Prepping a Sub

I fell off my posting schedule, and then I got called in to substitute teach!

As a last-minute sub, the lesson was prepared for me (thanks, department!). And I do want to clarify, this was very last-minute – they called me while I was making lunch. I said that I’d be happy to do it, but that I already had an engagement with my kids scheduled for the whole afternoon. I wasn’t available to actually look at anything pertaining to class until dinner time. They said no problem, and they’d email me a lesson plan and materials.

Here’s what was great:

  • No Decisions
    I didn’t have to make any decisions about what to “cover” (sorry, I dislike that verb when it comes to teaching – I’m sure I don’t have to explain why).
  • Clear Priorities
    She was clear about what the top priorities were and that the other activities were low-priority suggestions so we’d always have something to do.
  • Clear Future
    I knew exactly what the students needed to know for the next class session: what their assignments should be, what quizzes they should study for, etc.

 

I don’t know if this is an Emily thing or a more universal thing, but I usually find other people’s lesson plans hard to use. Today was no exception.

So in case this helps anyone write notes to their substitute teachers, especially Future Emily, here’s what would make them more user-friendly for me:

  • A quick sense of the big picture.
    What are the big priorities? What are the big things we’re building up to in the next few sessions and in the whole semester? (e.g. “this week and next, we’re really focusing on citations.”) Yes, I’d get a sense of this from reading the syllabus, but there was seriously not time to read it before walking into this class.
  • A quick overview of the texts.
    Again, a last-minute sub doesn’t have time to read the whole syllabus. A summary sentence or two about what the scope of the course is (e.g. writing and grammar) and which coursebook ties to which one (e.g. Focus is our vocabulary book and The Other Wes Moore is our novel) would have helped me get my bearings more quickly.
  • Crystal clarity about past vs. present.
    I found ambiguity in the notes I received about whether “the homework assignment” meant the one that was due today or the one that I was assigning today. I also mistook the purpose of one of the readings she’d sent me: I thought it was an optional activity, but during class I realized that it was a reading they had already completed.
  • Suggestions of how to make use of my assistant teacher.
    The lesson plan kind of ignored that I’d have an assistant teacher coming in for the last hour of class. I made a hasty decision to have her lead half the class in a discussion while I lead the other half. It worked out great, but I didn’t really have time to consider any other options I might have tried in addition to or instead of the discussions.

 

You’re reading Prepping a Sub, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

Advertisements

2018

I realize I’m late to the “it’s 2018 now!” blog post parade.

Several voices I respect have suggested taking January to get back into a routine and let the dust of the holidays settle. They have found that February is a more sensible time to make changes and set intentions in a deliberate, level-headed manner.

So I did that, and now here I am in February, writing about the New Year.

39409999221_ef359747d0_c

Plan for the Year

Looking ahead to the year, I’ve got a significant amount of volunteering coming up for a project I’m involved in that’s not related to ESOL.

My family also has some significant travel on the calendar, particularly this semester. Actually, it’s significant enough that I’m not available to take on a regular schedule this coming semester.

So, it’s up-in-the-air how ESOL will fit in with everything else this year.

 

Word of the Year

I’m pretty into the trend of replacing New Year’s resolutions with a theme summed up in one word for the year. I’ll be sad when it becomes old news like no-knead bread and bullet journaling, because I think it’s really valuable.

My word connects nicely to how I want to approach the coming year with its known challenges and opportunities, plus the inevitable surprises I can’t even imagine.

My word of the year is “grow.”

It may sound obvious, or even trite. But the more I consider it, the more it’s a jam-packed word and I love it.

The grammar geek in me loves that it can be both transitive and intransitive.

The gardener in me is aware that not everything that grows is desirable. She also notes that dandelions, our most famous weed, are nutritious edibles.

I won’t keep going on about it, but I will encourage you to pick out a word for the year (you can pick one out that’s way more badass than mine) and see if you like it too.

How ESOL Will Fit In

In short, I don’t know.

Also, making grand public promises is not my style. I’m one of those people who wonders if she’s acting too rashly when RSVPing “yes” two weeks in advance to a friend’s 5th birthday party because she can’t guarantee her kids won’t be sick then.

This year is particularly difficult to commit to, though, because whatever professional growth I accomplish will be both unsupported and unhampered by the normal flow of the academic year.

Nearly limitless possibilities!

Nearly zero accountability, structure, or community! Yikes.

Wants

I’m making no public promises and setting no public goals!

However, I’m comfortable declaring several wants:

  1. I want to grow as a teacher: expertise, connections, knowledge, empathy, skills, and experience.
  2. I want to deliberately keep my eyes open for opportunities to grow as a teacher in all of those ways, and
  3. I want to be bold enough to say “yes” to many of those opportunities even if it’s two weeks in advance and I can’t guarantee my kids won’t be sick then.

I’ve also created my own simple, gentle structure: I’ve set up a monthly calendar reminder that will email me the above list of wants every month in 2018.

We’ll see what 2018 brings!

 

Photo Credit: DaPuglet on Flickr

You’re reading 2018, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

 

 

 

Assisting the Teacher: Writing Conferences

This is part of a series of posts called ESL Assistant Teaching Tips. I’m writing from the point of view of an assistant ESOL instructor in academic English classes at a community college. For background, here’s why I love assistant teaching, and here is what the basics of the set-up look like. I hope that other assistants will find this useful, and that this wonderful classroom model will spread!

33804712146_a5066f9cf8_b

One way I have assisted my lead teachers is by conducting writing conferences with students.

With two different teachers meeting with students, but only one of them grading the students, this needs to be done with intention and good communication. What follows is what worked for us.

Clear Conferencing Goals

We had conferencing days for the express purpose of previewing students’ drafts of specific major writing assignments.

The lead teacher and I established before this class session that we would first check for topic and organization, and then move on to mechanics. We agreed on 15-minute conferences.

Time Slots

Students signed up for a time slot that worked for them. Students signed up to work with either her or me.

Full disclosure: I was last picked! I truly did not take this personally. Our students knew who would be grading them, and of course it seemed best to get advice from the grader herself.

Set a Timer (and expectations)

At the beginning of each conference, I welcomed the student and then used my cell phone’s voice commands to set a timer for 15 minutes.

Then I efficiently explained that I was going to skim their essay for structure. Then if there was time, we’d go back for details.

Start with Basics of Organization

I read their whole intro, identified their thesis out loud, then visibly checked that it matched up with topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph. I then read their conclusion to make sure it restated the thesis and didn’t contain any surprises.

In their argument essay, the lead teacher and I also agreed that we should examine their 4th body paragraph pretty carefully. The counter-argument/concession/rebuttal can be tricky.

For a couple of students, we didn’t get much past this. Other students had this level of organization down no problem and we moved on to details.

Don’t Ignore What They’ve Done Well

It’s tempting, when you’re looking at a strict 15 minutes of one-to-one time, to pile all the advice you can onto each student.

However, having one’s writing critiqued feels personal. If the instructor speaks of literally only negatives, at best it becomes teacher talk and at worst it breaks hearts.

On the flip side, if the instructor is too timid to say what needs to change because s/he is afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings, that’s not really instruction.

Yes, address the problems. But also acknowledge some successes.

Touch Base After Conferences

After class, I quickly spoke to the lead teacher about the conferences: overall impression, overall organization, if they had a lot of major revision to do or just detail work, and if I practically begged them to go to the writing center for more help.

In the hour I was there, I could only meet with four students, so this was not an overwhelming amount of information.

However, in the future I think I should also quickly fill out a pre-made form with these basic comments so she could refer back to my notes. I do like notes!

Provide Input on Final Paper

When the final papers were completed and handed in, the lead teacher found class time where I could read through my four students’ final drafts and use the rubrics to share my thoughts about grading.

To be clear, I did not grade them. The assistant teacher is not in charge of grading. It was just input in case she was on the fence between one grade and another.

 

We just did these formal conferences a couple of times in the semester, but it made a big impact! It’s hard to beat one-to-one communication.

How do you do writing conferences?

 

Photo Credit: ASU Department of English on Flickr

You’re reading Assisting the Teacher: Writing Conferences, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

Writing Class Round-Up

2985812434_fcbca88d72_b

Some posts most relevant to teaching writing:

The Writing Course

Highlighting the Value of a Writing Course

Shaping a Writing Course

Reading in a Writing Class

 

Process Writing

The Point of Writing

Outlining?

A Small Victory

 

Editing and Peer Review

Seven Editing Challenges

Scaffolding Editing

Scaffolding Peer Review

 

Citations and Plagiarism

Plagiarism vs. Real Life

Communicating About Plagiarism

On Teaching Citations

 

Photo Credit: Chris Gladis on Flickr

You’re reading Writing Class Round-Up, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

 

Activity Corner: Six Word Story

(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time. See all my ESL Activity Corner posts here.)

This is a nice little activity you can use as a warm-up, a mini-quiz, summary practice, or even grammar exercise, about basically any content.

7183700229_9082eb4451_b

We have that famous so-called six word novel:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

What else can our students convey in just six words?

In Six Words Or Less…

  • Introduce yourself to the class
  • Summarize the article/chapter you just read
  • Share your goals for the semester
  • Write down what you learned today
  • Describe someone important to you
  • Propose a topic for the next writing assignment

The possibilities are pretty much endless! Give it a try!

 

Idea Credit and further reading: Students Write Life Stories in Six Words or Less

Photo Credit: Rachel Torgerson on Flickr

You’re reading Activity Corner: Six Word Story, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

First Day Round-Up

A round-up of posts relevant to the first day of class!

9261243985_ac7e1502f0_b

Getting Ready

Beginning with the End In Mind – Thinking beyond the syllabus, log-ins, and diagnostic tests of the first day, to the larger question of how the semester should go.

Student Panel – Authentic introductions and warm-ups are important, according to a student panel at one of my colleges.

Student Questions – How will you be handling student questions this semester? Think about it, and set the expectation on Day 1.

Connecting Student and Syllabus – Best to start out with a plan for this!

 

Activities

Syllabus Activities – Ideas for going over the syllabus on the first day, plus more ideas for integrating it into class throughout the semester.

Conversation Jenga – A particularly great activity for Day 1 conversations.

Warm-Ups – All of my posts tagged “warm-up”

 

Journals

Awkward First Day – Classic journal post from my earliest days teaching EBS.

Comfortable First Day – Classic journal post from my days teaching EBS.

A Fresh, New Semester – My first day last semester – assistant teaching in for-credit EAP.

 

Photo CreditJeanne Menjoulet on Flickr

You’re reading First Day Round-Up, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

Assisting the Teacher: Getting Started

This is part of a series of posts called ESL Assistant Teaching Tips. I’m writing from the point of view of an assistant ESOL instructor in academic English classes at a community college. For background, here’s why I love assistant teaching, and here is what the basics of the set-up look like. I hope that other assistants will find this useful, and that this wonderful classroom model will spread!

My first semester assistant teaching was a fantastic experience, and one of the highlights was getting to know, observe, and collaborate with my lead teacher. But I have to admit, we got off to a slow start.

1736028367_c6473f8e31_z

Neither of us had ever been an assistant teacher, and neither of us had ever worked with one, either. To complicate things, she had graciously taken on teaching the class at the last minute when the need came to her attention, and I wasn’t assigned to the class until the second week. This meant we not only felt like we started out by playing catch-up, but we had both missed the training for working with/as assistants. So we had a bit of a learning curve.

Even though the following semesters had less confusion and scurrying, there was (and is!) still plenty to learn while navigating different courses, lead teachers, students, and semester events.

Based on all of that, these are my top five suggestions for getting started:

  1. Introduce yourself to the teacher. Not just your name and contact info, but a really short summary of your qualifications, experience, and what you have to offer. At least at our school, assistant teachers only need a BA or significant writing experience. One semester when I wasn’t proactive about introducing myself, it turned out that one of my lead teachers got most of the way through the semester before learning that I was an experienced ESL instructor with an MA TESOL! Where did I think she would learn this about me, if not from me? Oops!
  2. Introduce yourself to the class.  Sometimes I’ve been given the opportunity to introduce myself, and sometimes not. I drastically prefer introducing myself – I think it makes a huge difference with how students see me. My spiel to classes is similar to what I tell the teacher, mentioning that I’m a qualified teacher but not in charge of this class. I also emphasize that my job is to answer their questions, and that I really like this job!
  3. Attend the entire first class if possible. My assistant teaching gig starts the second hour of a two-hour class session, but ever since I began late in my first semester of assisting, I have asked to attend the entire first session of every class I could. I like that students see me there from the beginning, so I’m not extra. It also gives me some additional time to get a feel for my new lead teacher’s style.
  4. Find out if your lead teacher is accustomed to the assistant teacher model. The easiest way is to ask the lead teacher, though I think it would also be reasonable to ask the person who hired/assigned you. If your lead teacher is new to having an assistant teacher, be reasonably proactive with suggesting what you can do for him/her during class time. And when in doubt, circulate.
  5. Know your job description. At my college, assistants are specifically placed in classes to be an extra set of hands during class time. They are not to do subjective grading (e.g. major essays), preparation at home, etc. Particularly if your teacher is new to your department or new to having an assistant, be prepared for the possibility that you may have to decline tasks that are not within your job description. It does not feel good to say no, but I’m living proof that you can say it and still have a great relationship with your teacher. Focus on what you can do for them. If you find you’re saying “no” with any frequency, encourage them to speak to a head of your department if they have questions about your role.

It’s hard to believe that a few years ago, I’d only vaguely heard of assistant teaching at the college level, and I’m now it’s such an important part of my career and teaching perspective.

Here’s to a wonderful semester, everyone!

 

Photo CreditChris Conway, Hilleary Osheroff on Flickr

You’re reading Assisting the Teacher: Getting Started, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.