You`ve heard it a million times in varying junctions of your academic or professional careers, but its never been more true than in the teaching field; be prepared. Being prepared is without a doubt the one aspect that will set your English class apart and guarantee it is a success, which it basically needs to be in order to be affective.
Now that we’ve pointed that out, I’ll start by assuring everyone that I am never the most prepared person in the classroom, at least I didn’t use to be, until I discovered its benefits first hand. In the mid 2000’s, when I started the glorious path of TEFL teaching, I would purposely try to spend as little time as possible on preparation and as most time as possible on taking in the magnificent new culture I found myself engulfed in. Trust me, some classes paid the price and were less than stellar to say the least.
So what changed? At what point did I realize the benefits of a constant smooth class in which the students learned regularly and left feeling the confidence they deserve, especially considering they are, in most cases, paying customers.
One of my infamously idiosyncratic qualities has always been my ‘all or nothing’ mentality on things that interest me. I’ll give you a few examples. As a pre-teen, I developed a huge interest in horror films, and have since seen just about every horror film from the mid 1920’s to present day. That’s a bold statement, obviously I haven’t seen every one, but just about. It’s safe to say years of my life have been spent watching films. Around the same time I developed a love of music, and took up playing the guitar and drums. I once made a playlist of all of my ripped music and it would take me over four years to listen to every song at least once. The scary part is I have in fact listened to every song, at least once. I do of course multitask so I did not lose an 8th and a ½ of my life strictly to listening to music.
These interests might seem obsessive to some, but they are not to me. They are just that; interests. They are interesting to me. Not because I want to be the know-it-all sitting at the bar on a Friday night. I`m pretty sure no one wants to be that guy. I just enjoy these things so much that I want to experience and know as much as I can. So after years of hit or miss classes, I decided to incorporate the same methodical preparation into my lessons, and be fully prepared for anything that may come up, which will ultimately lead to nothing but good days for you, great learning experiences for the students and the time to enjoy your own personal interests.
While learning to be the best teacher you can be. Don`t set out to be the best teacher tomorrow. Learn good habits and methods. Talk with other teachers. Just try to be a little better each day and eventually you will be teaching with ease.
For me the key was time management and setting a routine. I took the same time every day and devoted it to researching the aim of my next lesson and preparing the materials needed, as well as the layout out the lesson plan itself. Lots of people, myself included, wake up in the morning and drink their tea or coffee while reading the news. I basically would use this concept, usually immediately after work. It doesn`t matter how much time it takes, just as long as you, the teacher, feel comfortable.
Pretend to be the student yourself. Re-learn exactly what it is you will be teaching. You probably already know the grammar point for example, but be sure to learn all the ins and outs, and most importantly; the why’s. Your students will ask you, and there is nothing more embarrassing then having to double check and get back to them. You can even keep resources like the Grammar Guide on hand in class to help with preparation. It can also be helpful specifically when situations like this arise. It’s always beneficial to verify with 100% certainty.
After each lesson I would then take notes, what worked and what didn`t. You have to keep in mind different cultures as well as different age groups. So every time you teach a new group of students, it’s a great idea to take some personal notes for your records. It will help you loads next time you prepare.
Ask your students for feedback. A lot of teachers have a self-conscious attitude towards feedback, but it truly is one of the most beneficial methods of growing as a teacher in the world of TEFL. The students main goal is to learn, yours is to teach them. They will be your best resource for finding out if you are going in the right direction.
Once you develop habits and routines while creating your lesson plan, you can eventually go from doing this every day, to say doing the whole week worth of lesson plans, on a Sunday afternoon perhaps, and before you know it you will be able to spend every night of the week free to do as you choose. Most importantly, your students will be well on their way to learning in the process.
What works best for you while preparing? Let us know in the comments below!
By Adam House