Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tempus Fugit (Time Flies)

It seems like yesterday that I returned from my Spring Festival vacation in Sanya, yet it has been a month since I last posted. Time indeed flies. I personally prefer to be busy rather than bored so I'm not complaining. You just notice it more as you age. In many ways things could hardly be better. I have added 5 or 6 classes and it has all come from word of mouth. Teaching in China has always offered challenges so it also keeps it pretty interesting. One cannot underestimate the value of the person who interfaces with the parents of the student. As English language schools grow this becomes more difficult. Classes are scheduled back to back and it becomes more and more trying to pass on the information to the parents. So if you are only teaching and not doing much in the area of dealing with the parents, consider yourself lucky.

Here is a dynamic you may find useful in your teaching. The age of the student wanting classes is very high at the ages of 5-11. You can effectively control about 16-20 if you have experience. Most have had some contact with some sort of schooling and considering their age they take to the classroom setting pretty well. I recommend a combination of drilling the lesson and then remove it from the book. Get it into the room. It's just the idea of making it more concrete or tangible. This is quite easy as the early lessons are quite simple, such as "what's your name". They tend to respond with more excitement if you can just get it out of the book and demonstrate to the student and parent that it is sinking into their heads. One of the best ways to do this comes in early command exercises, such as "open your book, close the window, clean the board". You can easily slide into "stand up please, sit down please, raise your hands" then make it a fun game of Simon Says. It really breaks up the boredom on both ends, teacher and student. This simple practice is perhaps one of my better areas, getting the lesson out of the book. It's not difficult and builds the skills effectively. Additionally, one must direct a bit of the over the top energy these ages have. Sometimes my biggest problem is the students saying "Teacher me", up on their feet begging to answer. This is of course a good problem to have, so you need to push that enthusiasm in the right direction and not stifle it with your own needs for "order". With the right mix of drill and improvisation within the lesson and classroom you can please the parents and they will beam with pride over their children's progress.

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