3 weeks in~ TEFL

It has been a strange but fun first three weeks. I had a friend make arrangements for me to teach an English class at the local library. I am doing it for free. And really, no one should have to pay for my unguided attempts. I am learning just as much if not more from this experience.

Just this the past week, I found a free online TEFL training course that has given me direction on techniques, lesson planning and so much more. I really needed the help. and it is boosting my confidence.

The biggest challenge is the class itself. The kids are great. But school schedules are vastly different here. There are morning classes and afternoon classes. Kids schedules rotate every week. The first week some kids only go in the AM and another group goes in the afternoon. Then the next week the first group goes in the morning and the other group follows in the afternoon.

This was something I (sorta) knew about, but didn’t plan for because I got lost in translation. (It happens a lot!)

The first week I had 20 kids from three separate schools. All of them were the same age, but some were not at the level specified by the librarians when they set things up with the school.  No translation was needed listening to her phone call, chastising who ever sent the kids who were a year behind in their English studies.

What I thought would be review songs turned out to be all new. The basket of nerves I was caused me to speak too fast. I never thought you could have stage fright as a teacher, but did!

At the end of that class, when I asked if anyone had anything they wanted to study, on kid wrote glagols. In the Srpski tongue glagols are not monsters, they are Verbs. Ya learn something new everyday, right?

I got the biggest rush when I came home that night.  I finally had something to focus on in Serbia. Purpose began to form. I was on top of the world!

The next week, I had eight new students who had the afternoon school shift the week before. There were four returning girls. I had planned a lesson and games for the ones that had been there before, so I mixed it up with the songs from the previous week and the verb lesson and worksheet for the that week. It was a decent lesson, but the presentation was a bit scattered. I forgot my makeshift whiteboard. Again, I was a nervous wreck even though I was thrilled to be there.

I still got a major high from teaching the class.

This week, after studying online, I had a better lesson planned for the kids from the first class. I had the verb worksheets, songs, and games all set up. I was much more prepared. At five o’clock two girls showed up, and a few minutes later 2 more. We chatted (good practical English practice) and waited a little, but started the class with four girls just before five fifteen. I followed my plan and then some of them told me they had never studied verbs before. Another curve ball! So I give them some basics on verbs and vowels so they understand a bit of how a sentence works. I have them write practice sentences and then we pick out the verbs. They all did great! Later they told me that was the first time they wrote sentences.

One more girl shows up after we have  almost completed that. There is just about a quarter of an hour left of class. We write more sentences and finish up with a game.

I know I am not a stellar teacher, but the change each week is throwing me way off-balance. I have seen just a few a ton of the mistakes I have made, but I am analyzing each weeks class over and over looking for things I could have done better. I really want to be a good teacher, but I don’t know what they know or don’t know, so I am lost.

The language barrier is the most nerve-racking to me. I get frustrated that I don’t know if they understand. Or I can’t understand them. Thank God for the little English prodigy in my class who translates everything, one of the amazing Fab Four! My greatest concern is turning some kids off to English, or confusing their other English class studies.

These are my thoughts on why I have lost the bulk of my students:

Many don’t understand me, they are slow to understand like I am with Serbian. And, I spoke way to fast in the beginning.

A few may have simply forgotten, but I am sure some just don’t want to come to ANOTHER class. Kids don’t really want to study. It isn’t that fun.

I think many may have been afraid to return after hearing the harsh call the librarian gave to the person who sent them all. Or maybe it was my song with Mr.Tallman A.K.A. the middle finger?

I think a lot of kids may have been interested to see a foreigner. This is a small town and I am the only non-Serb I know here. Curiosity could have been a contributing factor to my first large class.

I know that since this is a free class, parents are not making their kids come, I don’t even know if parents are aware of this class. The wonderful librarians set this all up. I just show up and teach. Since it is free, they aren’t losing any money not showing up.

A few of my mistakes:

Speaking too fast.

Not knowing what they already know.

Not giving new vocab words each week.

I should have a proper introduction routine for each class. I will do that next time.

My next class will be tailored to the 4 girls who come every week. I know they are eager to learn. I don’t mind having only four girls. It makes it easier to give each one English language practice with feedback. Small groups are best for learning, so maybe this is a blessing in disguise? 

I have started a question answer bit with them for my niece who is the same age back in the States. They send her questions and she will give the answers and ask questions in return.

I am wondering what to expect next week. I can’t help but think of the Forest Gump line, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!”

Comments welcome!! Actually, I am kinda begging for them.  Thanks Y’all!


15 thoughts on “3 weeks in~ TEFL

  1. I have no experience at teaching. But as I once (long ago) had to learn English as a foreign language, I would suggest “repeat and repeat” – it might sound boring to you, but at the beginning of each lesson repeat things from the time before… I guess preparation for you is very important, although must be quite difficult not knowing their level of knowledge, changing time schedules, and different pupils coming at different times…. I still remember one of the first things I learned in English – the nursery rhyme “one, two, buckle my shoes…. ” I am sure they love to hear you speak and are eager to learn.

  2. Because I was out of work I advertised English lessons on a one to one or for a group. A woman replied to my advert and has booked a course for a group of 9 friends. In a mad panic I have changed one of our rooms into an office / classroom. next I will go down on my knees and ask that the first lesson goes well. I have also just found a job. So it is win win week this week

  3. Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself! You’re making a big effort to get your head around teaching, and the groups don’t seem to be too coherent as far as the levels are concerned. Unless you can sort out your own groups, you can’t be expected to work miracles: dealing with strong and weak pupils in the same group is difficult. Hang on in there, and as I say, don’t beat yourself up, girl 😉

    • Thanks, I am not really too hard on myself. I am trying to see what I can learn from this experience in every way possible. I am probably over analyzing though! I really think I would like to do this more so I want to do the best I every step of the way. I love the kids. They are so fun!

  4. Sounds like you’re making good progress. And I wouldn’t worry too much about a loss of students — even when paying full tuition, some of my classes would be consistently at 50% capacity or less. It happens and it’s likely not your problem. Best of luck!

  5. The Q&A with your niece is a lovely idea. It’s hard knowing what to do when you’re never sure who’s going to show up. Polly’s right though – students are a fickle bunch! Even ones that seem really keen drop out every so often – you can’t take it personally. Just keep doing what you’re doing!

  6. Welcome to the wonderful world of TEFL! Kiddies classes can be some of the most frustrating and rewarding, you sound like you’ve made a better start than I did. Routine is great with kiddies…. chants, songs, rhythm activities where they have to clap to syllables/jump in time with the words and things like that, you’re doing a lot of that already and will pick up more as you get more comfortable with them. Don’t get too disheartened if it all doesn’t go to plan, even with the same kids they can sometimes be like different groups depending on what they’ve done at school, their mood etc

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