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First Christmas as a teacher

I still can't believe how quickly these last few months went by. Since September I have been working as a teacher and the funny thing is, there is a certain awkward ambiguity as far as 'waiting for Christmas' is concerned. On the one hand it feels like a very long stretch from autumn-break until Christmas. On the other hand time flies by not only when you are having fun, but also when you are totally snowed under. (Nice winter reference, innit?

Some of my new colleagues complained that teaching is all about quantity and not so much about quality and to some extent I have to agree with that. However, I believe up to now I also managed to come up with some decent quality lessons as well. Compared to the stuff my teachers did when I was still in school, I have to say that those PGCE-students and NQTs I have met are really pushing out the boat. It is just that sometimes I get the feeling that it is not very much appreciated by the students. Why this is the case is quite obvious: our mentor's gospel seems to be "student's activity" asmap. My teachers — and some of my veteran colleagues' — main — and even exclusive  — method is 'chalk 'n' talk'. Now, if you actually have to do something, this new English/History-bloke proves to be really annoying.

Although I have to agree with my history mentor, that the whole group work thing has some downsides as well that I didn't see at first: A student's presentation on a certain issue might do the trick for him/her. Preparing the whole thing is rather productive for his/her group, but those who only get the pupils presentation might not be able to acquire any in-depth knowledge. But you never know, listening to your teacher might also be less productive/instructive than most teachers hold it to be.

Another weird feeling I experienced over the last few weeks is teaching a group of German year eight students German history in English. At first it feels artificial, but quickly you get the impression that your students get some relevant input in a foreign language. It is not just that 'Peter-Paul-and-Mary' textbook stuff including pointless dialogues about the Kennedy-space-centre, our new friends Simon, Jack, Sophie, and Ananda, but something real. Something they actually care about. Even though it might only be the case since their next test paper is going to be about the subject matter your discussing with them.

Now the million-pound-question is: will their History-skills suffer? My guess: No. Because most students don't remember anything about history in school and those few who can actually keep a few things in mind will do so regardless of the language they are taught in. When I began my course at university I could hardly distinguish between the four main periods of history and I was really ashamed of myself, until I found out that most of the other students had the same problem. As terrible as this seemed to be at that time, my rather successful 'career' as a history student is sufficient proof to me that I can do very little damage to my pupils knowledge about history. And most certainly I won't ward of any problems by giving traditional lessons that didn't do the trick for me (and I was genuinely interested!) or a lot of people I met in uni.

Hey, I really came to a few conclusions in my first four months of teaching. If that isn't something I do not know what is. So obviously there was some time to reflect upon things and not only being snowed under.

2009-01-27 22:54:10