Tag Archives: ELT

“The fear” – My personal experiences with ‘teaching anxiety’

3 Sep

 

Fear of teaching?

Just like a fear of spiders, ‘a fear of teaching’ is common, completely normal and completely irrational.

One of my colleagues, who is very experienced and an excellent teacher, recently said something which hit home for several reasons.  As she was about to leave the coffee room to start her class, she said ‘I still get that little bit of fear before I go into class, every time. Do you get that?’

My answer was an honest one – ‘No, but I used to’, but this was the first time I that I had ever publicly confessed to the fact that I suffered from a fear of teaching.

This ‘fear of teaching’ is something which I think is very often felt, but very seldom discussed.  Why is this?

In fact, for my first two years of teaching, it wasn’t so much ‘a little bit of fear’, but a massive amount of dread which made me feel sick. It took me about 2 years to realize that I was suffering from some sort of social anxiety about going into class.  I’m not normally someone who suffers from social anxiety, it seemed to be unique to the teaching situation. 

For the three years or so I suffered from this, I don’t think I mentioned it to anyone. It seemed like a private fact.  Moreover, it seemed like something that I shouldn’t really admit to.  I didn’t want people to know that I felt under confident in the classroom. In fact, I think sometimes, I would wax lyrical about teaching, teaching theory, students and classroom activities in the teachers room as a way of avoiding or covering up the fact that I actually felt uncomfortable teaching.

The effects of this pre-class fear were numerous. It was very draining. It massively added to the stress of lessons and the fatigue caused by teaching. For me, the fear  would be before class and normally erode about 10 minutes into the lesson. But,if the lesson started going badly, it might have lasted for the whole class or even gotten worse. Or, if I started to run out of lesson plan, I realized that I’d forgotten a handout etc, it could easily resurface.

Physical Symptoms

Does any of this look familiar? This is how I felt before class.

What were the causes?  Well mainly, I was proud of my work as a teacher. I wanted to be a good teacher, and I hated the idea of classes not liking me. I was scared of student complaints, which I took as a slight on my professional ability, and I was scared of students thinking bad things about me. There was also a degree of potential social embarrassment from among my peers.  No wants their fellow teachers to see them as being a bad teacher.

 Like most social anxiety, it was probably rooted in my deep desire to be liked and appreciated, and an over-active imagination of what students might have been thinking about me.  In their faces I would read ‘what a useless teacher, why have I paid so much money for someone who is so unprofessional’.  In fact, what they were probably mainly sitting there thinking about what they would cook for dinner that night whilst patiently waiting for the teacher to set them a new activity.

My colleagues’ comment  about how she was feeling was probably the first public mention of ‘teaching anxiety’ which I have heard of, in the whole 5 years of teaching. For her, I think it was just more pre-class jitters. But I wonder how many people are more like I was when I started – walking around with a gut -wrenching fear before every class?

I know that not every teacher suffers from some for of anxiety.  But I also now know that I am not the only one.   Who else has, or has had, some sort of anxiety about teaching?  Did anyone find cures or coping techniques?  Any experiences that you are willing to share?  Has anyone else already blogged about this?

 

 

 

Photos that bear Witness to Modern slavery – CLIL lesson for advanced adult students

25 Aug

ImageDid you know that there are 27 million people in slavery today? That is three times more than the total amount of slaves transported during the entire transatlantic slave trade. Did you know that  between 100,00 and 300,000 American children are sold into sex slavery every year?

Neither did I, until I saw this last week:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lisa_kristine_glimpses_of_modern_day_slavery.html

And after seeing it, I thought I would make it into a lesson for my advanced class. If nothing else, I thought that it would help spread the message.

I designed this topic based lesson.  It’s fairly low-resource (no handouts) and mainly discussion based.

This is a tough lesson with adult topics, some very emotional scenes and images and some pretty advanced language too. In the end, I think they really appreciated the discussion about a serious topic, and the chance to learn about more than just English.

The material is, frankly, fascinating, and leads naturally into a very serious discussion. Artistic students should enjoy the conversation at the beginning about the photos, too. In my class, this lesson took about 1.45 hours as all of the discussions ran on and we got some very interesting language out of all of them (almost 30 words and phrases were on the board by the end of the lesson!).

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DELTA Module 3 – Young Learners Book List

9 Jun

Just finished your exam?  Thinking of getting started on module 3?

I just finished my DELTA module 3 on Young Learners aged 13-17,  after reading extensively in the last 5 months.  One thing that slowed me down dramatically was not knowing exactly what to read.

Whilst I wouldn’t want to be too prescriptive, because there are a lot of benefits to selecting your own reading and coming up with your own ideas – I think a basic, critical guide  could be useful, especially for people who will have to buy the books.

Main Books / Chapters in Books for your own learning

  1. Teaching Languages to Young Learners (Cambridge Language Teaching Library)

I read this one cover to cover. At least read the first two chapters and the chapter on course design. Covers children 5-12, very interesting and good guide to relevant research on the age group.

2.  Children Learning English – Jayne Moon

Not much about course design and skint on terminology and usable quotes, but skim through for stuff on teaching methodology for the introduction / course plan. Essential reading if you haven’t done any other form of training for Young Learners or don’t have much experience, as it remains the best practical guide for teaching children. Otherwise probably non-essential for this essay.

   3. Assessing Young Learners (Cambridge Language Assessment) – Penny Mckay

This one is really important. The intro has a great general introduction to teaching young learners.  The rest is absolutely essential reading for your assessment section – I read about 40% of this book in total and quoted from it extensively.

4. Teaching Young Language Learners (Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers)

Good general introduction to the age group, again. Also sections on assessment and materials assessment, if you are using a coursebook. Nothing on course design, though.

5. Teenagers (Resource Books for Teachers) by Gordon Lewis 

If you are writing about teenagers, the brief introduction to this book is about all that I could find which is specifically about Teenagers.  Essential! Good activities to form part of a course, too.

6. The Unschooled Mind – Howard Gardener

Gardener is responsible for the ‘multiple intelligences theory’. This book is in the Cambridge handbook’s bibliography, probably because of Cambridge’s infatuation with learning styles and multiple intelligences. I didn’t find much use for this book, though, as it isn’t about language teaching and there really was no space in my essay to go into the theory discussed here in detail.

– There’s also a few brief notes in The Practice of English Language Teaching by Jeremy Harmer on children and teenagers, good for grabbing a few quotes.

– If you want to put some projects, arts and crafts or drama into your course, look for ‘Projects with Children, ‘Arts and Crafts with Children’ and ‘Drama with Children’ in the Oxford Resource books for Teachers section for both activities, and quotes to justify what you are doing.

– There isn’t much written about teaching EFL to Teenagers, so take what you can from what is written about teaching children and try to think about how it applies to teenagers.

Using amazon market place, I was able to get hold of all of these books for under £10 each and some for under £5.  I spent, in total for module 3, about £60 on books.

If you are in London, St. Gile’s open-access ELT Library has most of the books that are listed here, free to use, and friendly staff to help you find them ( http://www.stgilesedtrust.org/elt-library/resources/ )

Good luck!  To follow, I’m going to post a guide to general reading for course design.

Is a TEFL career worth it?

21 Apr

 

I’m trying to find a full time TEFL position in London, but actual jobs seem thin on the ground. I have hours, and classes, but no permanent contract that guarantees the hours will continue. Apparently, a great deal of people are in this situation, indeed, it is a norm in the industry.

In many ways, it is a travesty that teachers are expected to bear the brunt of their school’s problems.  My father owns a business, and when business is not good, it is the business’ accounts that suffer, not his employees’.  In TEFL, when business is bad, it is expected that teachers will simply work less hours and get paid less, effectively bearing a large part of the financial burden. Teachers are treated like contractors, even when we perform a central part of the business.  I’ve met teachers who have been in the business for three times longer than me who are in no better position.  A general lack of work and surplus of teachers mean schools can keep up this model of business.

A highlight: being invited for dinner with students in Vietnam.

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Teaching countries in Cambodia. TEFL can be rewarding as it can be infuriating.

 

 

 

 

 

It is what it is. And there are a lot of great things about TEFL teaching.  It’s fun and it’s truly rewarding.  Moreover, its low pressure: you are rarely observed doing your job and as long as your students are happy, your bosses will normally let you do whatever you please. It’s academic an practical, and constantly challenging. You rarely have a boring day at work in TEFL, as each class presents a new challenge. I’ve had some fantastic experiences over the last four years: I have helped students to pass life changing exams, I have fascinated four year olds with stories and helped them to learn to read, I have trained fourteen year olds to use a dictionary and fourty year olds to ask for what they want in a shop.  Moreover, I have listened to people of all ages and many different nationalities tell their stories, give their opinions and interact with each other and learned no end about the world around me.

The job is incredible, in many ways, but infuriating in others. With no stable full time hours, there’s no way to get a mortgage, the bank doesn’t even want to give me a credit card, and planning for the future is impossible. I can’t even book a holiday in four months time because I can’t guarantee that I will be able to afford to go anywhere.

And, in terms of the career, where is there to go?  Managing is pointless: you get several times the amount of stress for half the salary that McDonalds pay their managers (who are often younger than I am).  Teacher training is possible (and attractive), but you have to work your way in to it, and even then its often not full time.

I am at point where I have no idea where to go.  Should I leave the industry? Apply for jobs in something completely different?  

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An unexpected party: part of a life only TEFL can offer?

Every part of me wants to think that I can turn my passion for teaching into a viable career, but right now there’s a reality-check panic alarm in the back of my mind which is saying that its time to jump ship, before I find a thirty five year old me with no house, no pension, no savings and a contract that’s only valuable for as long as the school I am am working for has customers.