dear old golden rule days

20 Feb

My school:

I start teaching tomorrow. I don’t really know what to expect; I only have each student for 45 minutes of class time a week. At first I felt a bit discouraged about these circumstances–how much progress do they expect me to make when I have so little of the students’ time? But I keep reminding myself that, ultimately, my goal here is to get the students speaking English and to boost their confidence so that they’ll keep practicing. Hopefully, that’s a goal I can accomplish, even if I only see each student once per week.

It’s been pointed out to me that the upside of this arrangement is that it cuts down on lesson planning. I’m teaching 14 classes per week at the high school (and then some other, nebulous classes that keep getting mentioned but never really explained–I may also be teaching at poor rural schools, for example, or at the grade school). I never see the same student twice in one week, so in theory I could write one lesson plan for the whole week and repeat it 14 times. In practice, I suspect that this won’t work, since I’ve been told to expect wild variation in the English proficiency of the different classes. Still, James assures me that, to his knowledge, prior foreign experts have never written more than 4 lesson plans a week–or maybe 2 lesson plans, if both of them could be tweaked into a simpler and a more advanced version.

This week, since I’ll be introducing myself 14 times, I’m planning to use the same lesson plan all week. My biggest concern–and the only thing that makes me truly nervous–is the aforementioned variation in the proficiency of the students. I have no idea what to expect. I have a game planned where the students are paired off and told to write 3 or 4 questions that they want to ask the new teacher. Then they get to interview me, but with a silly twist. The idea is that they can learn about me (I already know they’re curious, since I’ve been approached on the street all weekend), but in order to do so, they have to do enough speaking so that I can start assessing their English level. It’s a fun game (when it goes over well), and even though I know it can be successfully played with early-intermediate learners, I can’t shake the fear that it will be too advanced, and I’ll be left with nothing to talk about for 45 minutes (unfounded, hopefully, because I do have 2 backup plans). It’s really just first-day jitters…I think I’d be worried about any lesson being too difficult, short of teaching them to sing the ABC’s, just because I don’t know what to expect from the students.

Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it goes.

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4 Responses to “dear old golden rule days”

  1. Kathy February 21, 2011 at 1:19 am #

    That is exactly what I do, plan a lesson which can be “tweaked” to meet the goals of the group.
    The school photo looks amazing!

    • Erin February 21, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

      By the end of the week, I should have a better idea of how my lesson planning will work best.

      And the school is pretty nice, although there’s a lot of emphasis placed on saving face in China, so the outside is nicer than the inside. Presenting a good image is very important, so they’ve spent a lot of money on the exterior. Not to say that it’s a dump inside–it’s not! But the grounds are beautiful.

  2. Cynthia February 21, 2011 at 3:38 am #

    Good luck, Erin! I’ll be thinking about you!

    • Erin February 21, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

      Thank you! It ended up being stressful but fun but tiring but exciting–which is okay, as far as first days go!

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