[The completely fictional five-year moratorium about commenting about a previous place of work has been lifted and I am finally ready to share some stories about working there.]
He was drunk. I’m sure of that. I don’t want to speculate that he was a drunk but I am certain that he was drunk that morning. It was about 11:00 am on a Saturday so we can maybe assume that he’d been out late the night before. Very, very late. He looked like it and smelled like it. His counterpart was the pleasant smelling and generally pleasant Miss Park. She spoke English quite well and was willing and able to have basic conversations in English. They were the “students.” The prospective teachers were asked to prepare a short demo lesson on “the present perfect.” Looking back, I fell even sorrier now for the candidates than I did at the the time, as that was all the information they were given. “Prepare a demo lesson on ‘the present perfect.'” They were not given any further information on the students or the course goals or what we were looking for or how they would be evaluated. I am guessing that the candidates prepared their demo lessons with actual university aged students in mind and didn’t expect a drunk (hungover?) Mr. Chu with his wrinkled suit and soju breath and Miss Park with her favorite spring dress on and pen in hand, eager to learn more English . I don’t think the candidates were ready for me and the director either. There we were, perched behind the “students,” like high-ranking officials ready to determine the fate of a gladiator after a grueling fight. The teachers taught their mini lesson and then faced questions from myself and the director. I recall questions like, “What would you do if ____?” and “How would you handle _____?” which are not necessarily problematic but were not so much based on what we just saw, which leads me to think we could have skipped the pretense of the demo and let Mr. Chu sleep it off. I also remember the director asking some tricky “gotcha” sort of grammar and methodology questions which I don’t think served much of a positive purpose.
It was not a great experience for me and I think the applicants probably felt the same way. Actually, they almost certainly had a more negative experience than I did.
I can see the benefits from having people do a demo lesson in order to determine their suitability to be hired. I really can. I just think there must be some key information candidates need to receive beforehand. To start, some questions that come to mind include: Who are the students? What are the goals of the program? Is there any sort of form or format required for the lesson plan? Just telling candidates a grammar point and expecting them to craft a lesson on this doesn’t seem like a reasonable way to go. I am sure there are more. I am hopeful that other such questions will be added in the comments.
The other set of questions that comes to mind involves the criteria for the lesson and what the teachers will be evaluated upon. In the (great) comments in a previous post someone mentioned that it would behoove candidates looking for teaching positions in her school to use tech (PowerPoint at a minimum) in the demo. This is something I would not assume and would need to be told or I would be out of luck. I think this is the kind of information that might be helpful to let candidates know beforehand. Thinking back to my experience judging candidates mentioned above I am not really sure what our criteria was or what we were looking for. This seems to be an indication that perhaps the teaching demo wasn’t being used to its full potential. I am wondering what factors would need to be in place for such a demo to be as helpful as possible. The first few things that come to mind include real students, clear criteria, and chance to discuss what happened (and perhaps articulate beliefs or walk through reflecting on the lesson with the interviewers). I think offering free classes to students for the purpose of an interview would be easily done in many contexts and I think it is a shame that we didn’t do it. Actually, I think a lot of what we did was unfortunate so here I am trying to think about it and learn from it 5 years later.
[This is the first in what might be some sort of series. It is also the first in my attempt
at madness 5 posts in 5 days as suggested by Tyson Seburn over at 4C in ELT]