One of my previous blog posts spoofed the 7 “marvellous” sins of great teachers. Now, I’d like to unspoof and great real and talk about “new” English teachers.
I just spent 2 days interviewing 29 new teachers each day! Wow, talk about a treadmill….. The teachers besides answering questions had to go through a "demo" lesson where they had 10 minutes to pretend they were teaching a class and teach a given language point. Not very helpful IMO for judging a teacher but during these lesson demonstrations, I daydreamed a bit and scribbled down my own thoughts about what I think are the main weaknesses of new teachers in the classroom. I base these on my own failings as much as my experiences talking to / watching new teachers. I’ve been there and done that and came through (but challenges still remain). I’m sure I’m missing some others and please chip in and let me know what I’ve missed. Here, I’m speaking generally about all new English teachers but in particular, new native speaking teachers.
1. Too FAST! – It is like a machine gun! There is no slowing down and enjoying the experience in this new teacher’s classroom. Bang, bing, boom! Students don’t get the time to process instructions, don’t get the time to process input. New teachers don’t wait for an answer from a student, they just jump to the next student for an answer! When speaking, they don’t pause (speak at a normal speed but count to 3 between sentences, this is a good rule for English teachers). Everything is too fast in a new teachers classroom – they try to do too much , too quickly! It’s not a race nor an assembly line. Rule 1 SLOW DOWN! ENJOY YOUR CLASS AS HUMAN BEINGS.
2. Interjections. — New teachers speak in a conversational fashion with lots of "ummms", "ughs", "like"s, "you know"s etc…. This is very confusing to students. Here’s a typical new teacher comment, " Well, you see, like, umm, you know, you must go down the street, and ummm, turn left and like, you’ll see a building on , urrr, ummm, your right. There, you know, there is a guy ….." You get the point. Rule 2 – CLEAN UP YOUR SPEECH.
3. No Routines. Good teachers have a set routine. They have an agenda on the board. Students know every lesson what will happen, in a general sense. Students need this! New teachers change their lessons daily and the students never know what’s next. Is it a game, a worksheet, the textbook? What? This is a major cause of all classroom management issues in new teacher’s classrooms. Keep a routine, students will thank you (but within that routine, change the content/curriculum). Rule 3 – AVOID CHAOS!
4. No Review. — In language classrooms, students need to encounter the lesson language many times, they need review! This should be a main part of all lessons but few new teachers do so. Why? Because of pacing (see point 1), they go too fast and seldom ever have time for it. They "stuff" too much into their lessons. Rule 4 – REPEAT, REVIEW, REDO
5. Failure to model – Many new teachers explain and seldom model enough. Students need a lesson activity or a task NOT explained but modeled. Go through it slowly with another student, demonstrating and NOT ONLY telling. Modeling will solve a lot of issues. Start and do things full class, then move to groups/pairs. Rule 5 – SHOW AND GO!
6. No Presence — Many new teachers lack what I call "presence". They don’t stand up straight, they don’t have the look and "eyes’ that a good teacher should have. They don’t move around the class and make it their home/playfield. They remain at the front. Further, new teachers many times seem frantic in moving at the front of the class. Students can’t focus on your words when you are moving so! Rule 6 – STAND AND DELIVER.
7. L1 under and overdose — Many new teachers either use too much or too little of the student’s mother tongue. The L1 can be invaluable for instruction and support but must be used judiciously and at the right times. Otherwise it becomes both a crutch and a confusion for students. Here are my guidelines for using L1 in the classroom. Rule 7 – L1 IS A HOT SPICE, USE IT WELL OR RUIN THE MEAL.
Of course, I’m speaking in a general vein. Not all this applies, to all new teachers. Next time, I’ll put my magnifying glass onto experienced teachers and what their 7 deadly sins are!