[Originally posted on Monday, September 15, 2014, at 10:10PM.]
I had my first taste, today, of watching my students team-teach. First up was my Monday/Thursday 3:30PM class of intermediate reading/writing kids. Team 1, a group of five students, had the floor. The first guy to present did a mediocre job at best; he told the class to do certain exercises in the textbook, then neglected to check answers, so I had to rush up to the front to do that work for him. He was also a bit hard to follow in terms of the clarity of his English, but that wasn't tragic. The teammates who followed him, though, did a better job, although the fifth team member misused a preposition ("I am on Seoul") and didn't know the difference between a synonym and an antonym. But the kids had paced out their lesson pretty well, and overall, I thought this was a decent first attempt. Team 1 has one more day to teach this week; I'm hoping their second day at the conn will be better than their first.
Next were my Monday/Thursday 5PM advanced listening/discussion students. These kids had freer rein to present the material however they wanted, and they selected an approach that mimicked the format of the exercises found in the class's textbook without actually using the textbook's content. The content they did use was from the film "The Social Network," which I had never seen before. The students presented film clips, stopped to talk about vocabulary from the scenes they watched (legal terms, idioms, etc.), and eventually led a very brief discussion at the end—one that didn't go over very well.
After the other students left, I sat down with the presenting team to review what had gone well and what had gone poorly. The team was fairly depressed; they assumed they had crashed and burned because they had failed to provoke much of a reaction from their classmates—who had, it must be said, just sat there saying and doing little during the discussion portion. I reassured the team that they hadn't totally crashed and burned: their overall organization had been good; their pacing had been good; I had enjoyed the way they'd handled a listening exercise (listen to film dialogue and fill in the blanks with crucial vocabulary). They could have done a lot to improve their presentation, but sometimes the best way to learn such lessons is the hard way. I think that's what happened today, and I expect this team to do a much better job on Thursday. They'll know, next time, not to pose questions to everyone in general (because questions posed to everyone will receive no answers from anyone): instead, they'll single out a student and ask him or her a question. They'll also break the class up into small discussion groups and will give each group a clear, specific task, making sure that all the students are talking.
I was annoyed to see that my advanced class had acquired another student—one who turned out to be something of a humorless you-know-what. She said she'd been sick for the past two weeks, which I found hard to believe. But I shrugged, asked her to give me a voucher from the hospital, and told her I'd mark her "excused" for the two weeks she'd been gone. I'm waiting for this class's attendance to stabilize, at which point I'll decide whether to break the class up into three teams instead of two. If students keep appearing and disappearing over the next month, it's eventually going to drive me fucking crazy.
So that was today. In general, I'm proud of all my students for making a sincere effort, and as the semester progresses, I predict that most of the pedagogical kinks will be smoothed out.