Teaching Reflection

As another semester comes to a close, I feel I should reflect on my teaching, and how I’ve grown (assuming I have). Reflecting is a good thing, especially when you need to feel like you’re doing something important while ignoring the pile of ungraded essays on the dining room table

The difficulty, of course, is accurately assessing one’s own effectiveness. Well, maybe I’ll just start by seeing if I can actually remember what I did, or if my brain refuses (it’s tired, poor little brain).

Mean Teacher

I actually had to be a bit of a mean teacher this semester. One reason I like teaching adults is that they generally pay for their own classes and therefore feel motivated to show up. Also, they tend to be fairly mature. I had a few students, however, who bucked the trend. I understand the need to nap (it’s like, my favorite thing some days), but if I’m going plan out a bunch of activities and present information that will help you, I want you awake! How are you going to learn if you don’t participate??

The first few times I noticed a snoozing student, I asked a neighbor to tap the student’s shoulder. That was usually enough. Sometimes I was a bit more vocal: “Are you with us, [redacted]?” I definitely called on students who were less than conscious (or, even worse, on their phones AGAIN and NOT using them as dictionaries!)

What was that I wrote previously about not talking about any of my students? Well, there were SO MANY who did this, there is no way this post could be seen as singling anyone out. And I really do feel a certain level of compassion for students who are not only mentally tired, but probably emotionally tired – traveling overseas to learn and function in a new language and culture is taxing!

But sometimes enough is enough and you bang on the table, saying, “Hey, wake up!”

Does this make me a mean teacher? One of the ladies at my mother’s salon says it makes me a good teacher, because it shows I care about their learning. I think I’ll go with that.

Passive-Aggressive Teacher

I’m usually rather direct (see above), if gentle in my phrasing. But sometimes I just don’t want to have to say things, even though I know they should be addressed.

I was probably at my most passive-aggressive this semester on the day we were discussing the use of the word “ignore” in a piece of writing. The author stated that her treatment by her peers was worse than being ignored – it was like she didn’t even exist to them. To make sure my students grasped the nuance, I asked them what “ignore” means. One student suggested “neglect,” which was good because neglect means not to care for properly, or not to pay attention to. “Ignore means you know something or someone is there,” I told them. “You just don’t pay any attention to it. Kind of like when I see you texting on your phones, but I choose not to say anything about it. That’s me ignoring it because I have better things to do.”

That was on the last day before the final. I had previously asked students not to be on their phones unless they were using them as dictionaries. I also had to ask a student to take out an ear bud… but it was back the next week. So, by the end of this class, I turned into passive-aggressive teacher. At least it was just that once (as far as I remember, anyway).

Good Teacher?

I had a few students approach me after the final and tell me they learned a lot in my class. That was pretty awesome. It makes me feel better about the mini MLA-style lectures I gave. I hate lecturing, but sometimes students just need to hear info and see examples. That’s how I justified it, anyway. And we did spend quite a bit of time discussing in partners, small groups, and as a whole class. So, maybe it wasn’t the boring little lectures that helped them, but hey, something worked. And I think everyone did improve in their ability to express themselves in English, in writing and speaking, and that’s why they’re there, after all. I hope that as they move on, either in our program, or at other schools/in other phases of life, that they take something useful from my classes with them (although it’s probably not going to be MLA-style citations).

Okay seriously, I need to finish grading their papers now.

All the Things – Including Teaching ESL to Adult Learners

I would love to write more about my writing, but if I’m not writing at the moment (or daydreaming about a story while taking a walk), chances are, I’m not thinking too deeply about it. This may or may not be a problem, but it’s my reality. I keep my brain very busy, out of preference (it doesn’t like being bored) and necessity – I have a job that requires a lot of thinking.

As a teacher, I’m hesitant to talk about my work online (What if my students read my blog? Why am I writing about this when I’m “supposed” to be writing about writing??).

The first isn’t really a problem – my students are all adults, and I would never write about any of them specifically. As for the second, well, that’s a limitation I imposed on myself. Maybe it’s silly. A writer is many things, and not only because we need to pay for food and shoes and sometimes puppy-related items. Sheesh, if all I did was write, I would have nothing to write about! I need to do things not-directly related to writing in order to give my brain space to work with the jumble of thoughts that somehow congeal into coherent stories; but I can’t do things that take up too much “brain space” or no writing will happen. Teaching, I think, will give me space/time to FINISHADANGNOVEL, but it is a challenging profession, especially when you’re new at it .

ANYWAY, did I mention I teach ESL? It’s AWESOME. Every day I teach, I interact with people from various countries, such as China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, India, Argentina, Taiwan, Chile, South Korea and Turkey (and this is not a complete list of all the countries-of-origin of the students I’ve taught since I began teaching ESL – wow, that was an awkwardly-worded sentence… but you know what I mean, right?).

Like I said, this is AWESOME. I get to interact with people who are basically on international linguistic adventures and help them along their ways. If this were a game, and they were player characters, I’d be like an NPC that helps them level up (yeah, don’t think of this as “homework” – it’s a QUEST). The only differences are I’m sentient and I go home at the end of the day (to try to write – or actually to write).

Now, if we view this from the “World of Audrey” perspective, in which I’m a player character on a mission – well, missions – I am leveling up so much right now in various categories (work-personal life balance, lesson planning, cooking, etc), some of which are, honestly, a little overdue (I used the oven yesterday to bake a piece of tilapia and was pleasantly surprised when it came out REALLY GOOD).

The best part is that I now have a field. No longer am I the little English major who only picked English because she likes to write but has no idea what she wants to do professionally, other than write, which, you know, is hard to make money at usually, or maybe go into publishing, which is hard if you don’t know anyone in publishing, according to the one person I ever met who works in publishing. Indeed not. I teach English as a second language to adult learners at a university.

Sorry (not sorry) for bragblogging, but isn’t that one of the coolest things ever? It may not rank with world peace, but I think it’s somewhere around playing tree rings like records and little chocolate shavings that melt on your tongue. I have a career now, like an actual adult – not that you NEED a career to be a real adult, but it’s one of many helpful indicators – and it feels so much better to say “I’m an ESL teacher” than “I work in customer service, taking calls to an 800 number, at a job so far from home I have no time or energy for hobbies.” Dang, 2007 – I do not miss you. Honestly, I don’t really remember much of you… I was tired.

Also, it makes my educational debt feel worth it, which, in this modern world of “everyone has to go to college whether or not it’s really useful for them, given their individual talents and inclinations, and here’s a bunch of loan money, and oh, what a coincidence that college tuition is rising so much,” feels like an accomplishment itself. (Can a feeling be an accomplishment? Hmm, sometimes. I think, so, anyway.) At any rate, it makes me feel okay about not having a talent for or inclination toward plumbing, or something similarly useful, practical and in-demand – because I’m useful. And, as there is a demand for work in this field, it’s also practical. Dang. A creative day-dreamer has a useful, in-demand job, that she acquired partly thanks to her practical, if expensive and still not-yet-paid-for, master’s degree.


Next step, full-time employment! <(;o_o;)>

What can I say? Life is one big, webby quest chain.