If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost;
there is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.
--Henry David Thoreau
They aren't aliens. They're human beings--people
in small bodies, people with short attention spans, people who think in concrete
rather than abstract terms, but people, nonetheless. They are also impressionable
people. Your young pupils will reflect your attitude toward the class just
as clearly as a thermometer reflects the temperature of the classroom. If
you are tense, your students will be as well. Behavioral problems will ensue.
Conflicts will develop between students. Valuable class time will be wasted.
And everyone involved will leave exhausted and frustrated. A relaxed teacher,
however, contributes significatntly to warm, supportive classroom atmosphere.
How does a teacher relax?
If you aren't sure what you are doing when you walk into the classroom, you
will be stressed--and with good cause. A detailed lesson plan, however, frees
you from the nagging question, "Now what do I do?" A thorough lesson plan
includes the following:
do you want the students to learn?
procedures--How are you going to help students learn what
you want them to learn?
will you know whether students have learned what you wanted them to learn?
materials will you need to fulfill your instructional procedures?
follow-up task (if any) will you expect students to complete on their
Plan for potential problems.
Problems happen. Students finish in fifteen minutes the project for which
you allotted thirty minutes. Little Youn-mi's complaints of "Teacher, I don't
feel good" turn to cries of "Teacher, Youn-mi just got sick!!!" Students
forget pencils, erasers, crayons, and even textbooks. Other teachers call
in sick, and you find yourself with a combined class. The power goes out.
Having contingency plans for forseeable emergencies can significantly reduce
your stress when the crisis strikes.
Try to include at least one more activity
than you think you'll have time for on each lesson plan.
Keep a card a card file of five and
ten minute "filler" activities.
Keep a folder of photocopied review
or practice worksheets that you can grab and distribute at a moment's notice.
(Handwriting and reading comprehension worksheets, if not overused, can be
great "backup" activities.)
Have extra pencils, crayons, and erasers
Develop a contingency plan for missing
textbooks. (Will the student be able to share a book with a classmate? Do
you have an extra copy you may loan out? Can you step out of the classroom
long enough to photocopy a work page? Is the student expected to sit quietly
through class, then complete the assignment at home? etc.)
Know the school's policy regarding student
illnesses. (Do you send Youn-mi to the office at first complaint? Do you
keep her in class, but tell her she can put her head down on the desk and
rest? Are you supposed to ignore complaints and teach until disaster strikes?)
Know who to contact in case of an emergency
and where to find cleaning supplies.
Always have a large group activity on
file that you can pull if you end up with a combined class. Possibilities
include craft projects, creative writing tasks, outdoor games, role-playing
excercises, and English videos for which you have written comprehension and
Get enough rest.
Split shifts in particular take their toll. Some people need eight hours
of sleep a night. Others can function on six. Still others require nine or
ten. Figure out how much rest your body needs, then plan your schedule
accordingly. While it may be tempting to go out on the town with all the
other teachers when classes end at 11:00 pm, it's not wise to make a habit
of nights on the town if you have to be back in the classroom at 5:30 or
6:00 the next morning. Not only are you in less than ideal condition in the
classroom, but you are also jeapordizing your health. Tired teachers tend
to be grouchy teachers. Tired teachers tend to be ineffective teachers. And
tired teachers tend to become sick teachers.
Teach students, not the textbook.
Teachers bent on teaching the textbook, on completing every language excercise
and/or covering every page in the workbook, within an unflexible time frame
get frustrated. Students don't always learn according to schedule. Some students
learn English rapidly and will be bored to tears if the teacher insists on
prolonging a unit until every related activity has been completed. Others
struggle to learn English and will be incredibly frustrated and discouraged
if the teacher rushes through one unit to get to the next one "on schedule."
Remember that the textbook is a tool, a means to an end, but not the end
itself. Use the textbook; use the scope and sequence chart; use the teacher's
manual; use any other related materials. But teach the students. If the scope
and sequence chart says students should master a skill in one week, but most
of your students are struggling with the task, don't be afraid to take a
few more days. If the workbook includes five pages of exercises related to
a certain grammatical skill, but the majority of your students evidence clear
mastery of the skill on the first page, don't feel like you "have" to do
the other four. Remember, whether your students learn and love learning is
far more important than whether they finish the text precisely on schedule
or complete every excercise mentioned in the teacher's guide.
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