Trials of Teaching

There are good days teaching, and bad ones…. and this week was a bad one. It’s been a bit difficult recently finding the right niche for the juniors, the right way to approach lessons. All the classes this semester are on British culture, which the students requested. Our first was on Medieval history. We take it in turns to plan lessons, and I’d done the introduction. I was told, by another teacher, that my intro had a lot of text in it. Their Medieval lesson had even more! Other than a game in the middle which the kids enjoyed (about inventions and whether they were Medieval inventions or not) there wasn’t much of substence, even less communicative activities. I only teach five junior classes, and so I switched the activity – which involved them writing and speaking a sentence about what job they’d like to do in the Middle Ages – to mine, which was giving them some items to put in a castle (they could only pick 10), and then arguing why they had done this. Not perfect, obviously, but I thought worked better than the other activity.

The second class was on the Tudors. This had been focussed on Henry VIII’s wives, with only a bit on crime and punishment. I expanded this and introduced a matching task, of matching the crime, punishment, person and story together. We didn’t get onto the actual speaking exercise – my fault, I should have spent less time on this – but the students seemed to enjoy matching things together. This week’s lesson, was the last history one, on Victorians. I focussed on inventions and after another successful game, where the kids had to decide whether an invention was from Victorian Britain or Imperial China, I got the kids to do a role play all about inventions which, whilst not perfect, worked quite well (I think). Another teacher used this, as they thought the original ppt was not great, and she was observed and the manager observing her though the role play was the best bit!

So I’m trying to find a niche into junior classes. I hope this develops soon, and next week we have school life in UK and China. But it was the senior classes that were really hard. This semester we are doing public speaking. None of us are experts, but the person organising the lesson this week had not created a great lesson. At all. I teach eight senior classes and the three I had on Tuesday were, to be honest, not great. The first one was okay, the second harder, and the third – well, that was a disaster. And afterwards I felt so bad, and like the students were trying but they were not really motivated because I wasn’t because the lesson wasn’t. And one kid got in a bit of a strop….

So I decided to ditch the lesson completely. Today – with one class – I did something completely different. Which worked. Sort of. I have four classes tomorrow and will try it with them. It won’t match last week – which looked at improvisation, and the kids always love to act – but hopefully I can placate them with possibility of acting in next week’s class. Hoping that tomorrow goes okay, but even if not, it beats the lesson that I had to do on Tuesday. It was, partly, my fault. I did not alter the lesson sufficiently to be quite interesting. But some of the others here are not that committed and for them, a bad lesson is a bad lesson. For those of us who are more committed, it makes us feel bad when the lesson goes bad. Another teacher felt the same. Next week, I am going to plan my own lesson, and hope that it will reinvigorate the kids. We will see….!

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