a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures
For the last four weeks I’ve been back in the classroom as a TEFL trainer for the school I am currently working for. My TEFL career has recently taken me further away from the classroom and more into materials development so it was a nice change to put my teacher trainer hat on again.
I must say, one of the things this course reminded me of is just how little you know when you are starting out as a TEFL teacher, which is to be expected based on your zero experience. But once you start teaching (which for me was almost 15 years ago) and you spend time with other teachers, you learn so much so quickly that it’s easy to lose sight of the newbie teacher you once were.
One thing that struck me most about my trainees this time was they all shared one weakness: TTT. No matter how good their lesson plans were or how comfortable they felt in front of the class, they all overcompensated with TTT.
Well, probably because when you are first in the classroom you fear silence. You assume silence is a negative thing and so you try to fill all silence with words, your words. Then, you are also trying so hard to remember everything you put on your lesson plan that you speak your thoughts out loud, giving your students loads of unnecessary information that they struggle to understand. What they say is also usually a higher level than the students can understand. Plus, new teachers still have the traditional teacher mindset which puts them in control of the lesson, so they end up leading their students though everything.
How can we help our trainees get over this?
New teachers struggle to visualise what can happen in the classroom because they don’t have enough experience. My trainees benefitted from watching me teach when they say how little I actually did and how much my students did!
Often, teachers aren’t aware of how they are in front of the class. How they are in their head can be quite different to reality. On this course we video recorded a lesson of each teacher and they were then able to watch themselves back (in their own time, in privacy). This definitely opened up their eyes to habits and tendencies they were not aware of before.
It may sound silly but during the feedback sessions with the trainees I practise what I preach. The feedback comes mostly from the trainees themselves while I provide guidance and clarity and add in aspects they may not have noticed. After each feedback session I ask them to reflect on how much speaking they, the “students”, did during the session in comparison to me, the “teacher”.
Of course, as a new teacher there is so much going on in your head that TTT is often overlooked or its importance underestimated. Once we can help our trainees see that they less they are saying, the more their students are saying, the swing from teacher-centred to student-centred classroom becomes that much easier.