I know what you’re thinking: “Where in the world have you been?!” It’s been almost two months since my last post, and some of you certainly started to wonder what had become of me. Well, you can now rest assured that I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I haven’t been deported from France, and I haven’t given up on je parle américain. I’ve just been very busy the last few weeks. More French classes? Writing that historical novel? Well, no … I’ve been working … finally … as an English teacher.
Yeah, it has been a while. I know that I told you I’d try to post something every now and then while slogging through my CELTA training course, but it really hasn’t been an option, guys. I promise.
Here’s a picture of what my average day has been like for the last three weeks:
I wake up around 5 a.m., practicing the day’s lesson plan in my head and obsessing over the gaps that I couldn’t recall during my anxiety-ridden dreams, I try to go back to sleep, and I succeed in dozing until around 7:15 a.m. (or 6:45 a.m. on days when I have teaching practice). Then it’s up and at ’em … I arrive at school some time between 8:15 a.m. and 8:45 a.m., where I print out lesson plans, exercises and materials, or written assignments.
Our instructional sessions start at 9:15 a.m. That’s where we learn about every conceivable facet of teaching methodology (and a bit of English grammar to boot). Then it’s “teaching practice consolidation” from about 12:30 p.m. until about 1:00 p.m., when we review our lesson plans with the other trainees who will be teaching during the same 2-hour class in the afternoon. (Since we have 40-minute lessons each on the days when we teach, there are always two other trainees with whom we have to coordinate our lessons to ensure that the afternoon is a cohesive and productive experience for the students.) Then comes lunch, but I don’t really eat much, because I’m usually spending that hour or so revising my lesson plan, making last-minute changes to the materials, and nervously anticipating my lesson. Then it’s show time—a two-hour lesson for a class of anywhere from four to ten EFL students!
I’m exhausted! In the last two nights, I’ve slept a total of 9 hours. I don’t expect this to get much better any time soon, either. Methodology and language analysis sessions every morning + teaching practice or observation every afternoon + 4 or 5 hours of lesson planning or homework every night = a hard row to hoe.
Writing lesson plans is truly an art … and a time-consuming one at that. Thank all the good teachers in your life for putting the effort into making good plans for what they taught you. Most of us have no idea how much thought and work go into that. That’s probably because the best teachers just make it look so easy.
My first lesson to a group of real, live students was on Tuesday afternoon. It went really well even though I was nervous enough to feel like throwing up for two hours before it even started. My second lesson on Thursday was personally disappointing. I felt extremely stressed because of last-minute changes to the lesson plan. According to my evaluator, though, it went well. Today’s lesson, on the other hand, was nothing short of a disaster. I tried to accomplish too much, and my instructions weren’t clear enough or adequately reinforced. My evaluator didn’t argue with my self-assessment, but at least I didn’t get raked over the coals. Instead, she pointed out my strengths and was glad to see that I immediately recognized the areas where I overstretched. Maybe it’s a training rule not to crush your spirit at the outset? (By the way, “freer stage” lessons—for anyone who’s familiar with the concept—are not as easy as they seem.)Continue reading Can I sleep now?
When I moved to Paris sixteen months ago, I had what I thought was a pretty good plan: 20 hours a week as a French student and 20 hours a week as an English teacher. After all, I had always been attracted to the idea of teaching, even though I had never pursued it as a career. “Why not try it now?” I thought. “This is the perfect time, and this is the perfect place to start.” I had been assured that teaching English was the “easiest field to get into here” and, as an overeducated former lawyer, I thought I had a pretty impressive résumé.
As it turns out, it wasn’t going to be that easy. The truth of the matter is that native English speakers are a dime a dozen in this city, and most good teaching positions require a certification that I don’t have. The disappointment of discovering that I wasn’t a ready-made English teacher plus the demands of my own French classes ended up putting my plan on the back burner … that is, until I recently looked at my bank account and decided that it was high time to turn the heat up again. Continue reading I SPEAK American, but I TEACH English.