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Tefl teacher training, aka baptism by fire.
I consider myself to be a confident person. At my age, 46, you have little to be worried about, as you’ve made many mistakes, and are somewhat above embarrassment. Confidence can be misconstrued as arrogance, but the older you get the less you care about what other people think and the demons that sometimes inhabit our heads about speaking or presenting in public become no more than background noise, except for kids.
Stand up in front of your peers, demonstrate, discuss, argue or entertain, I feel confident enough that I will hold my own and be able to be professional and informative, but my first TEFL lesson in front of kids!! Of all the people you should not be afraid of it’s kids. They don’t know, right? You’re an adult, they show respect even veiled reverence for you as you’re the teacher. Make a mistake, no problem, they don’t know., You’re supposed to be giving them an insight into a new and exciting world of learning, where even the smallest of victories for them should be celebrated like winning a war. They’re like little sponges eager to lap up the water of knowledge and regurgitate it in a proud and knowing manner, so why on earth are they so bloody terrifying?
My First TEFL lesson
Primed and ready to go, after substantive training, practicing and revising, the Flash Card Lesson is TEFL 101, scripted and rehearsed, step by step instructions that are to be imparted on a relatively strict timetable lasting 50 minutes, where, as long as you follow the steps, and there are many, you should seamlessly transition from one module to another confidently showing your students and your assessor ( this is a course after all ) that your able and capable. We have all been there, first day of school, new teacher, not knowing what to expect from them or them from us, nervous and sweaty with anticipation, and that’s just me.
Irritatingly, the students are just fine, laughing and joking rambunctious and obviously excited. Why then do I feel like my legs have turned to jelly and the 16 seven to eight year old’s in front of me appear to be the most terrifying audience I have ever been in front of.
My first TEFL lesson starts well though, I get through the warmer, an activity we are told is designed to relax the students ( and the teacher to a small extent ) I think they got that the wrong way round, and although I miss a few steps I feel calmer, although I can feel the sweat running down my neck like a waterfall. Stage 2, the most challenging, for me at least, involves a lot of show and tell and eliciting dialogue from the students, not only that but drawing skills, whereby you should be able to draw on a whiteboard pictures and words that should be legible and correct. Failing this step will mean the lesson becomes somewhat difficult, as we are only 15 minutes in, the rest of the lesson will be a free for all for the little terrorists to run you ragged. Thankfully, I maintain some form of decorum and at least partially manage to get them on my side.
Here’s where it goes a bit pear shaped, I lose the discipline a bit, and although I know I should be sterner with them, but I am unaware of my disciplinary boundaries and I am practically frozen. All of my carefully constructed lesson plans are now a mush and each stage seems to get longer and more challenging, however in reality, where I was certainly not, everything was not as bad as it seemed. The kids were listening and watching and I even think probably learning, but up on stage, your mind plays tricks with you and however badly you think you’re doing, it’s probably better. I manage, I think, to touch all of my bases and even though I end up a bit short on time, the relief I experienced when they ran out of the door, either excited or excited to get away from me, I don’t know, was greater than I had felt in a long time.
The verdict was in, I need improvement, well there’s a shocker. I hardly expected to ace my first TEFL lesson, but I could not help feeling a little disappointed at my score. I felt I’d done better, in the euphoria of finishing I had probably lost sight of the goal, and on reflection in the taxi on the way back, it dawned on me just how much I had missed or messed up, so I resigned myself to do better next time and the times after that too, and ultimately I did.
The first TEFL lesson is the worst for sure, and should I have done better, but I can tell you that I if I had, I would not have learned so much in the following days. Failure is like a mirror, it forces you to look at yourself more deeply; success is just a passing glimpse, so embrace and learn from your first lesson, as you will never have the chance for another one.
By Neil Hunt