Re-re-revisiting 2005

Last post, I was wondering if I was somehow a better teacher (or at least a better match for my students ) in 2005 than now. Thinking back on that time I remembered some things that I would be quite unlikely to do now. Here they are:
(in list form since  a particular reader of this blog mentioned liking my lists).

 

Insisting on only English 

 As I mentioned, my students were extremely low-level.  Even so, I was quite draconian about the “Only English” policy.

Surely there would have been times it would have been helpful (and efficient) for my students  to use L1 in class. Not to mention the potential problems related to the students  feeling extremely blocked for hours on end.

I can’t say that there weren’t benefits from the insistence on students using English as much as possible. I am just saying that in my current view the benefits are outweighed by the potential negatives.

What would I do now? 
I suppose I would try to ask them for their thoughts and feelings on the matter. Rather than insisting on “Only English” I would try to help them use “Mostly English.” I might create zones in the classroom or spaces in lessons where it is totally fine for students to use their L1. I think I would try to give a bit more choice to the students. Rather than an enforcer (of my own or the training center’s policy) I think I would be more comfortable as a reminder.

Blaring music during communicative activities 

I used to blast the music! I mean really loud! I don’t think I would do this anymore. I think I heard or read somewhere that background music can be helpful to lessen affective filters during speaking activities. I feel like I took this quite a bit too far by blaring rock music when the students were talking. It was often too loud for me to monitor or for them to hear each other. With that said, a potential benefit was that they spoke louder and loader and became more comfortable and confident asking for clarification and repeats.

What would I do now?
Maybe play music but be sure that it’s not a distraction. I would also consider having one student be in charge of the music (including the volume)  for each day (with no music as an option).

Being blissfully unaware of being teacher-centered

I can occasionally put on a quite a show. I am certain that there were times when my class in 2005 was “The Mike Show.”  Here I was a relatively inexperienced teacher with a group of students that were extremely happy to hear me talk. I surely talked a whole lot. I think my theory at the time was something about input. I am not sure how important the “comprehensible” part of “comprehensible input” was at the time. I mentioned in a previous post that there was a lot of story telling. This is true. There was also a lot of “Mike tells a story and students listen” time as well.

What would I do now?
Hopefully I am aware when “The Mike Show” is coming or in progress. I am not saying that it won’t happen. I am saying that now I would hopefully be making a choice and deciding that it is a good time to be a bit more teacher-centered for a period of time.

Working (too) hard

I think that I spent about 2 hours for each hour of class time.This includes preparation of class materials (lots of cutting and typing). I mentioned in my previous post that there were a lot of dogme elements in my work with the shipbuilders.  I also brought a lot of materials to class. I think there was a lot of cutting up conversations and whiting out parts of books to create information gaps. While potentially useful this was very time consuming and took away time from other things that I could do.

One part of the work that I really enjoyed was writing the daily journal that I shared with the students. This was my way of modeling the journals that I asked them to write as well as a way to share my thoughts and even model language.

I also spent an inordinate amount of time writing “phantom”  lesson plans to appease the training center. I mean, I would create lesson plans that were similar to what I might do but where much more detailed than a lesson plan I would ever actually use.

What would I do now?
To start, not work as hard! Aside from trying my best not to work in a place that required such detailed lesson plans I hope I would manage my time better and spend less time cutting!  These days, I feel that my time is much better spent after lessons reflecting on what happened (and making action plans for the future) rather than spending hours preparing materials.

 

Thanks for reading! I would love to read and comments or questions that you might have. I promise my next few posts will be about the more recent past.

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9 comments

  1. Anne

    Hi Michael,
    It’s nice to meet you! What you write here definitely rings a bell. I did a lot of Suggestopedia back then and would have music in the background especially during writing practice in my backoffice skills classes. Now I realize that my clients rarely have the same taste in music, and that while some love classy piano or guitar music, to others it’s as distracting as muzak, and they just want their blissful peace.
    To your list I would add: I used to make a lot of cards and hands-on stuff, really, for every lesson. I’ve reduced the prep by bringing more empty cards, used paper, or asking students to take notes off of something I project for them.
    A second thing that has changed is that, because photocopying and printing has become such an issue at the places I work, whereas wifi is becoming more common, I’ve replaced handouts with wikis. My most recent discovery that you can create pdfs from every page on PBworks made me crow out in delight on Twitter, which is what made us meet in the first place!
    Warm regards,
    Anne

    • mikecorea

      Hello Anne,

      Thanks so much for the comments and it is great to meet you! I think it is really interesting that we had similar experiences.

      I was mostly teaching in situations where I would not do a similar lesson with similar students again so all my card making time was done for one lesson and then the cards were tossed away! Huge time investment for one lesson!

      You have inspired me to get back into using wikis with students!
      (I mostly only been using them for collaboration/projects lately).

      Here is an early (and somewhat “messy”) wiki I used in teacher training: http://mikesclass.pbworks.com/w/page/20909444/FrontPage

      Thanks again for the comments and the connection.

      Take care and best of luck with everything (including wifi reception)!

      Cheers,
      Mike

  2. Kevin Stein

    Hi Michael,

    I am so down with this post. From the music (not at top volume in my case) to the time spent cutting up hundreds of pieces of paper, I was doin’ it as well. And boy, did I used to get rightous about homework. 28 years old and lecturing a room of adults on why they need to do their homeowork. As if they didn’t know. As if life, in the form of family obligations, work, etc., wasn’t just a little higher on their priority list than producing a dialogue for their English conversation class. So even in my high school classes, I try and treat the students with more respect and remember that doing or not doing homework is a personal choice and see where they are at.

    I also try and avoid print-outs like Anne, but haven’t thought about going the wiki route. Great idea.

    Thanks for the read,

    Kevin

  3. mikecorea

    Kevin!

    Thanks for the comment! I had sort of a flashback with your use of the word “righteous!” Yes, lecturing grownups about doing homework is something I have surely done. And like you I am (hopefully) treating it more like a choice these days. I think it’s important to remind ourselves how our homework or whatever might fit into students’ lives. Thanks! I am looking forward to reading more about your experiences on your (excellent and fascinating) blog (http://theotherthingsmatter.blogspot.com)

    Take it easy and have a great end of the week!
    Mike AKA anonymous commenter

  4. Martin Sketchley (@ELTExperiences)

    Mike, this is a wonderful blog post and well worth reflecting on my teaching. I started teaching in 2005 and this certainly rings a bell with my initial experiences of teaching. I will respond to this blog post with my own blog post and will provide a link once it has been written.

  5. Marisa Constantinides

    Hi Mike

    What a good post for reflection – I think I would like to set it as our next #ELTchat Challenge post!!! WOuld you mind very much if I did? I will list yours as an example

    Anne and Mike – how do you maked pdfs out of wiki pages pretty please?

    This would help us so much when we do orientation for new trainees who aren’t that tech savvy!!

    `Marisa

  6. Pingback: The best of Mike Griffin | ELT Squared

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