Well, I’ve been in my new job for two weeks now and so far – on the whole – it seems to be going well.
The first week was pretty straightforward and continued much as it began. On a few occasions, I was teamed up with another teacher as one or the other of us had only one learner in our class, and on two occasions I was sent home early. It was nice to get to know the learners a bit without the pressure of having to cover any of the course material. They seemed relaxed and happy and so was I.
Week 2 has been slightly more challenging, and has felt much, much longer!
My first year PET classes have all been absolutely fine. I feel quite comfortable working with teenagers and although the ‘welcome’ unit jumps around from one topic to another, it has provided an opportunity for them to revise some of what they already know, and for me to make an informal assessment of their starting points. As the week went on, I became more and more familiar with the content and refined my delivery – although I have to admit that by the sixth time, it would have been nice to have had some new material to work with!
The young learner (YL) classes have been more challenging. On Monday, I had my one and only Movers class (mainly 8 year-olds). Well, I got through it but not without constant entreaties to sit down, be quiet and listen. Never mind. It was a start and I feel like I’ve learnt which learners to keep apart if nothing else!
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, my YL classes were Starters (7 year-olds). On the whole, they went well – perhaps the learners didn’t yet feel confident enough to play up! – but in one lesson I did have a poor girl who was complaining that she didn’t feel well. We offered to call her parents but she said no, so I kept her in the class. She carried on with the lesson and was mostly quiet – other than asking me the time (and how long was left to go) every five minutes! I’m pretty sure it was just nerves, so hopefully once she starts to feel a bit more settled in the class, she’ll be ok.
Yesterday’s YL class was Flyers (10 year-olds) and they seemed so grown up after 3 days of Starters! I only had three learners in the class, but they were keen and happy to participate. I actually really enjoyed the class and they seemed to enjoy it too – right up until 80 minutes, when they seemed to reach saturation point. I guess that’s not bad going – and a good reason for having a selection of games up my sleeve!
But perhaps the hardest class of the week was with – theoretically at least – my highest level group. The group I saw last week certainly seemed lively and communicative. But this week it was another story altogether.
Only three boys turned up for the class (two of whom I hadn’t previously met) and for whatever reason, they seemed extraordinarily reluctant to speak to one another. I’m still not entirely sure why, given that my PET1 learners talk quite happily in pairs or small groups. I thought perhaps it was because they were the only ones present and so I could hear everything they said, whether they were speaking to me or to each other. But I tried leaving the room to see if that unblocked them. Nothing. I came back in to silence and no feedback. If I asked a question of one of them directly, I might get a two word answer, or I might just get a shrug. If I sat and waited, absolutely nothing happened.
After the best part of an hour of pulling teeth, I abandoned my lesson plan and showed them a short video clip I’d previously used with a private student. To my great relief, I managed to get some feedback from them in response to the video, although the follow-on discussion I’d hoped for didn’t exactly materialise.
Of course, I’ve no idea of the group dynamics just yet, but I didn’t get the sense that there was any animosity between the learners, just complete and utter disinterest. If anything, it was even more unsettling than having to deal with the younger learners’ mischievous behaviour! I can only hope that next time more of the class will turn up and they’ll all be a bit more talkative.
Today I’ve been printing out a few posters to help learners with key phrases such as ‘can I go to the toilet, please?’ And tomorrow I’ll start to plan my lessons for the week ahead.
It feels quite strange to be back into a routine, but not in a bad way, although I have yet to get used to having time to go out and about before work! I’m sure soon it’ll feel like the most natural thing in the world – but I’m not cancelling my 2pm ‘go home’ alarm just yet!