Post-observed lesson reflection: When it all goes wrong!

I was observed teaching today – TP 2/4 of my International House Young Learner course. I spent hours and hours preparing it (several on Saturday, several yesterday, several more today) – writing out the plan, tweaking the plan, thinking it through etc. I thought it was a good plan. Oh my goodness could a lesson have ever gone more wrong? Could I have ever been more wrong? I don’t think so…

Well, I have to do a reflection for it to submit to my observer, of course, so I thought I’d reflect on it here first. 

On the plus side, I can see where I went wrong:

In the planning stage:

  • One of my assumptions was that they would have met the present perfect at school. I didn’t expect them to be able to use it but I thought they would have come across it and be familiar with the form. A few had. Most hadn’t. 
  • The template I made for them, based on the poem that the book used to contextualise the language, was too long. I made it the same length as the poem in the book. I should have made it shorter. In the event, they didn’t get on to the freer practice activity where they were going to ask each other their questions, in a speaking ladder. And some of them had trouble coming up with enough ideas despite the brainstorming we did before they started writing. 

In the classroom:

  • I was tense, due to being observed, so instead of the usual relaxed, happy atmosphere, everything felt very awkward and stilted. 
  • The lesson plan was so detailed, pretty well scripted, but I couldn’t remember what was on it and that stressed me out even more. I don’t think detailed lesson plans and I go together. Not that amount of detail. I should have made a normal ‘me’ lesson plan as well, so that I could refer to that not the formal one. Something I could glance at and remind myself where I was and what was next. As it was, I forgot the order, forgot to talk about the meaning before moving to the form – the kids got me back on the right track by questioning the meaning, at least! A very stupid mistake. But I was flustered and it happened. On the plus side, they did eventually understand, after I used my timeline to explain it.
  • I couldn’t turn off the projector because the remote control had got lost under all my stuff. So it was noisy and there was the blue screen of death, and I knew that all too well, but I couldn’t do anything about it! Ridiculous.
  • My activity for eliciting the form (a projection of a summary of the form with parts blanked out for them to stick coloured words onto) was too complicated. It needed more scaffolding. This perhaps comes down to my incorrect assumption. I thought if I gave them more help, i.e. less gaps on the projection, it would be too easy. But also, it should have been a table, to make it clearer. 
  • I was supposed to ask the learners to memorise some past participles, it should have been half of those in the back of their book. I got that all muddled up and asked them to learn a ridiculously long list of verbs on a bookmark with the verbs on that I had given them as an aide. Poor little sods. They must have thought I was off my head. 
  • Then there was the pronunciation activity. By this point, I was really floundering and flustered and couldn’t remember what on earth I was supposed to do. So it all went a bit wrong. I was all the time trying to remember, “what did I say was going to say/do now? Arrgh!” Oh and also, the poem projected onto the whiteboard was too small – that created extra problems with managing the pron. activity which required them to look at it and produce the questions related to the statements. So I had to have them open their books, more faffery. And standing them up to generate more energy failed because of the book thing – they stood up without their books, sensibly enough, but needed them. Teacher management fail! 
  • Then came the writing, with the too-long template (see planning, above!). By this time, timing had gone thoroughly out of the window. And the too-long template took too long for the learners to complete in time to do the freer practice activity. Finally, I had to ask them to finish it for homework (those who hadn’t). 

But there was a positive side too (amazingly enough):

  • The beginning of the lesson (other than letting the routine get too faffy), was good – the learners matched words and pictures and put the cut-up lines of the context poem into the correct order and they were engaged by that. 
  • …erm. I’m struggling to think of any more! Maybe a very small positive side then… (I’m sure there were more…maybe…if so, I will add them later when I’ve had more time to think!)

I came out of the classroom envisaging a career change to data entry. For me, one of the worst things is, because I got a distinction for Delta module 2, I feel like my observers (for both this lesson and the last TP), who both know I did obviously, must watch me teach and wonder how on earth I managed to do that. *I* wonder how on earth I managed to do that. On the other hand, that was for adults. YL’s are a rather different kettle of fish. 

I do wonder if doing this course so soon after finishing my last courses was a good idea. But on the other hand, I clearly need a LOT of help with the whole young learner teaching malarkey! Even if I don’t manage to pass the course in the end, I will still have learnt a lot. I already have. Maybe that is the main thing.

So, next step: Write the reflection and then prepare for the next observation. What have I learnt from today’s experience: A lot. So hopefully my children will forgive me for today and I can use what I have learnt to make their next lessons better… 

My simple question to you today: What do you do when it all goes wrong? 


9 thoughts on “Post-observed lesson reflection: When it all goes wrong!

  1. Hi Lizzie,
    Don’t despair! That sounds like a fairly average grammar lesson with a YL class for me, and I did the IHCYL three years ago 🙂 So glad I don’t teach any classes that size at the moment!
    You’ve obviously learnt a lot from the lesson, and as you said, teaching YLs is a whole other kettle of fish. Don’t let you distinctions hang over you 😉 – you deserved them, but every lesson is different, and sometimes they just go wrong. The best thing to do is to salvage what you can during the lesson, then reflect on it like you’ve done here, and try not to repeat the same mistakes. If you do, then it really has gone wrong, but until then, it’s all part of the learning process!
    Good luck with the next one!

    • Thanks, Sandy. I’ve yet to do the official reflection – need to do it today though, asap really – but have certainly thought plenty about it! I only just scraped through my last observation so I suspect I will have failed this one. On the plus side it won’t be through not having put enough effort into the preparation stages. It just went wrong. I can live with that and learn from it and move on from it. And at least after the next one I get a holiday! Well 4 days after it, anyway… Much needed… 😉 Anyway thank you for the kind and indeed sensible words – very helpful! 🙂

  2. Hi Lizzie,
    When it all goes wrong, I try to make it right the next time 😉 .
    Now back to your situation dear, some few points I wanted to comment on if I may:

    •“I was tense” Well, we all are. The good thing is that most of the time, no one could see it but you. Psychology plays a great role in here. You could feel so bad but they “Ss & Observers” wouldn’t even notice a thing. I always try to remember this when I’m teaching. No one knows what goes inside my head but me.
    •“I couldn’t remember what was on it” Yes, that damned detailed plan. But! One way to avoid forgetting steps in the future and solve other problems as well is to master Microsoft PPP. Adding timer to the slides, pictures to remind you of each and every stage, and a resting slide for times when you have nothing but the blue death screen are all things that help. Technology is a wonderful thing.

    All in all, implementing a lesson for YL is an achievement on its own. Be proud!
    Love reading all your posts

  3. I have a friend who is both an ELT teacher and an actress. We once had a conversation about the difference that I find very helpful. I hope you will too.
    Actors get one chance with a particular audience. It has to work for them that day and that time and thats it. No second chances.
    Teachers spend time with their classes. They build a relationship with their students. Sometimes lessons go wrong. But students do remember good things from previous lessons and you have the opportunity to have more positive experiences together in future lessons.
    Think about it!

  4. Teaching YLs IS very different. You have to be so much on top of every little thing. And sometimes lessons like this happen. I had one at IH Poland which was not only a runaway train but was being videoed as an example of how to do it well! ;Hmmm…maybe it worked as an example of how NOT to. It generally gets easier though as you develop routines with the class, and develop more confidence.

    • Mine could have been filmed as the ultimate “how not to”!! Nevertheless, I’ve since had the feedback and tried to implemented it, resulting in a great improvement in the subsequent lesson – thank goodness… The children seem to have forgiven me 😉 Thanks for replying and your insights. Lizzie.

  5. I have been teaching for 20 years, and today I was observed formally…and my lesson went wrong! It happens to the best and most seasoned teachers. We always learn from our students, though. We just need to then readjust, assess, change the lesson to meet the needs of the students, and move on (and hopefully don’t take things too hard when the lesson go wrong!) 😉

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