Taking Notes

 

6016780468_67a298ed8eUnrelated to teaching, I began bullet journaling this year. It’s kind of a thing, but having done it for several months, I see why it’s popular.

The idea with a bullet journal is that it’s for everything, so I took it to class with me. And rather than just say to myself, “that activity my lead teacher just did was so awesome, I’ll definitely remember it whenever I begin lead teaching again,” I went ahead and jotted them down. I collected way more ideas than I’ve written up for this blog.

While I was jotting, I also took notes on student reactions to all sorts of things – activities, assignments, assignment review, conferences, etc.

And while I was thinking about those, ideas popped into my head speculating as to why their reactions were so different than what I’d expected, or other interesting activities, or different angles for lessons, and even blog posts to publish in this space.

Taking notes helped guide and expand my thinking about our class in a way that I hadn’t expected. I went from wanting to feel a bit more organized as a stay-at-home mom, to poaching great ideas from my lead teacher, to really pretty deeply considering the intersection of the students and the syllabus.

Also unexpected: I’ve reread my notes several times already. Since they’re in my bullet journal and I always have my bullet journal on me, rereading happens pretty organically.

I’ve already characterized assistant teaching as amazing professional development, and I found this semester that taking notes took my learning and reflection to another level.

 

Photo Credit: matryosha on Flickr

You’re reading Taking Notes, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

 

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On Unfriendly Students

15781780806_450ff528e2This semester, we have one student who came across as unfriendly at first. It was hard my finger on why, or on whether it seemed to be more of an aggressive thing or a defensive thing.

It turned out to be a defensive thing, from years and years before she even came to the USA. It had nothing to do with me at all.

Finding this out made it a lot easier for me to interact with her.

But Emily: you’ve never seen it not be a defensive thing. So just go ahead and assume that they’re protecting themselves for a reason that makes sense to them, and act accordingly.

 

Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis on Flickr

You’re reading On Unfriendly Students, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

Learning to Meddle

As I mention basically every post nowadays, I’ve been assistant teaching for a couple semesters, and it’s completely awesome.

I think I did a fine job in my first semester. The class was pretty small and pretty quiet, and everyone kept to themselves. I mostly worked with the same few students, though I did try to touch base with everyone each session. Sometime near the end of that semester one of the students I helped all the time said something funny and I smiled, and she remarked that it was so nice to see me smile sometimes because I was always so serious. I really enjoyed that semester, and I was chagrined to find out that I was hiding it so well!

So this semester my number one goal was to come across as less grave and more friendly.

At first, this took the form of just making sure to smile even if I felt awkward.

And I’ll be honest, I was feeling very awkward about offering help. I mean, I’ve always been more than happy to help anyone who asks, but I figured that not everybody wanted my help. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted the assistant’s help when I was a student. And did it make sense to interrupt people’s trains of thought to see if they had any questions? I personally dislike being interrupted.

So I walked around remembering to smile, and helped out the few people who flagged me down.

But one thing I could do a lot as an assistant was observe. And as I observed this class, I realized that the students in this group were interacting with each other all the time, and that this was deeply connected to the very positive, energetic feel of the class. When I first described it to my husband, I exclaimed in disbelief, “They meddle with each other! And they like it!”

I realized that there was a significant divide between our cultures and expectations. And I figured that if they liked being meddled with, my respectful restraint probably came across instead as standoffish, even when I smiled.

The only way toward my goal was to join in the meddling.

This was definitely outside of my comfort zone. I’m kind of shy, and I fear being annoying. And it was extra unnerving to treat people in a way I was pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be treated. But I did it anyway.

It went so well.  It was an absolute joy.

The response was immediately 99% glowingly positive. I had to work a little bit on one person, but we got there in the end.

And I learned so much.

I learned to check that people understood the task’s instructions right away. (This is less obvious during class when I understand the teacher’s directions perfectly.)

I learned that talking face to face with one person or a very small group had much more impact than speaking from the front of the room.

I learned to go ahead and interrupt.

I learned to gently joke that if I did their writing for them, I’d be getting the grade.

I learned to have them remind me that they were next in line to work with me.

I relearned some basics for about the 600th time: to always start from what they know, to use examples, that they won’t remember what’s not written down, and to speak reasonably simply to reduce their cognitive burden.

I learned to help without leading. And I learned that leading is very distracting.

I learned to reach out in a way that I’d somehow missed before.

I’m grateful. And I’m looking forward to learning from my next class in the fall.

 

You’re reading Learning to Meddle, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

Ending with the Beginning In Mind

3526550845_d4e3d14c85As class starts to wrap up, here are some of the end-of-semester thoughts that are on my mind:

  • what are their lasting take-aways (content and impressions)?
  • are they prepared for their next courses? How do I know?
  • am I proud of myself? Why?
  • what did I learn?
  • am I prepared to teach/assist better next time? How?
  • feeling sad that an enjoyable routine is coming to an end
  • feeling inspired to fill that time in great ways this summer
  • feeling excited to assistant teach again in September

So looking back, looking at now, and looking ahead. Thinking, feeling, wondering.

The funny thing is, right now I can’t actually imagine what it’s like to be at the beginning of a semester. I’ve been there, you know, a lot. It just feels a universe away from right now.

I’m guessing that as the summer comes to a close, I’ll be wondering what it feels like to be at semester’s end as I start to face an unknown new one.  So here’s where I’m at right now, Future Emily!

Looking forward to the last few sessions of a great semester, and looking forward to writing Beginning with the End in Mind in a few months!

 

Photo Credit: Nicholas Canup on Flickr

You’re reading Ending with the Beginning In Mind, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

 

Three Links About Seeing

So much important reading this past week.

Please check out these three short pieces. Each one is worth much more than the 30 seconds it takes to read it.

 

“Five years ago, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, I wanted to dye Easter eggs with my kids.”

 – Seeing Things from Another Angle by Alanna

 

“The whole ESL class walked to the library yesterday. Young children, too. When we emerged, it was raining. Then this happened.”

 – Something Right In The World by Marilyn

“Emotional connection is our default. We only added words and symbolic logic much later.”

 – With The Sound Off or On? by Seth

Why Assistant Teaching Is Completely Awesome

Last year, I was feeling overwhelmed with balancing my at-home duties and my teaching duties. I’m certainly not the first person in the world to feel that tug of priorities! Everybody makes the decision that’s right for them, and for me, the right decision was to decline taking on a class that semester. I was sad but relieved.

I was then offered the opportunity to assistant teach, and it was so wonderful that I signed up to do it again this semester.

Before I gush too wildly about how much I love assistant teaching, I do want to admit that I miss lead teaching. This week the teacher spent some time going over essay expectations (again), handing out rubrics, etc., and I seriously felt nostalgic about all of it. And since I’m so separate from the grading, I don’t have a complete picture of which students are struggling on their assignments and how they’re struggling. I mean, I can see their grades, but that’s very different from doing the grading. So there’s some disconnection there.

With that out of the way, here is more about what I am getting out of my assistant teaching gig:

Light As A Feather

I get to breeze in without preparing anything, work with the teacher and students on an as-needed basis, and then breeze out again without that big stack of grading. It’s very fun and relaxed!

Professional Development

I get to be in an hour of every session of someone else’s class. Sometimes I play second-banana, and sometimes I observe. Either way, it’s fascinating and I’m paid to be there! I have taken notes on so many great activities and explanations these past two semesters. It’s way better than a conference because it’s embedded in an actual class with real students across a whole semester.

Observing Students

My time is either spent conferencing with students or watching the class. Since I’m not running the show, I have attention to spare for keeping an eye on the quiet ones, watching people’s faces, seeing exactly which word tripped people up (and jumping in if needed, which is rare), and just being a fly on the wall and getting a perspective other than that of Leader Of The Class.

Working Closely With Another Teacher

Being an adjunct instructor is a lonely business! Especially working at secondary campuses and working at night – I just don’t usually have a lot of contact with my wonderful departments and colleagues. Being an assistant teacher, I’m always with my lead teacher, and any work I do supplements her agenda. This is really different from what I’m used to, and it’s valuable and refreshing!

Balance In My Life

All that time I’m not spending trying to prep lessons, write tests, keep track of late homework, and grade essays? I’m using it to blog, go to bed early, organize the house, start up a garden, donate the baby stuff my kids have grown out of, etc. I even get to read sometimes! I don’t feel so stressed and depleted. I have more to give. It’s good. It’s really good.

Prep

When I’m ready, I would be overjoyed to lead teach this class. And while assistant teaching it any number of times will certainly not make it “easy,” I am way more prepared to dive in than I would have been just reviewing the previous teacher’s syllabus. I have tons of specific activity ideas, familiarity with the textbook (though they’ll likely switch textbooks by the time I get there), and observation hours ready to inform my decisions, lessons, assignments, and grading. I’m looking forward to that semester, whenever it turns out to be!

You’re reading Why Assistant Teaching Is Completely Awesome, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

Three-Phase Lesson Planning

8543315720_4c4676260bOne elegantly simple way to lesson plan is to go through these three phases:

  1. I do it
  2. We do it
  3. You do it

In other words, first you introduce what the students will be learning. Then you all practice it together. Lastly, students have the opportunity to practice it more independently.

I want to be clear that I did not invent this. I learned about it in several conversations and trainings. It’s not the only way to lesson plan – just a really helpful tool to have at your disposal.

Five things I love about this lesson planning lens:

  1. “Do.” In a language classroom, we are using the language to do things. We should not just be learning about the language.
  2. Teacher Talk (or TTT) is in its place. It serves phases two and three. It introduces and then steps aside. It is not the point.
  3. Metacognition. Students need to have ownership of their own learning. One way we can support this, even within the confines of a syllabus-led class, is to be up front about the strategies we use. This lesson plan is an easy one to communicate.
  4. Buy-in. Some students might not think that group work or fluency activities are “serious.” Particularly adults accustomed to a non-communicative way of language learning. Showing that this is an intentional part of a methodical plan can help them try it out with an open mind.
  5. Over-thinker support. I am a classic over-thinker. There are lots of detailed lesson planning suggestions out there, and they rightly point out the bazillion factors you should consider in your lesson plan. This one helps me take a step back and see in broad strokes if I have a pretty good plan or if I’ve been rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Does anyone out there use this lesson planning method?

Photo Credit: Tim Green on Flickr

You’re reading Three Phase Lesson Planning, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.