proud nation of proud people and an even prouder history. On the other hand, I cannot ignore the fact that English is the ‘world language’, therefore companies need anyone, not just Khmer people, to speak English, if they are to become international sellers and if Cambodians want higher-paying jobs. I think there should at least be a balance in all languages learned throughout a Cambodian student’s life, rather than one or two being more dominant than their own. Either that or the Khmer language should be the primary focus then the others should be secondary. The problems arise when teaching at international schools, where the Cambodian students genuinely believe that English and the Western way of life is far more important than their own roots and heritage. Again, best to avoid the topic entirely when talking to students. Discuss this with other trusted teachers or people who you can have a logical and non-heated contemplation with.

There are further altercations when deciding on which curriculum is best to teach within Khmer schools, whether international or national. I have found that there seems to be a looser feel to national schools in terms of curriculum than in international schools. International schools usually side with a curriculum derived from their own country and designed new syllabuses that may somewhat reference the Khmer culture, history or way of life (but with more focus on the West or East depending on the school). But national schools, although seemingly looser, focus on their own country’s ideals and morality than international schools. There are some international schools that focus on challenging everything, critical thinking and creative learning, which I am sure national schools probably don’t teach, or if they do it’s not a huge focal point. But, obviously, don’t bring this up with your students because they might question as to why they aren’t in as good as a position than other Cambodians, which might lead to discipline or behavioural issues in the classroom from there on out.

Never point. It’s considered rude in the Khmer culture. Instead, open your hand and have your palm facing the sky. This way, you are still selecting them, but not being offensive. Simple.

Try not to punish your students. The Khmer people are very social beings and will talk to anyone and everyone, sometimes even over you when you are trying to teach, and this can be seen as problematic. As long as the mumbling and conversations are kept to a low noise, ignore it. These pupils will ask the other pupils as to what they need to do to complete the task and most of them will help them out. To be honest, most of the students are actively talking about the work and any problems they encounter with it, so it’s not as if they’re getting distracted by what games they are playing tonight or what movie they’re going to watch with their friends. Sometimes students will challenge you on something you have said; if they do this, remind them that you are the teacher in a joking manner and that if they wish to speak about it further to come in their free time. If it’s something they’re actually passionate about or interested in learning, then they’ll hold you to your word. Don’t shun the challenge, because it shows a higher level of thinking, meaning they are actively seeking answers. Instead of punishing anything you consider as being a negative behaviour, reward them with loads of praise for when they do something good. Act as if they’ve just created something extraordinary or innovative because that’s how a lot of Cambodians react emotionally about anything (but don’t go too over-the-top, else they’ll think it’s fake). Or reward them with sweets or chocolate or something; don’t do this all the time, else they’ll expect it all the time. It’s probably preferential to do it at the end of a syllabus or term.

One final problem is that students can often get sick and more predominantly around the rainy/wet season. I think the sudden change in temperatures in Cambodia during this period does not do the Khmer people any favours. They catch the flu and nasty colds really easily, and these spread as easily as they’re caught in class. That includes me, yes. They can also take ill from the large amounts of pollution near the city centre or popular places in Phnom Penh and other major cities. Many of them wear face masks whilst driving on their scooters, or being in open-doored tuk-tuks or PassApp rickshaws. My guess is that it causes Carbon Monoxide poisoning – and I’m pretty sure I have had that. My chest can often feel tight and my throat really hoarse when surrounded by vehicles exhausting their fumes right next to me. Other students can get other worse ailments out in the provinces due to lessened sanitary conditions and working outside often. All of these instances can make absences increase, meaning that the students spend less time in school. However, to combat this problem, set anything they’ve missed as homework; even if they are ill. They have a strong enough work ethic so they will at least attempt it if not complete it.

 

Well, as always, I hope the information has something useful for your teaching experiences, especially abroad – who knows? You might even find some similarities in other countries that are written here. See you later!

Teaching – The Dos and Don’ts

As my first blog post, I think it would be best to share some of my experiences with English Language and Literature teaching.

I have worked in three Secondary Schools in Britain, and I am currently working in a TEFL school in Cambodia, Phnom Penh. After this job has finished I will be employed at another school, teaching at a Grade 5 level.

I have written out some things that will be hopefully of use to make teaching a little bit easier before you start. So, without further ado, let’s talk about some of the dos and don’ts when you’re a teacher.

 

Do Make Lesson Plans

Ugh. I know lesson plans can take forever sometimes. It is the bane of teaching (as well as the plethora of marking that we must complete…) but it is a necessity. When first starting as a teacher, it would take longer than the actual lesson to plan for that lesson. But now, it’s a lot easier. That’s because you have to remember one simple question:

Will this lesson show progression?

You don’t have to spend hours on writing lesson plans. As long as the students are learning things about the curriculum and you’re doing it in a chronological or logical order, they will succeed. Always write down: CHECK FOR LEARNING: HAS OBJECTIVE (#) BEEN ACHIEVED? because it’ll help you gauge how many students have understood everything so far. An easy way to do this is by stating or writing down your learning objectives for the lesson and getting them to put their thumbs up if they have successfully surpassed the objective, or thumbs down if they haven’t. Personally, I use True and False cards to demonstrate this instead (and they naturally come in useful for other activities too).

The link below is a lesson plan I created. Hope it helps!

Lesson Plan Template

 

Do Make Seating Plans

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Making a seating plan is one of the best ways to subconsciously let your class know that you are the one who is in charge. If you are in charge and you look and feel prepared, that will emanate from you to the students. More trust will be instilled in you. There is a higher chance that the students will be inspired by you.

It also aids you in remembering the students’ names quicker. Personally, I find it incredibly difficult remembering names unless the individual has an outstanding quality about them, so a seating plan is beneficial for this reason.

If you really want to make your seating plans even better, attach the levels of each pupil underneath their place. This allows you to actively remind yourself which students are in greater need of learning and which students need higher level materials. In my experience, I used to give the highest achievers in my top set Year 8 class A-level English work. Some of the work they produced was far better than some A-level students’. It was extremely rewarding to both me and them.

Furthermore, with the levels in mind, you can promote the learning of each individual by desk alterations. There are many different ideas in pedagogical research about this one topic. There’s the standard rows, individual desks (or two at a table), the horseshoe, grouped tables, the circle, the open plan, etc. and each one will be useful depending on the students and their levels. I always used to set my tables with 4 pupils; their abilities were low; low; mid-low; mid; or mid-low; mid-low; mid; high; or mid; mid; high; highest. By doing this, as well as ensuring the highest ability on each table was challenged, you would see the lowest abilities gain knowledge from their classmates and achieve their levels more often that not.

There are some downsides though – if you work in a public school in Britain, you will know that modern students HATE this. There will always be groaning and, in rarer cases, defiance. This is not because they dislike authority, it is more because children around that age are more egocentric and want whatever they want. And, in a modern society where everything is readily available, the students want to be immediately gratified by sitting with their mates. Don’t be alarmed, though. This is normal and you just have to keep calm and enforce the rules of the classroom. Be direct.

Another thing to watch out for is the table arrangement; if you have an unruly class, do not use grouped tables. You need to lessen interaction between students because they will become distracted about the latest argument between their classmates on Facebook or whatever. Also, don’t separate the higher ability pupils all the time. I can almost imagine that some of them would not like learning with students who aren’t very interested in the subject that they are. Change up the activities so they’re not always with the same ability.

Whatever the arrangement, research the pros and cons beforehand and see which one is the best for the classes you are teaching.

 

Do Use Bloom’s Taxonomy

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Bloom’s Taxonomy is the best way for creating stable objectives that are easy to follow for every student. If the students know their aims for the lesson, they will (mostly) strive to achieve them. This works even better when dealing with abstract concepts such as poetry, critical analyses of language, and creative tasks.

In Britain, students needed this structure. The lower ability classes depended on this for being able to eventually pass the exams, and teaching them in this format allows them to understand how to get there step by step. The highest ability classes always strive for the top because they wish to be innovative, be experimental with language, and because they are sometimes intrinsically rewarded from their own achievements.

 

Do Listen to your Students

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Obviously. What kind of human being likes being shunned or ignored. Don’t do that. Ever. And don’t ever use the term ‘hate’ unless it’s definitely a joke. Always be interested in whatever your students are.

Listen to everything your students have to say, even if it super boring to you. Some students’ lives are broken or they come from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds and they might be talking to you because it’s the only likeable exchange they can have in their day. And don’t just listen – analyse what they are telling you, why they are telling it to you, and what you can do to aid that individual.

Being a good listener is something which some teachers do not possess and it’s frightening to me. Personally, every human, let alone teacher, should be taught that it’s okay to share emotions with one another, because it will always help us cope with them easier. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ as the old adage goes. Try and instil this in your classrooms.

And don’t just ‘listen’. When I use this phrase, I mean listen and observe. Always be aware of what the students look/sound like: analyse their body language, facial expressions, mannerisms, intonation in their voices, etc. Students who are between the ages of 11-16 years old are likely to show their emotions more because they are not used to doing the adult British thing and being reserved. This way you can assess why they might be in the current state they’re in and approach them in the correct manner (which is dependent on the student, of course).

 

Do Practice What You Preach

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If you have said: ‘Don’t eat in the classroom’, then proceed to have a bag of sweets in front of the students, don’t expect them to respect you. You are blatantly enforcing your dominance, and people, especially teenagers, will actively rebel against anything and everything domineering, including whatever you tell them to do from that point onwards. If they aren’t allowed to have their sleeves rolled up, don’t do it. Students will try to use anything in their power to not focus on their work.

Remember: students are egocentric; their whole world revolves around them and what they want or need. If they want to wear facial piercings (which is against school rules, mostly), for example, and you’re wearing a nose ring, then expect to be challenged by students about it.

If you have said: ‘Not completing homework will mean detention’ and then you don’t follow through on it, expect students to never complete homework. Or, when you realise they haven’t completed it one time and then give them a detention after never giving them one before for non-completion of homework, expect them to argue insistently.

Basically – don’t just talk the talk. It’ll make life so hard for you.

 

Don’t Leave Things Until the Deadline

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As teachers, we have millions of deadlines. Marking, planning, policy, paperwork, levelling, etc.

Be methodical and realistic. Always judge how much time you have and in what specific order things should be completed in. The last thing you want to do is chase your tail for eternity, or not even bother chasing it at all. Because you’ll probably get fired.

Put your students first (unless you really can’t). They are important; they deserve the best education they can receive. Especially since in the modern era, where unemployment is rising, education in the West is becoming worse because of money and lack of teachers, social media and media influence, capitalism telling us that we can all become rich, etc. there are so many distractions and extraneous variables that you must contend with.

 

Don’t be Naive

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Never go into teaching thinking you can change parts of the system. You more than likely can’t. Simple as that.

I tried and failed many times with other colleagues and managers to get them to alter the behaviour policy, the marking policy, the homework policy and the uniform policy for pupils and staff. Each time I was instantly told that it was not my job to offer ideas, but just to stick with what I was doing. The most annoying part was that my ideas weren’t taken seriously because I was a newbie, or that they weren’t even read at all. There was no constructive feedback – just to not attempt to do it again.

I might seem somewhat of a visionary at times, but I just wanted to make the school a better place. If we all work in unison then problems would be lessened. Why does that seem difficult? Oh, wait. Because people are insecure.

And don’t be naive of students and how they read you. If there are any chinks in your armour, they will sometimes try and aim for those to provoke a negative response. Be a bush in the breeze. Don’t let anything sway you too hard that your roots will show or become unearthed.

 

Don’t Ignore Behaviour

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This point might seem obvious to some, but always ensure that you are in complete control of the class – you must be an ‘enlightened dictator’. As a trainee, I fell prey to starting off as a very strong and commanding figure but, throughout the year, it became slack; this was my intention though. My objective was to teach the students discipline to begin with, then as the year progressed, I would try and teach them as though they were young adults with more freedoms. Rather than the classroom being a dictatorial environment, I wanted it to be more democratic. It didn’t work. With the more relaxing classroom, the students’ work became more relaxed – they did not produce as much and the work they did produce was of poorer quality than as I taught at the beginning of the year (unless they had a genuine interest or natural talent in the subject). They challenged me more, asking why we had to study Shakespeare and 18th Century Poetry, for example. They began openly defying what I had asked them to do, whether that was a task or behavioural issue. Ultimately, classes were extremely difficult to teach because of their liberalism. If you try this method, there is no climbing out of the hole you have dug yourself. PLEASE: Find a good balance!

In addition, always remind yourself and the students of the behaviour management system and how they will be punished for bad behaviour BUT never forget that they are to be rewarded for good behaviour and achieving or exceeding their own expectations in class. Recent studies have shown that to reward students with praise and positive comments from the outset will engage them into being able to intake more information, will actively research around the subject of which you teach, and will constantly challenge themselves to exceed their own expectations.

If you think about it logically and using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943) as a reference, being accepted socially more than likely sits in between the second and third rows of the pyramid. They need to be safe psychologically and feel positive emotions towards your classes. Only when you have achieved this can they be expected to learn. As for the first row – if they are cold, put the heating on or turn the AC off (and vice versa); if they are hungry, allow them to eat something small (even if the school rules don’t permit it); if they are thirsty, allow them to drink only water; if they are sick, send them to the on-site nurse or to reception so they can be dealt with. Once all of the first three rows are attained to a decent standard, they will have the confidence and self-esteem to believe in their abilities and produce good work.

 

Don’t be Undermined by Anyone

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This goes for both students and teachers. It is conspicuous enough already about behaviour among students (alike the quotation above), but with adults (especially colleagues) it can be more challenging, even more so if you’re a trainee.

Never ask for behavioural management help in the classroom from another teacher. Never allow another teacher to dominate the classroom when you are the main teacher. Never allow another teacher to undermine your abilities in front of the students. Why? Because it will make you look incredibly weak – and where there’s weakness, there is distrust – and where there is distrust, there is no confidence. This will make for an unruly class, I assure you.

If any of this ever happens, politely speak to that individual and tell them not to do it again. If they are offended by this, bring it up with your head of department and resolve the issue.

Also, if there’s ever a teacher or colleague who just blatantly states your faults rather than constructively criticises you and/or offering improvements to your pedagogy, then ignore it. Do not be reduced to ‘less than human’. Remember, you’re still a student if you’re a teacher because those who teach must never cease to learn.

 

Don’t ‘teach’

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Sounds counter-intuitive right? I mean, people probably see teachers as laborious lecturers standing in front of a class with their PowerPoint presentations just talking at the students. We are not lecturers.

We are managers: we instruct them in a way which promotes the want to learn. We use strategies to give reason to the importance of the subject with them.

We are facilitators: we provide them the tools to enable them to build. We use a range of different activities to ensure they remember what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what benefit it will be to them in the future.

We are directors: we hand them the props and instruct them to act. We use many different materials in the classroom to show they can understand and contemplate their learning.

We are caretakers: we respond positively with a supporting attitude to give them motivation and self-confidence. We apply learning with a reinforcing, likeable figure will engage them into thinking how else this information can be utilised.

We are councillors: we listen and observe our pupils’ behaviours when it comes to the tasks they must produce. We empathise, sympathise, comprehend and give advice to attempt to solve problems that may be preventing their learning.

We are donors: we award them intrinsically (and sometimes extrinsically) by solidifying that learning has taken place and looking at their progression throughout a single lesson/a topic/the whole year.

See? We are a lot more than one title.

 

 

 

Well, I hope this has helped you out in some way. Good luck everyone!