I had to complete an appraisal form recently, in which one of the questions asks about input from workshops and feedback from observed lessons, and whether you’ve implemented this or not. At IH Palermo we are lucky enough to have workshops timetabled in to our week on a regular basis (once every two weeks) as well as formal and informal observations, both of which are developmental. In addition to the two formal observations I’ve had as part of the in-school development programme, I’ve also had four further observations due to doing the IH Young Learners and Teenagers training certificate. A fairly predictable result of this is that as well as experimenting with all (not all, I’m working on it but there’s a heeeeuge amount to be going on with!!) the theory I was exposed to during my M.A. in ELT with integrated Delta at Leeds Met and what I’ve added since through my own reading and exploration, I’ve been systematically incorporating things picked up, both from workshops and all those many observations.
Following the reflections required by the above-mentioned form, I’m going to share one of those things with you now. Just one. One tiny one. And, as you can gather from the post title, it’s a tiny thing that has made a BIG difference! Once you have read mine, I invite you to share something of your own (as a post on your own blog – post a link to it in the comments section of this post so that everyone can have a look – or simply comment on this post) that you have tried out during the last year and which you have found makes a difference.
To stand or not to stand? That is the question! Teacher position in the classroom…
And it’s a question I didn’t ask myself until after my first formal observation here, when my DoS gave me the post-observation feedback. It had been an adult class of pre-intermediate learners. He told me I tended to tower a little over the students when monitoring. I was a bit confused. So my DoS stood up, came round to my side of the desk and demonstrated: first he stood next to me and spoke, then he squatted down next to me and spoke. That visual explanation made a powerful impact. He then suggested I also try sitting down more in general – for example when doing feedback or during discussions. I went away and duly tried this (both monitoring from lower down and sitting more), and other things that had come out of the observation feedback, and found this eeny weeny-seeming little thing of teacher position made a really big difference. It created a more intimate atmosphere in the classroom. The level of banter increased. And, I suspect, the learners left the room with less of a crick in their necks than previously! 😉
For some reason, though, I only tried it with my adult classes. Fast-forward some number of weeks and I was observed teaching teenagers, for my first observation on the YL course. It hadn’t occurred to me, for some reason, to transfer this particular feedback gained during my adult class observation to my teenager (13-15 year olds) classes. This came out in the feedback, and off I went to implement it. To sit down at suitable moments. Again, it led to a much more relaxed, comfortable atmosphere, with my teenagers being more willing to speak up.
Fast-forward a few more weeks (months?) to another YL observation, different observer, different age group. This time we’re talking 10-12 year olds. You don’t sit down for them, right? Well, I didn’t anyway. No. In fact, I made them all dizzy with the amount of time I spent moving around, including when I was giving instructions. Again, during the feedback, this observer also suggested I might like to sit down more in my lessons. I wasn’t convinced, but I was hellbent on implementing all the feedback and sorting out my YL teaching. And hey, guess what? It made a difference. With my 10-12 year olds, sitting down while I gave them instructions (in combination with having moved their desk-chairs closer together to make a smaller horseshoe) helped them to focus better while I was giving them instructions. Why? Their eyes weren’t moving around all over the place following me, and getting distracted by other more pretty things on the walls or on other students’s desks etc in the process. Spending more time at their eye level in general (both in terms of sitting and monitoring) has also decreased the distance between us, making, again, a more comfortable atmosphere in the classroom. I see less of the tops of their heads, they see less of my waist and chin – everyone’s a winner!! :-p
Over to you!
I challenge you to reflect on what is it, what little thing, has made a big difference to your teaching during the last year. And I look forward to hearing about it! 🙂