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Friday, May 29, 2015

Weak Week One

It was a pretty thoroughly awful day, starting the moment I got to campus--8AM on the dot. The library, where the copier/printer is, wasn't open. Theoretically, it opens at 8. It didn't actually open for another 25 minutes, after a classmate of mine had run over to the main administration building and fetched a secretary who had a key. That left me with only half an hour to take all the lesson plans and the drafts of handouts for the students--I had typed these up in the "notes" feature on my phone and emailed to myself--put them into Word and reformat them, and then print out multiple copies at a machine shared by all the other time-pressed students in the area. And then I had to look up images for 10 holidays, print them out and write on each whence I'd retrieved it. I didn't get finished. 

I hoofed it to class to make sure I was there to watch my fellow aspiring teacher's lesson. I figured I'd make do without the two images I was missing, and I was fairly happy with all my prep--I felt pretty confident about the pacing and content. I wasn't going to talk too much today. I had a list of content clarification questions, and I'd spent about four of what I thought were productive hours carefully constructing the sequence of the lesson. I was shuffling my pictures, handouts and outline into a pile when I suddenly realized I didn't have the transparency I needed for the last part of the lesson.  I cut out of the room five  minutes before my predecessor finished to sprint back to the library to get it--I've got to be quick, I thought--I don't want to waste any of the 15 minutes between her and my lessons, which I'll need for setup.  

At the library, the copier wasn't working (one of those infernal worldwide copy machine issues of telling me to refill a tray that had the correct  contents). Two hours into the workday, the librarian still hadn't shown up. So, I called upon my experience as a troubleshooting office drone and turned the machine off and back on to reboot it. Even with all the delays, I managed to get the transparency done in about 5 minutes. I stopped off at the ladies' and then ran (literally) back to the classroom building....to find, at 10:03, an English lesson already in progress, being taught by the guy who was supposed to be after me. Oh, crap.

The tutor was there, taking notes, all the students were there, and my other colleagues were sitting primly in the back, and I knew I was in deep trouble. Turns out, there wasn't to be a break between the first and second classes, only between the second and third--this was listed on the board, it just hadn't registered on my exhausted brain. Thinking about the fix I was suddenly in upset me so badly I started to shake. Tardiness is verboten, and I had worked so hard to be totally prepared.

I take neat and copious notes during all the classes, and my handwriting suddenly went to pot. In fact, I couldn't hold my pen properly. I did my best to calm down during the coffee break--I told the tutor what had happened, organized my papers close to hand, and wrote some information on the board. And then the lesson began, and it just sucked. I visibly shuddered, I couldn't get into the groove, and my nervousness played out in my talking a mile a minute--for example, instead of "tell me," I said "Will you be so kind as to tell me?" which left my pre-intermediate students staring at me in confusion. I couldn't read my typed notes, I lost track of what I was doing, and I could feel the students' attention draining away like someone had opened a manhole cover in a bathtub. It was a disaster.

If I'd known where the ladies' was in the classroom building, I would have run there and locked myself in a stall and burst into tears. As it was, I just sat down limply after the lesson and talked to a former accountant/judo champion with gold teeth who was kind enough to say in broken English that she thought it had been a nice class. I think she sensed that had I been a Japanese gentleman of the samurai school, I would have disemboweled myself in short order.

The tutor didn't have much to say in the feedback session; she agreed that it'd been  a total debacle. We got our first week's review several hours afterward: I'm barely meeting the course criteria, in large part because of this morning's screwup. But my problems run deeper: my verbal instructions aren't succinct, I repeat and rephrase what students say when I ought to leave well enough alone, and I give them definitions which I should rather elicit with leading questions. These are far from unreasonable criticisms. I have excellent models of good teaching in the tutors themselves. I just pray to God I can learn to shut up! Particularly when I'm uneasy. Otherwise, I'm at real risk of flunking the CELTA.

2 comments:

Barbara said...

Will keep praying!

KYP said...

Thanks Barbara. I can truly say this is the hardest course I have ever taken.