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What do teachers think about?

During my lessons my mind flitters between a multitude of different things as my attention gets diverted here and there between my students and my lesson plan. I thought it might be interesting to share some of the thoughts that run through my head as I’m delivering a lesson. So here is my thought process from the beginning of a class to the end. Just for clarification, I teach mainly teenagers and adults in my classes.




Okay, so the class is about to arrive. Do I have everything ready? I’ll just check again and glace over my lesson plan again. Looks good. Why do I still get nervous when I do this? Anyway, no time to think about that. The first few students have started coming in. I’ll ask them how they all are. Everyone seems to be ok apart from Josh. They say he’s sick and won’t be able to come this week. I hope it’s not too bad. Everyone seems to be in good spirits, apart from Stacy. She recently got some bad news so I know she may be in a sociable mood today. I’ll have to bear that in mind.

Okay. Everyone’s here now. I’ll just check my watch. It looks like it’s about time to start. I give the class something to do as a warm-up and ask them to work in pairs. I start to wander around the class, eavesdropping in on their conversations about the topic. Hmm, this pair seems a little confused about one of the questions. I’ll ask them what they think. Ah, they seem to have forgotten something that we did last week. Alright, they seem to remember now. I walk around some more. Everyone seems to be more or less ok with everything. Okay, time for me to check their answers. I stop the class and ask them what they think the answer is for each. Blank stares. I hate that. This means I have to pick someone. I’ll pick Julie and Rob. When I was walking around they understood this question, so maybe they can explain it. Good answer! We have just finished checking everything and I’m pretty sure everyone has understood everything. Time to move onto the main topic of the day.

I go through a couple of explanations on the board. I try to keep it brief. No matter how dulcet my tones are, I don’t want to drone on for too long. I give them a conversation to read together and I walk around again to check their pronunciation. This group seems to be struggling a little with a few words. I go through the words again and their pronunciation gets a little better. I notice a couple of students chatting out of the corner of my eye: “Have you finished?”, I ask in my polite teacher voice. “Yes”, they reply. Okay. Everyone seems to be about done. I walk to the front and explain the next activity.


Me when my joke doesn't land

I make a wonderful joke…at least I thought it was. No one reacts. That's a little annoying, that was a bloody good joke. Anyway, best not dwell on that. I hand out the activity to the students and they start to work in groups. The group at the front seems to be having a little trouble with the activity. ARGH! I’ve forgotten to explain something! I stop the class for a second and re-explain and set them off again. This time everything goes more smoothly. These two groups are getting on nicely, and they really seem to understand the task. Stacy doesn’t really seem to be participating in the group. I say: “Here’s an extra set. You can have a go by yourself and if you feel like joining the group again, I’m sure they will be happy to have you”. Was that the right thing to do? Hard to say. Maybe I should have asked her to participate more. But I don’t want to force her. I’ll leave her to it and come back a little later.


I walk around some more. The group at the back is struggling a little with something. I go to help them and realise that they have misunderstood something very important. I go to explain it on the board, and they all nod and say they get it now. I say: “okay”, but I make a mental note about that. Stacy has decided to join in with the group activity which is nice. She seems to be talking a bit more, too. I walk around a little more and talk with the students. Hmm, everyone seems to be getting on okay, but a number of people keep asking the same questions. I decide to throw out my next activity and do a re-cap of this problem. My poor lesson plan!


Actual footage of my carefully planned lesson before I had to throw it in the bin

Improvisation time! I decide to do away with my carefully constructed lesson plan to address the problem a number of students seem to be having. I always get a little nervous when this happens, because I now have to come up with a way to test and check everyone’s understanding. My weapon of choice is mini-whiteboards! I explain the problem again, and I come up with some quiz on the board, and get everyone to write down their answers on their boards. They all show me. Good news! It looks like they all understand the problem now. I make another joke and this time it goes down much better…which is weird because the first one was a stellar joke. Anyway, I only have a few minutes left and I still want to recap the lesson we did today. I decide to go back to my planned plenary and we just about manage to cover that before it’s time to go. I write the homework on the board to my class’s great (dis)pleasure and I wish them a nice day.


Phew! Lesson completed. Everyone got on really well today and I managed to get through all of my stuff, but there are still a few things I would tweak if I want to do this same lesson again. I make another mental note about the activities and the problems my class had, before getting ready for the next class. Time to do it all over again!


This isn't everything that goes through my mind during an average lesson. It really does depend on the class and he activities we're doing. Sometimes the activity goes really well and sometimes it doesn't, in which case I have to think very carefully about what to do next and improvise even more! It's all a balancing act. I have to keep everyone engaged with the task, without making it too difficult or too easy. I also have to try to not lose track of the weaker students who may need my help a little more. I tend to hover around their table a little, just so I can jump into action if there is a problem. I also need to make sure the more able students aren't bored. For that, I can have a couple of extra activities at the ready just in case.


I hope this was in some way enlightening! Or, at the very least, not painfully boring :)

Thank you for reading!


See you (well, I can't see you, but you know what I mean)


David

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