Today I taught what I (now) feel might have been the worst class I have ever taught in nearly 20 years of ELT.
To add to it (or just because Murphy loves me…) I was being observed by my school’s pedagogical coordinator. I was observed because it is part of our routine, to be formally observed. But first and foremost I was being observed because I had asked to. It has been a while since I have last taught beginner adults and I wanted to make sure I was doing it right.
It was all fine in the beginning. I got the students to stand in a circle, talk about how they were feeling, practice new chunks of language…
And then…. Booom!!!! Disaster hits! The Power Point I had prepared as an activity to last 20 minutes – and be the lead for the rest of the class – didn’t work. What??!?!
What do you do when something like this happens? You improvise, you tap from the pool of activities and knowledge you have built over the last (nearly) 20 years, right? Right!!!
What if your mind goes blank?
Because that’s what happened to me. Despite having taught the present simple countless times, and this being a revision, I panicked. I couldn’t think of what to do. Frustration took over for a minute or two and I didn’t know what to do next. Within a few minutes I managed something, let go of the PowerPoint which had taken me an hour to do, and moved on. I drew a smiley face and a sad face on the board and wrote things I liked / didn’t like to do. And I moved on from there, got students talking, monitored… But still I feel like I fell short. And you know what?
I did. I feel I fell short and I know I could have done better. And that makes all the difference,
We all have bad days, don’t we? Maybe it was the frustration of having thing go wrong, maybe it was the fact I was being observed that made me nervous… I just wasn’t myself. But it worked. And I feel the students learned. So why am I writing about this?
Because most teachers are terrified of being observed. They feel their job (or life) depends on every move they make, every activity they do – especially when being observed. But surprisingly enough, I didn’t.
I was upset (to say the least) the class hadn’t work the way as planned. I knew it wasn’t the kind of class I’m used to teaching. But it was all fine. No nervousness, no anxiety. I just want her (the coordinator) to observe me again in the same class.
Now… a few years ago, being observed in such a lesson would have devastated me. It would have made me crumble and question my abilities as a teacher. But tonight, it didn’t. And I left the room feeling ok, and analizing the lesson so as to think of what could I have done differently / better? I didn’t feel I was a bad teacher, or incapable. I was frustrated, yes, but that was not as important.
So what has changed? Is it me or the classroom? Is it my self-confidence as a teacher? Does having 20 years under my belt make a difference? Should it? Is experience in the classroom THAT important? Or is confidence more important? Or, even more complicated, are experience and self-confidence so tightly related?
I’d really like to know what you think, and hear about your worst classes.