By 9 am next Monday, August 1st, I should turn in an article. In this article I should be examining how my teaching beliefs have (not) changed during the first term of working in my university. To set the scene and probably give more perspective into how one semester at a new workplace might very likely lead to some changes or clashes in one’s belief system, I should say that my new teaching context involves teaching within a unified curriculum. That is, teaching the same lesson 13 times a week to 13 groups of students in the way that is handed over to me (and 42 other instructors). It is a course in English Discussion and I see it as a good course that does get the students speaking the way we expect them to speak.
Throughout the term I had numerous conversations with a few colleagues (hey, N., H., A. and others), basically discovering and “examining” my beliefs on a daily basis. I realized I had a few. I realized I could not articulate them well (I doubt I can now but that’s what this post is for, in part). I realized it’s a choice to feel frustrated or liberated and challenged by not being able to teach the way you’re accustomed to.
I still don’t know what the article will be about or what my beliefs are, and so this blog post is to help me see it. The notes below were typed at various points over the past 4 months with the aim to help me figure out what was happening and capture any changes. Some of those might not make much sense to you as I’m contemplating certain stages of my lessons, as stages are what I must have and follow in my plan. You might sense that I feel uncomfortable with this idea. Parts in red are what I see as important, for now or the future, for the article or my own thinking.
Please do ask me questions about things.
April 11th (Lesson 1)
First classes! Feel fussy asking students to change seats (I have no system or idea how to do that) and it’s not clear at all how to ensure rotation of partners for a 9-people class. Timing for practice discussions is random (note: discussions are supposed to be 10 and 16 minutes long). Hard to focus on feedback – what do I monitor for? How do I make it thorough and structured, especially for tracking progress for each individual student? Forgot to introduce “How do you say… in English?”
All in all, I’m quite satisfied. Concerned about lower level students – I should remember to give them time to prep/note down their ideas! (note: this didn’t happen)
Significantly shyer, less talkative students. I forgot certain points that I aimed to mention and my monitoring and no grouping strategies are bothering me!
- Weird, not smooth, or no transitions between lesson stages at all
- I need to find a way to talk less
- Don’t elicit from some groups
Left books open for the second, long discussion – for ideas and questions – I think it helped, especially lower level students! (note: it is amazing to me how in this context every little change in class seems to matter and make a difference… or maybe it’s like that in any context, but I never had a chance to see it because I rarely, if ever, taught the same thing again and in the same way – or paid attention enough!..)
The idea of not having to correct or work on grammar or vocabulary is liberating!!!
It’s interesting to see my opinions change.
These 2 days of Review Lesson I’m having problems with managing/fitting in Discussion 2 and subsequent feedback. I need to stop rambling at some stages of class! I should also be more ready to cut prep time (note: there are prep activities we do before each of the two discussions).
I am really worried AND, again, I’m in a situation when I’m uncomfortable being too distant from students as per rules. Am I a teacher? What’s the definition of me as a ‘teacher’ in this course? How is ‘instructor’ different from ‘teacher’ and why does it have to be so different (or seem so for me)??
I’m considering ideas for my reflective paper.
- Students’ awareness of their own learning, why I feel it’s needed and is currently missing, how I could achieve that
- Students and teacher in reflective dialogue
The first half of the term I was so focused on and anxious about my PLAN – teaching all I have to teach, correctly and well – that I forgot to connect to students. Make personal comments, greet the way I would and have small talk, engage in simple conversations unrelated to my ‘teacher talking script’, rehearsed and acted out time and again. I think now I am getting better.
I want to be involved.
Some time mid-July
Some of my unarticulated as yet ‘beliefs’:
- L1 is OK
- (1) Writing is necessary in language learning. Writing helps and reinforces speaking.
- (2) There should be plenty of room for flexibility and spontaneity in *my* classes.
- (3) I need to feel at ease with time and syllabus to teach ‘unplugged’. Dogme, teaching from students’ emergent needs is beneficial for students (and comfortable for me).
- Reading is just as important as writing, ideally they should come together, in a meaningful combination.
- Technology has been part of my teaching for about 5 years, every time assisting in various ways depending on the context. I don’t rely on it but I feel its benefits very strongly.
- (4) Connecting emotionally (building rapport, being involved in class) is one of top priorities in my teaching. I can’t feel good or motivated to teach if the connection is not there.
- I believe in co-creating the syllabus of a course together with students, which means different goals, different materials, different approach every time.
- Vocabulary is of crucial importance.
- Everything I’ve written above happens through communication in class. Does it make these classes CLT-type classes or the opposite of such? I don’t know, neither do I care much. Maybe I believe in non-labeling.
Many of those beliefs might have led to (?) unstructured, for the most part, classes in which it was often hard for me and students to chart progress.
Are my teaching beliefs influenced by my own language learning preferences?… I’m not sure. But I wonder what was it that formed those beliefs in me over time.
***** end of notes*****
I would appreciate any comments, thoughts, links, criticism, support, likes, or other. I wonder if any of you have experienced teaching in a similar context. I wonder if you have recently “examined” or stated your teaching beliefs and what happened. I wonder if you think it’s important to stick to your beliefs.
Thanks for reading.