Friday, June 22, 2012

What is your biggest challenge right now?

Challenges can come in all forms: unruly students, difficulty in lesson planning, finding interesting or authentic materials, and/or working in a new/strange environment. What is your greatest challenge right now? What steps have you taken to overcome it? What would you like to know to help you?


Patrick said...

One of my biggest challenges is that there is insufficient funding here for the students to have books that they take home. Granted also in the culture that I'm teaching in very few books exist in the home and paper doesn't last very long in campesino homes (pigs running around, large families in small living spaces, lots of dust, no glass windows or tightly shutting doors). So it is difficult for them to study outside of the classroom One way we try to get around that here is by using photocopies of book-activities which are glued into the students' notebooks. There is a downside to this some wasted paper (normally scratch paper is used to prin it) but it also costs a lot of in-class time and often the students are more interested on what is on the back side of the paper than the subject at hand. Also I use poster board to put imporant vocabulary on. I put the words only in English so the students just don't have to hurry up and copy whatever is on the board but listen during class for the L1 equivelants. Student notebooks are checked often to make sure they are completing homework and copying from the board well. I would like to know some good online resources for activities or websites that would help me format my own actvities to my personal needs.

Patrick Reynolds said...

Here's the best I can do to help you with resources for activities:
Flashcards, games, lesson plans:

Flashcards and making custom worksheets:

Vocab worksheets:

4 skills + ideas:

Proverbs, 4 skills +, etc:



Mee_xiong04 said...

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced was the language barrier. The students that I've worked with during this camp session had very low English speaking abilities. On the paper, it marked them as 3-4s which means their English is pretty good, but when they arrived and I actually work with them; their communication skill was very low.

An example of this was camp skit. The objective of this activity is to come up with ideas for a skit. The students work as a group to come up with ideas and write their own script. The group of students that I worked with chose Alice in Wonderland. There were five of them for Alice, the White Rabbit, the Cat, the Queen, and Alice’s mother. Due to their low level of English, I was the recorder, writing down what they wanted to say. Communication was hard between us because of their low level of English. I had to use a lot of gestures and had to guess what their gestures meant. Because I knew a little bit of Japanese, I used that as a mean to try to understand them, but the objective of this camp is to use English only so that students will be forced to communicate in English.

So that was the most challenging aspect I have faced during this camp session.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds & Patrick Reynolds said...

Mee, that is a big challenge and probably the most typically EFL one. A lot of schools will "score" their students higher to make them look better on page, so programs will accept them, or they mix oral and written test scores, so that a students' literacy ability may bring up their weak oral abilities in the averaging of the scores. Then, it is impossible to rely on the scores at all. You just have to take small steps, try not to rush them on activities, give them time to prep, think and access resources (e.g., dictionaries, internet, books, etc). Try to push them to write first and then speak second.
Hope this helps.

Heidi Gradall said...

Mee, the language barrier is always a huge obstacle to overcome, even if you speak their language decently. Personally I´ve found that they don´t understand most of my questions, but if I slow down a lot, and write out my question also, they eventually understand. I think students have an easier time reading than listening so if you combine them until they can understand you it is helpful.

I was also surprised by the lack of English that they knew. They´ve been taught the basics like the alphabet but if you aske them to say the alphabet they struggle through it and miss many letters. I´ve found this to be an advantage to justify taking the time to start from square one again. This puts all the students on the same level and it´s a good review.

It sounds like your camp expereince has prepared you to be a great charades player! I have found that charades is a great game for a few reasons. One you both look silly trying to communicate which lowers the affective filter and helps the students become more comfortable and willing to keep trying. Also it shows them that you´re willing to go to great lenghts to reach the golden moment of Ah Ha!

Heidi Gradall said...

I am finally passing the honeymoon phase of teaching. My biggest problem right now is the lack of attendence. I teach an unenrolled summer school with 4 different levels for anyone who wants to come. Some days I don´t have students, somedays I have one, others nine! So it varies quite a bit. Some students are consistent in comming and others sporatic. It´s not within my power to make anyone come to class, so I´m at their mercy to even have a job.

My morning/beginning class started with two and went to nine students. The day I had nine students it was a combination of three different groups of students. With each individual group we covered something a little bit different, so when they all came together I was almost at a loss of how to get everyone on the same page. I hoped we could move forward with new material but didn´t want to have anyone, or group of students lost.

I´m realizing why attendence in school is such a big deal. For the teacher, it´s difficult to make lesson plans. For the students, it´s hard to catch-up and not be lost if you miss a day with crucial information.

I teach differently for one student that I do for a larger group of students. With more students, there are more distractions and it becomes more crowd control, then a few students who want to learn and you can teach to the specific needs of that student.

Also, because it´s a free summer school, my students don´t study, which puts more pressure on me make sure they learn it well in class, becuase I know they won´t study outside of class. There are no books, or materials, only what I write on the board and they copy into their notebooks. There are some things I´m teaching that they just need a lot of practice to learn, but without handouts, they can only can practice what we cover in class.

Either I have to take a lot of time to write out by hand copies of worksheets, or I have to take time in class to write on the board so they can copy. Eitherway it becomes quite time consuming, and I want to make the best use of my time. If you have any helpful hints on they best use of time please let me know. Currently I come early to class to write example problems, they copy and we go over the problems in class as a class and build off them. Namely verb congugations and question formation and answers.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

What resources do you have available? Just a blackboard? What do other teachers do for worksheets, etc? Do you need worksheets?

Once you give me that info, I'll get back to you if I have any ideas.

As for attendence, it is one of the language teachers biggest pet peeves. If they don't come, even if it's for a great reason, they aren't learning. And it disrupts what one can accomplish during the class. For example, can I do pair work or not? Do I have enough students for 2 teams for this game? etc...

If there's no way to control their attendence, possibly you can explain to them what happens to your lessons and planning without them, and what impact it has on their language learning. What do you think?

Dr. R

Heidi Gradall said...

My resources are litterally only a board and marker. The students have notebooks and can make copys by hand, or I can make copies by hand. But seeing as I never know how many students will come, I don´t want to waste my time making copies by hand.

Currently there is no school, so I haven´t met another teacher yet. It´s not that there are no worksheets, I could make them, but printing isn´t a practical option.

The kids are typically sent by their parents, meaning, they don´t really want to be there, and they surely don´t study. I´ve been getting stricter about starting on time, which is not cultural. I´ve tried to explain the importance, but the meaning is lost.

codes said...

"cody in costa rica"
My biggest challenge deals with helping the students to get along with each other. There are six students in the class and one (John Doe) is somewhat bilingual. From what I've been told, the class has always shunned John. I've been told that there are various reasons and I've noticed some of them. Anyway, the class has met as a group with the school counselor several times to get to the bottom of the problem. Unfortunately, they still single him out and treat him poorly. The specific problem I have is that they bug John, John becomes upset and then John is disruptive in class and we don't get much accomplished. I've tried talking to the class to understand why they act the way they do towards John and I got nowhere. I've talked to the teacher and the principal and they just say to let John go visit with the counselor. I understand that this has been an issue for a long time, but I feel bad asking John to leave the class every time this happens. John misses out on a lot of material when this occurs. It's a pretty sticky situation.

Also, I've been using the "poker" strategy to keep the class participating and on task. I'll pass them a card when they are doing what they're suppose to be doing and take one away when they are disruptive or speaking in the L1. So far it's worked amazingly! I haven't been using this technique every time, but it's still losing its effectiveness. Does anybody have another strategy/game they use to keep their students on task and under control. thanks!

amanda.hokanson said...

Well, since I didn't realize that we had to have a Google account to post on here and it erased my original post- this one will be a bit shorter. The hardest thing about my current summer camp job is that it is a camp. Here I'm expected to be 1/3 teacher, 1/3 camp counselor, and 1/3 activities coordinator. We have two homerooms, and two rotations classes, plus a singing session, and 1h30 of activities before the day is done. It's exhausting. I've never worked with kids on such a large level before, and all these new roles are wearing me out. Additionally, I was also told that my students would be proficient, but that didn't turn out to be true and I had to scale my lessons WAY back. Since I have 3-6 graders in my homeroom, and 11-18 year olds in rotations, it's always a battle to have expansion-friendly lessons. We also do not have a textbook, nor any general guidelines outside teaching by state. So it's a pain to constantly make photocopies, etc. in the morning and paper's expensive. I try to use the board and verbal activities as much as possible instead, but what are you going to do? I also had to provide my students with everything they use in class: nametags, notebooks, pens, and pencils, and folders. Well, I'm adapting!

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

Amanda, you are facing the typical, yet daunting, teacher challenges. 1) You are exhausted. Teaching is very tiring! Besides, like you said, in a camp, you are on all the time. Be patient with the students and yourself, but avoid feeling self indulgent or sorry for yourself. If you do, it'll only make it worse, 'cause you'll subconsciously feel that you deserve better. Remember, when you are in the teacher's shoes, it is much harder and the students don't understand your position or care if they are challenging. Like parents, we have to rise above the personal feelings, conditions, and needs to serve the students. There are some teachers in the k-16 who don't get to use the bathroom for hours on end. :-) Hang in there, though! This is an important experience and you're stamina will increase as will your ability to handle anything! :-)

As for the proficiency thing, schools ALWAYS say their students are stronger than they are. Why? Because then the school looks like it is better and they can attract teachers easier. ;-) this is why I stressed the beginning levels of proficiency so much.

SarahKjrsten said...

I have a quandary.

I'm teaching 6 different first grade science classes and 4 second grade classes (in a bilingual school)--what's nice is the first and second grade books parallel each other so they're working with similar concepts and vocabulary sets.

My problem is this:

For the past week or so the kids in the first grade classes have been talking about body parts. They have nine vocabulary words and we've been doing all sorts of TPR activities and looking at pictures and playing games to learn the words (not a stitch of rote memorization going on here) and today I went into one of the first grade classes ready to do a drawing activity that the other classes have been doing with no problem only to discover that NONE of the kids had a CLUE what any of their body parts were called in English.

They knew what I was asking for because they answered me in Spanish but when I asked them for the English word them shut up and wouldn't say a thing. I'm baffled because this class has previously demonstrated a knowledge and understanding of all of these words.

I had to throw my activity (and 90% of my lesson plan) out the window and concentrate instead on reteaching and reinforcing the body part vocabulary.

Why did they forget all of these words? The lead teacher for that class (she lets me run the classes, she sits at her desk) told me that she was surprised that they didn't remember either. If this happens again, is there anything I can do other than reteach? It was frustrating because I had such a fun activity planned and I wasn't able to do it and while they're technically a day behind, the lead teacher may want me to press forward tomorrow.

Oh! And a second question:

Any strategies for getting a class to be quiet? Classroom management in Spain is so different than in the US. The Spanish lead teachers have absolutely no problem shaming students and making them cry in an attempt to get the class to be quiet. I definitely do NOT want to do that. So far I've tried standing at the front of the room with one finger over my lips and one hand raised and that works...usually. But some classes just don't pay me a whit of attention. Any ideas on how to get them to be quiet and pay attention to me for longer than thirty seconds would be awesome!

Nessa said...

To Sarah:

I’m baffled too as to why the students suddenly forgot all of the parts of the body they learned. Try using songs; kids love to sing, plus they might remember words they sing better than words they say. Next time maybe you could preview the drawing activity with them during earlier lessons.

As for getting them to quiet down … I also am working in Europe and I often feel that the students run the classroom and keeping them from talking can be a challenge. I would try starting a routine. Every time they hear or see blank, they know that you want to start again and they should quiet down. One strategy would be to clap three times and then raise your hand. The students then need to stop what they are doing and clap three times and raise their hands.

Flossie said...

Right now the biggest challenges for me are time management and the differing abilities amongst my students. I teach five one hour classes in a row and I have a lot of difficulty fitting in everything that needs to be fit in into one hour class. I´ve been doing okay with it, mostly by keeping a list of all activities that i want to do that i didn´t get to. That way I always have backup activities ready if I suddenly have extra time.

I´ve also been dealing with the struggle of not leaving behind the students who for some reason just do not seem to be able to grasp the material. I have two students that just leave me dumbfounded at times and I have to be careful not to fault them overly much by becoming super inpatient with them. I´m also trying not to just resort to speaking spanish with these kids because that comes with a price that my better students end up paying. Being able to speak the language here is a blessing but balancing when to use it and when not to is its own challenge.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

Sarah Kjrsten mentioned the prob with the students forgetting. The first thing is that they are kids, so you need to refresh their memories constantly. Plan it into lessons. Second, try to get them to think about the info between sessions by having them sing songs, use flash cards, make a drawing and label it. Make sure you use the printed words, so they can connect the oral to the written word.

Finally, were they learning the words in the past in English or Spanish?

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

As for your comment Flossie, it is a perrenial challenge of teachers to teach multiple proficiency levels. What I suggest is that you spend some time making objectives/goals that you want the lowest prof to achieve. Then make separate activities, tasks for them. When you are working in the whole group, maybe just following along and listening is enough of a goal?

Teachers do end up preparing a ton more for class than they even use.

Finally, time management is a challenge, but you will improve with time. Try to use more small group work with the differing proficiency levels with easier/harder tasks and focusing on the time. Ask every group to have a leader, reporter and time keeper. Sometimes, you will have to transition even if they aren't completely done. And sometimes, that's okay, too. Just don't do it all the time.

SarahKjrsten said...

Science class is taught entirely in English. So while they know the body parts in Spanish (because Spanish is their native language) they never learned them in Spanish in class and the words are never translated into Spanish by the teachers.

Since that class I've been reviewing body parts and earlier lessons whenever I have a chance. One thing I've found to be really effective is to instruct the kids to point to various things/body parts when they finish an activity. This keeps them occupied and quiet while the other kids finish and it also helps them review earlier concepts.

I've also started using: "One, two, three eyes on me!" (the kids respond "One, two, eyes on you!") to quiet the class. It works because the kids think that it's a game and if someone is talking once we finish the little chant they're "eliminated"--which means nothing except that everyone groans loudly and we do the chant again--and then the class is silent.

I've also implemented "color change" in my chattiest class*. In the elementary school class I did my service learning in, the teachers had a poster with little pockets with a students name on each pocket. Inside the pocket were colored strips of paper. When the student misbehaved they had to go up and change a color. Different colors equaled different consequences.

I made a color change chart for my chatter-box first graders and was stunned by how well it worked. Prior to the color change the kids were either good or they got a note home to their parents. Now, with gradation between good and note home, they strive to be better. We made it through the entire lesson plan today and they got caught up with the other five first grade classes--they'd fallen behind because they were so chatty!

*this class talks so much that they didn't pay attention when I was introduced and they think my name is 'Sela.' I've tried correcting them...but alas, in vain. Oh well, better than that one second grade class who think that I'm 26, married and pregnant (one day I don't wear a belt with a dress, just one day).

Nessa said...

Thanks for sharing your ideas! I really like the chant and the chart. Though I can't use them now, I'm working with 15-19 year old students, I'll remember those for future classrooms.

Flossie said...

Thanks Dr. Reynolds for your comments, I do feel like a newbie and i think it shows as soon as i´m caught unprepared or when instead of having 10 students I have one and i have to adapt my plan on the spot.

My biggest challenge right now is my lack of patience with stupidity. I know that learing a language is hard and i can be patient with how long it takes some people to remember things but there are days when i swear my students just don´t want to think and that i have little patience for. Unfortunetly i do no one any good if i let that frustration show but i know it slips out at times. I can give some killer looks of astonishment.

There are so many things to work on! Patience, time management, assessment, grading, lesson flexibility, etc....! and then you compound all that by being in another country!

I recently came to the conclusion that i tend to value things more that come out of difficulty so hopefully all this difficulty will help me to value the hard won lessons i am learning in the classroom. we´ll see, i´ll let you know.

Nessa said...


I'm sorry to hear that you're often frusterated with student behavior in your classes. Can you be honest with your students and tell them that their behavior, lack of trying, etc. is not what you expect from them? Would that be appropriate in your situation/culture? Also, if you're having trouble keeping your cool during rough situations, it might help if think of teaching as if it were acting. You get in the mindset, put on a show, draw the students in, keep up the professional image you want the students to see, etc.

Question for everybody: I'll be starting to teach at a new school next week and there will be at least another hundred names to learn. Other than name games during the first lesson, how do you learn students names? What tips do you have for learning names? What works for you?

Charlotte said...

I think my biggest challenge now is finding creative ways to teach on-line. I'm a very animated speaker, and I rely on my inflection and body language a lot when I interact with people. I haven't quite figured out how to translate that through a computer screen yet. I also feel that my lessons are getting a bit stale. My student wants practice in writing, so we've been working a lot with grammar, parts of speech, and sentence structure, but does anyone have some fresh ideas for writing activities/prompts?

Angie Gusto said...

One downfall has been that my groups were not quite ready for me when I arrived, so new people show up on a regular basis, and I end up improvising on a regular basis because the lesson I planned doesn’t fit the group that showed up. My materials are different at each of the three sites, so I change our activities depending on what we have available. For example, in one of the communities, they were going to give me a chalkboard to use, but then at the last minute they were unable to get into the room where it was stored because a Census group had the keys. Therefore, I improvised and instead of using a chalkboard to write my sentence starters and new vocabulary words, I wrote them on some oversized index cards I had in my magical teacher’s bag and placed them on the floor in the middle of our circle instead. It worked out well, and it was nice to be able to pick up the pieces and move them around as needed.

Funny story of the week: An older lady, who was probably about 60 years-old, came to our adult class after the rest of the group had already had two or three classes in. I kindly put the rest of the class to work practicing their new vocabulary while I helped her get caught up, and I even spoke to her in Spanish for a while because I could tell she was a pretty uncomfortable. I did my best to help her keep up with our lesson, but I spoke in English the entire class, and by the end she was upset. As she was leaving she said, in Spanish, “I can’t believe this class. It’s like you speak more in English than in Spanish in here!” Oh how times have changed in the world of language learning. Now when people ask if they can still join the class, I make sure to warn them that I speak in English and they might feel a little behind when they arrive.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

That's one of the surprising occurrences, isn't it? When learners think the TL should be taught in the NL. :-)

Fredd said...

Today there was a small incident in the classroom. It seems to have worked itself out, but still willing to get input.
I had the students read small section of a brochure out loud. One of them has a slight problem with stuttering and he stuttered several times during his reading. Another student started laughing and I shot him a look to show my displeasure. He (the one who laughed) got up and left the room. I did not draw any attention to the incident. The next time I saw the one who laughed he was talking with the one who stuttered like old pals.
I think I will not have extended readings again to try to avoid the situation. Is there a better approach?

Fredd said...

I had another interesting challenge. Each day there is a singing period just before lunch. Most of the songs are (or deemed by my older students to be) oriented towards the younger students. I tried to get my homeroom out of the singing period at least once during the camp - but some other teachers had some misgivings about that (understandable). Anyway I am left with disgruntled students who sneak off during the singing period and lunch.

Talia said...

I have had lots of challenges at camp. One of the biggest challenges is keeping your cool and not letting the students see your stress. At this camp you do everything with the students, eat, sleep, bathe... For 3 days you do not leave there sides, which can be very stressful. Especially since you have to be the adult in this situation. You cant show them that you are stressed out, otherwise it could influence them in a very negative way.

Another stressful point to the camp is that the students do not always have the choice of being there. Lots of times there parents or schools force them to join this camp. Because of this, lots of students are very unruly and unwilling to learn or even try to learn from us. We try to make our camps a fun place to learn, but if the students are against you from the start, it makes the learning enviroment full of tension. Not really a great working enviroment.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

@ Fredd, I understand your concern with the stuttering student and the one who laughed. I don't think I would stop out loud readings, but remember silent readings are better for all students. Do talk to both students about the incident, but do so privately. Ask the stutterer what he would like to do about oral readings in the future.
Dr. R

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds said...

@ Talia, yes, 24/7 with students is taxing and not showing your tension, fatigue, displeasure, etc is challenging. I don't know if there is any advice I can offer you. I can only say, it gets easier hiding your emotions with time.
Hang tough!
Dr. R

Mikayla Schroeder said...

The biggest challenge I am facing right now is with my class of children that are age 8 to 11. They are very rowdy. Although I scold them, as soon as I turn my head they start chatting again and acting out. We have classroom rules that we made the first day of class and that I refer to everyday, but I haven't formed any disciplinary action, such as taking away cards or giving them marks.

We've already had one week of class without anything like that and I think it is to late to start. Its not just one or two student acting out, it’s 8 out of 11. This week I have had classroom helpers, but after Friday I am by myself. I think classroom activities are going to be a lot more difficult with out my two helpers.

cjdrummer said...

On Monday nights I work in an English conversation class that is offered for free and anyone from the community can show up. My biggest challenge was that since this week was the first week, I had no idea how many people would show up or what their levels would be. We had a general theme chosen and a rough outline of how the class would run, but we ended up having to wing it some of the time. Although I felt very unprepared for the class, I thought it went extremely well. Almost everyone who was at class said that they would return next week. I also did a needs assessment to see what kinds of things the students want to focus on.

mackenel said...

My biggest challenge is that I am teaching online using Skype. I was unable to afford to go abroad to complete my practicum so I am doing it online! I think this will be an interesting experience but so far it has proven pretty difficult. I have found that my teaching works best when both speakers (teacher and student) have some background knowledge of each other's native language. For example, it is relatively easy for me to conduct a lesson with my student from Colombia because I speak conversational Spanish and she is at a pretty advanced level in her English. Unfortunately for my Japanese student it is pretty difficult for us to communicate because while her level of written English is fairly strong, her speaking is not. This makes it very difficult for us to have a conversation and for me to teach her verbally. I also think she is often being polite and is not always stopping me when she has a question or does not understand a word. Any suggestions on how to effectively teach online would be greatly appreciated!

cjdrummer said...

As mentioned earlier, I teach a class once a week for teens and adults. Since it is free, sometimes people don't show up. Or if they do show up, they are usually late. Today it was frusterating because for the first half hour only two students were present. Which normally wouldn't have been a big deal because I would be fine working one on one. However, we had been splitting the class in two and have a beginner level class and an intermediate level class. I had planned all of my activities for the intermediate group and another volunteer prepared activities for the beginner group. The two students who showed up were not at the intermediate level. Basically, we had too many teachers and not enough students. It was a difficult situation that I don't think can really be prepared for. I just hope it doesn't happen again.

Mackenel - I can't believe you are teaching online through Skype! That is so cool that technology allows us to do such things. However, I can imagine that it could be extremely difficult sometimes. I really like using gestures and drawing pictures. Which works as long as the video cameras function! If it is possible to email the student a practice worksheet/ activities to do, I think that would be helpful. For example, if you were to do a lesson on prepositions/ directions. You could email an information gap map activity and then complete the activity with each other. Having the student be person A and you could be person B. Just one example, I am not sure if it would work for all topics/ activities but that would be a way to mix it up. Also, it would be nice to send related videos/ readings via email to have them watch/ read and then you could talk about them together. I don't know if that was at all helpful, but good luck with your teaching!

Kate Murray said...

Mackenel - I agree with CJ, that's got to be really difficult at times to be trying to teach over Skype. Technology is amazing (except when it fails, so I hope you haven't had too many problems with glitches or I can imagine that being extremely frustrating too). For the Japanese girl, I like CJ's suggestions of giving the person A person B roles. Maybe she just needs to warm up a little bit and having something she can read to practice at least hearing her own voice in English might eventually give her more confidence to speak on her own.
CJ - Man, that is tough. I can't imagine what I would have done in that situation. But you're right, it's not really something you can necessarily prepare for. Or, maybe now you can prepare for it knowing that there's a chance it could happen. It must be hard having a feeling of continuity to the classes if each week different people show up.

My biggest frustration right now is the lack of motivation in my students. I am living with a family in Spain and tutoring their two kids, an 18 year old boy and a 13 year old girl. They are a very well-off family and the kids, I have realized, have never really had to work for anything their whole lives. Their parents want them to learn English more than they want to. And add that to the fact that it's summer, the last thing they want to do is have English lessons with me, even though it's only 1 hour out of their day. The other day I asked the older boy if learning English was something he wanted to do, if it was a goal of his because I did honestly want to know. I wasn't trying to bait him into saying "Yes , ma'am I want to learn English" like a robot. He said "Yes I know it's important. But my priority now is Play Station." I really was a little shocked. It's difficult to come up with ways to get through to an 18 year old who may not even go to University because he failed two subjects this year, so why would he care about his English class if he may never leave the chair in front of his video game?

Elyssa said...

@ Kate Murray, it can be very frustrating trying to teach students who have no interest in learning. Perhaps you can find a way to integrate the learning of English where it doesn't seem so much a formal lesson. If you find out what videogame he likes to play, perhaps you could become acquainted with this game and teach English using the characters or concepts. In this way, the two of you could bond (he will see that you take an interest in HIS interests) and you can still help him with his English learning. He may even be more cooperative of a formal lesson if he sees that you are trying to 'reach out'. Of course he is 15 so maybe he won't see any of this ;) but there is always the hope.

My online instruction is becoming easier now that I am more familiar with the capabilities of Skype. I have chosen to opt out of video chat for my first few lessons with students and instead use only the voice chat. I had an instance where an older female student from Colombia practically took on the teacher role in our lessons (I think this was due to the fact that I appeared much younger than she). By using the voice chat first, I am able to assert myself more and then once I have established my role, it is easier to communicate with my online students who are older and may (might have) discredited a younger teacher. I really enjoyed the suggestion about the map gap activities and have been trying to incorporate more of these types of activities in my lessons. Thank you for the suggestions folks! Good luck during the upcoming weeks in your teaching adventures!

Elyssa said...

*sorry he is 18, not 15.
*this is Elyssa (formerly mackenel)

Cait said...

At the institute I work at, the program is a 22 month long course. Each month has 17 classes (two hours each) and then a final quiz or exam on the 18th day (the exam is every three months which is a little longer than the quiz.) So this last week was the final week on June and therefore the “review” day and the quiz. This is where I had a few challenges.

First, one challenge I had was getting all the information covered that was supposed to be covered. This is because the course was originally set up to be 19 days of class and the test on the 20th day; however they changed within the last two months. However they still use the same curriculum (and amount of information) to be covered in that same time period. Therefore I had to try to rush some of the information. However it was just too much and I couldn’t cover the very last grammar concept we were supposed to. Regardless, this created some frustration in trying to teach all the information because it is not fair to the students to just rush through the information without them actually understanding it.

Furthermore, part of this school is that they write the final quizzes/exams and we aren’t allowed to see them until we are actually handing them out to our students. Well this creates issues when as a class we weren’t able to discuss everything that was on the “curriculum” because it just isn’t realistic that every class will always move at the same pace. You need to evaluate the class and students and move as a whole. To me it almost seems like the curriculum should just be a check-list that we taught everything for that particular month. I understand they want some unity in the institute, but at the same time, I believe the teacher should have some say about what went on in the class. But I know this is how the system works sometimes. Another frustration with this is that when students have questions on the test, I need to read what it is asking so I am able to answer them. And it was the case that sometimes I wasn’t even 100% sure what it was asking for on the test.

Another challenge I had this week was grading. First I was to grade the tests (no answer guide provided to the test I didn’t write.) secondly we had to send in final grades to the school for the month (65% is the test, 15% is student’s speaking, and 15% is student’s writing) so that was time consuming and turned into be much more challenging than I really had imagined. There are so many factors to actually grade a student even if it is suppose to be a close-ended question (for example.) I want to be objective in grading but since there was no rubric or anything to how we should grade the writing portion of each test it was very challenging and I had to make a decision based on what I thought. Additionally, it was my first time actually grading a class so it was more difficult than I really had anticipated.

Along with grading, it was challenging having the personality that I have to grade these students. I enjoyed getting to know them but then when it actually came to grading it was hard to know they are fun students but really do not deserve a higher grade. Of course I did my best to give a fair grade regardless of who they are, but it was just an additional challenge to the week.

cjdrummer said...

@Kate Murray- That sounds really challenging working with students who have no motivation! I really like what Elyssa suggested about incorporating things to do with his videogame and showing an interest. That would really show that you are trying to incorporate his interests and it may lead to some sort of motivation to learn. Maybe you could ask him about his other interests as well and try to incorporate lessons featuring those. So try to stay positive! I'm sure you will find some way to get through to him!

@Elyssa- I am glad to hear that your lessons have been going smoothly. I really like your idea of using only voice chat to start with and then using video chat later.

@Cait - I also find it hard to stay on schedule with lessons. Sometimes classes go through material a lot quicker than expected and sometimes it takes much longer to cover something that was expected to take less time. It is always a balancing act. So I am surprised that your program provides the exams and doesn't even let you see them. It is great to have a guideline of material to cover but I agree with you that the teacher should have a say in what happens in the classroom. It is not fair to the students to have to rush through material without actually understanding/ learning it. Then to proceed to test on material that was barely covered is stressful and unfair to the students. This system puts a lot of pressure on you as the teacher as well as on the students.
I have noticed a similar problem in the elementary school that I teach at. There is a certain amount of material that needs to be covered by each testing period and that is set by the school. So sometimes the lessons are rushed. But the teachers are allowed to write their own tests, so it is definitely not as extreme as your situation! I wish you the best of luck in being able to cover the material for the next exam!

Last time I wrote about the teens and adults night class and the lack of attendance. I thought only two students showing up was bad, well this week only one student showed up. Not only was he fifteen minutes late, but he had to leave early as well. It was my last night class and I definitely felt very disappointed with the way it ended. I don't think I will do a free class again. It is too hard to plan a lesson for a class when sometimes you have 15 students and sometimes only 1. All in all, it was a good experience for me to have. However, I hope I never have to experience it again!

Another challenge for this week was in the elementary school. The second grade class is usually a very rowdy class to begin with. The students don't like to pay attention and get up and walk around during class on a normal day. Well this week was their last week before their two week vacation. So the students were extra loud and crazy. When I got to class the teacher was having them work on the workbook pages that needed to be finished before they left for break. They only had three pages to complete and they ended up working for the whole class and some of them did not finish. They definitely did not need that long to do it. But since they were not paying attention and running around it took double the amount of time necessary. If it were my own class I would have tried to play a game or do an activity and then assign the workbook as homework or even throw out the workbook all together and do a game/ activity that covered the same material but was more engaging for the students. it is very possible, however, that their minds were already on vacation and that nothing would have gotten their attention.

Cait said...

@ Alyssa

I liked the comment and thoughts you had about stopping the video because of the judgments the students make. I have a mixture of 12-40 year-olds in my classroom and I knew I was going to have a range of ages and was nervous about having adults because of the similar reason of them judging my age or appearance or anything. Now having a class of all ages for two months (of course it always depends on the particular students) I have almost come to enjoy the adult students more because they are more committed and participate more. At the same time, I know they view me as a younger teacher but with the way the school is set up, almost all teachers are around my age- so the adults need to know that when signing up for the classes. In your situation I think it is a good idea to not use the video because of the unfair judgments that others can make about us. I'm glad it's going better for you!

Astri Gerdes said...

My biggest challenge right now is adding to my curriculum; my students flew through what I had prepared, which showed me that I underestimated their proficiency and that I need to improve my needs assessment. I’m anxious when I don’t have something holistic prepared. By this I mean that planning lesson by lesson is great when I have an end goal in mind, but having met the goals already I feel like I’m running a bit blind now in my daily lesson planning.

Challenge number two: My students are wonderful at plunging into conversation (I teach one-on-one, online) and are willing to talk for hours, and they embrace my lesson plans so far because they are highly communicative. However, they are uninterested in reading and writing. I’m not sure what to do; they are self-motivated to learn to speak and understand spoken English as well as United States culture, which is awesome, but I feel that my teaching is unbalanced without including writing and reading as well. I don’t want to be rude or pushy and insist on something in which they have no interest, but I think that reading and writing are also quite valuable. The most I have provided so far in these areas is written support for our speaking.

What do you think I should do?

Elyssa said...

@ Astri
Online teaching is quite the challenge isn’t it!? What I have been doing with my online student is holding regular sessions during which we speak (he is using English instead of his native language almost the whole time now!) and also holding shorter sessions in which we only use the text chat in Skype. I also email him back and forth everyday (answering questions, telling stories, etc.) I have to trust that he isn’t relying too much on a translator program but in this way, we are incorporating reading/writing tasks into our online sessions. I feel like it has helped a lot. My main problem is getting my student to stick to my lesson plan. I almost always allow him to present a question and then try to form an on-the-spot lesson around that. I do this because he Skypes with me before or after his English night class that he has in Chile. Usually they talk about a new thing each time and it is hard for him to let me know what they will be covering ahead of time. It works a lot better now that I am used to what to expect from our time together (I’m just so much more comfortable with having time to prepare a lesson/activities). Any suggestions?

nate mortenson said...

My biggest challange is desinging a creative and enjoyable lesson plan for special writing class I'm doing for young Chinese boy students. They are particularly rough and get in fights all the time in class, so I need to be extra careful in planning activities that they will enjoy. Cheating (coppying) is also a big problem with the boys. Any tips and what I could do to keep these 3rd graders on task?

Karlene said...

The biggest challenge that I have encountered is creating materials and finding interesting and materials for my students. After the idea of using National Public Radio scripts and clips for materials in Methods class, I have done that quite frequently. I have no problem finding text or recordings that match what I am teaching for a specific day or lesson. Two problems have sprung up with using these materials: 1) the content is too advanced for my students, and 2) the content isn’t always engaging for all students. Here is one scenario: Fashion and shopping was the unit one week. My first thought was, crap, I hate fashion, so how am I going to convey to my students that I am interested in it? Better yet, how am I going to get the majority of males in the classroom interested in this subject? Well, it was worse than I thought - no one in the class was interested in talking about fashion. I began the class with seemingly engaging questions: What does fashion mean to you? Would you consider yourself to be a fashionable person? What is fashion like in your country? What are some popular trends at the moment? All of my students said they didn’t care about fashion and that the point of wearing clothes was to be comfortable based on the weather. Well… that didn’t help me much with beginning the class with a bang. But, I had a plan. We won’t talk about fashion, rather, we will talk about the world-wide economic crisis that has affected the world of fashion (as conveyed through an NPR radio clip script). Fashion Week in New York City was troubled by the poor state of the economy, but this was also of little importance to my students. It never seems to be enough to find authentic materials for your students. You need to find something in which they are genuinely interested. To combat this problem, I have prepared better for future text readings by asking students about their interests on a certain topic before we arrive to that specific unit. I would like to know where I can find more, interesting authentic materials. I have tended to stick to news articles, but there must be other readings that would spark interest in high school to adult-age students. Also, the content isn’t always at the correct level for my learners. Should I change the content to make it more appropriate for my Ls level? Or should I keep it as is to save the authenticity?

Karlene said...

@ Astri -

How many students are you teaching and in what setting? Although students can get through material quite quickly at times it is always good to have a review section afterwards so that the materials sticks with them. What is the curriculum like that you are teaching? Perhaps you could share some of what you plan to teach and EFL students could give you ideas. I think the best way for you to incorporate writing and reading would be little assignments to start with and then over time to increase the length and difficulty. I share the same problem - my students love speaking but absolutely dread writing anything longer than one or two sentences. Maybe it would be a good idea to give them some scenarios in which they would have to produce writing or read something in the United States or another English speaking country. Show how necessary and valuable it is for them to maintain these skills. Another way that you could get them motivated would be to ask them to find a reading themselves that meet specific requirements and/or give them several prompts when it comes to a writing assignment.

@ Nate -

One way that you could keep them on task would be to make their writing assignments like a competition, then perhaps they wouldn‘t copy each other. Maybe include some specific rules and have a limited amount of time that they can work on a certain aspect of writing. You could also occasionally have them write in partners or as a class - creating written stories this way has always proved effective for me with children’s classes.

MC said...

One of the biggest challenges is when my tutees don't show up. At first I thought it was a scheduling problem but we make plans in advance. I know tutoring online is not as big of a commitment as going to school but they agreed to so this. I understand that some of it is a cultural thing, at least that was what I looked up. On of my tutees is from Spain and she is usually an hour late to our sessions, I've been making the next session and hour ahead of when I can tutor. It's been working. haha. Another challenge is the transitions from one lesson to another. There is no time in between a lesson, everything has to be ready or I'm wasting five minutes of my tutee's time and my own. It's been a challenge but I have become better at my technical coordination.

Paris said...

The biggest challenge that I have had is getting in touch with my tutee. I am tutoring a girl from China online, and contacting her is nearly impossible. First of all, whenever I tried to send her an e-mail, it would come back to me and say that it was undeliverable. Now I can only contact her through Skype, but with the time difference, we are rarely on at the same time. Also, she is often late for our tutoring sessions, so I spend a lot of time waiting for her to show up.

Another issue that I am having is knowing how to use my teaching resources. For example, I have a lot of resources that work great for lessons in person (currency, maps etc), but how can I translate these to be used in an online tutoring situation?

Maggie said...

My biggest challenge right now is a combination of the academy’s lack of organization and some of my student’s lack of interest in learning the English language. Being my first long term TEFL position, it is a really challenging combination.

I work for an academy that offers Spanish, Quechua and English courses. They seem to be a popular language academy in the city. They offer English and Quechua courses to local people for a discounted price, which I really respect. They also donate some of the proceeds to local humanitarian projects and orphanages. This is the biggest reason why I chose to volunteer with this academy. However, since I have been working for them, I have noticed a lack of organization by the academy’s directors that I did not expect. This lack of organization has made it hard to keep my classes organized and my students motivated! To give you an idea of what I am talking about, I will describe a couple of examples. I began with one student (after three weeks of waiting) and received two more (very driven students) after a week. Classes went well for about two days until the two students began to notice the academy’s lack of organization or enthusiasm. For example, we arrived at the academy one morning at our scheduled hours and there wasn’t an academy employee there to open the facility. (They just didn’t come to work that morning…?) So, we headed to a cafĂ© to have class. After that, these students stopped showing for class. Who could blame them? It was really frustrating, because I had lost two serious students because of the academy…that shouldn’t happen! Another example refers to these two students: when I was told that I would be receiving two new students, the academy wasn’t able to tell me their age, level or interest (TOEFL preparation, conversation, etc.), even though they had just met with them, but expected me to conduct a four hour class with them the next morning. I was really confused as to what I was expected to do with them for four hours the next morning. Ahh! With no needs assessment done, and no direction from the directors, I put together a needs assessment that night and various short grammar exercises and reading passages in order to do a sort of assessment while teaching. Needless to say, I didn’t pull off four hours…I’m sure the students weren’t impressed :(

My other very big challenge right now is a student of mine who seems to have little to no interest in English  I just got a new group of students: 3 boys, ages 15, 16 and 18. The two younger boys are good buds and are pretty enthusiastic about learning and participating. The 18 year old boy nearly refused to participate. I really don’t know what to do. I have brought it up to the director, but she doesn’t seem to have an answer for it. I told her that it doesn’t seem like the 18 year old is at the same language level as the two younger boys and seems to be lost in class, so I proposed that he might feel more comfortable in a different class or in private lessons. …she doesn’t think that is the answer. She holds to the belief that he is at the same level… So, I am faced with two boys who are ready and willing to learn, and the other who does anything to distract himself from what is going on in class…which includes playing with balloons, putting his head down and refusing to participate. Oh, what to do, what to do…? I have tried to talk with him after class to understand if he is not understanding what is going on, or is just simply uninterested. The common answer that I get is that he just had a long day at high school. (Ok, understandable, but pleeease give me more to work with…!)

Can anyone give me a suggestion regarding a student who isn’t participating or seems to have little interest? Gosh, I think I already got my answer from the director about re-evaluating his language or comfort level and possibly placing him in another class (or private lessons). I just really don’t want him to fall behind or feel ignored. There has to be remedies…! Thanks 

Maggie said...

@ Karlene

Sometimes it can be really un-motivating when you are teaching a subject that doesn’t really interest you, and at the same time you are unsure if it will connect with your students. Tough one! But, my suggestion with lessons like this is to maybe take a lighter angle for the future if your students don’t go for your (great) original discussion questions. I see that when you noticed that your original questions weren’t generating much, you switched it up and took a more political route…still not much reaction. Sometimes it works to take a humorous angle…and fashion is a perfect topic to try this with. Most everybody has something to say about crazy, ridiculous fashion, right? I imagine this might particularly work well with the mix of males and females in your class! If they truly feel that clothes are for comfort and to look appropriate, then maybe spark a discussion about the craziest, most non-practical clothes and fashion they have seen. What did the clothes look like? Why wouldn’t they be comfortable? What might that crazy hat “say” about that person? Why might people wear such loud clothing or follow fashion trends? Maybe even wear a wild fashion statement to class (original, of course ;)! (The questions could be as basic or in depth as you would like.) Anyway, I hope this helps!

Maggie said...

Wow, that is tough not to know how many people will show up for each class. It makes it very hard to plan lessons, and continue or develop a unit! Have you tried splitting into small groups, and having each group discuss or come to a conclusion/opinion about a certain angle of a topic? That way, as they arrive they can be directed into small groups to develop their ideas. And then save time at the end to come together with conclusions/opinions and discussion. I realize that this would only work once in a while, depending on the topic/unit, but it is an option! 

Chelcea said...

The greatest challenge for me right now is trying to figure out how to teach in the ways I have been taught (and believe in) and still be accepted culturally by not the students (Because I think they will not be as knowledgeable as to what I'm doing) but to the other teachers I am working with. So far, the teachers I have been working with do not use lesson plans of any kind what so ever. I was asked to substitute teach last week for a few different teachers and there was NOTHING to go off of. The director of the English department (my boss) gave me a "lesson plan" which was actually just a link to a music video of a knock off to the new Olympic song and a worksheet she had found on And that was what she called the lesson plan…. Seriously. The first week was SUCH a struggle because I was thrown into a situation where each class that I had known I would be teaching was nothing like I thought it would be like. The kids are nothing like I thought. They don't listen easily. Culturally, from what I've seen from other teachers, they just yell and yell at the kids, and "go with the flow", they play games, they draw pictures, and try to cover themes. There is never a lesson plan. Never. I don't think anyone has ever LEARNED how to prepare a lesson.. Objectives, covering reading, writing, reading, listening, etc… doesn't exist. This school wants to see speaking. Which counts as "proof" to the parents that the kids are indeed learning.
Probably the second day on the job, after class, I was talking to a fellow teacher about my major and how I’m going for my TEFL certificate and what types of classes I’ve taken, etc, and my frustrations with the things I listed above, and he told me that I’m probably the most qualified teacher there. …. Now, I understand that just because I’ve taken classes does not make me a good teacher, but still.. It’s a little scary to think that the other teachers there have had mostly just crash TEFL courses… and nothing more. It makes me a little concerned for the kids. I decided right away that I needed to sit in on some classes because I was having a really hard time managing my classes.. they would just yell and not listen and run around.. and just anything but learn English. And as I was observing, I realized that even this other fellow teacher, who yes, did have better “control” of his class, was for sure not using an particular methodology, was simply playing games with the kids and did not have a lesson plan, or anything of the sort. And I guess it worked, but the class could have learned so much more, in my opinion.
Also, the boss wants me to teach a series of workshops on how I was taught to teach English abroad, kinda as a way to further train the other teachers. Now, this is even more difficult, because I will be instructing people who are ALL older than me and all have MUCH more experience than I do… so that means that I need to find ways to truly be 100% culturally sensitive, but also try to find a way to teach these things such as the importance of a syllabus (which almost doesn’t exist here) and lesson plans (which don’t), and also testing (which I’m just learning right now in detail through the Assessment class), and the different ways to teach.. so, this is quite the journey… seriously.

Chelcea said...

@Maggie I feel like the unorganized thing is something I wasn't expecting either from being here in Uruguay. I think the biggest problem I am having is that I keep comparing everything to the US, which is just a no go. It's simply not the same and it won't be. So that's hard because it's such a human tendency to compare and judge.. and I think it goes back to what Dr. Reynolds said during our methods class last spring.. you just have to hope that your pursuit for teaching with the best methods and effort that you can will somehow influence your surroundings to improve a little for the next teacher...

Chelcea said...

There are a lot of people mentioning that attendance is a really big problem, and saying that they now realize how importance attendance is. I experienced the same. I had a class I sub-ed for twice and the second time since they knew they would have me again and not their "normal" teacher, a lot of them didn't show up. And attendance isn't even taken!... so crazy.. I don't even know what to compare it do. I think that's just part of the culture, or at least that's what I'm telling myself

lindsaymariekline said...

There are a number of things that are huge challenges here in South Africa. I think a big one is the disorganization of the school I am at. Most of the time, classrooms don'e even have teachers in them. The kids are going wild, building forts out of the desks and what not. Such is the norm at this township primary school. When I arrived, I expected some sort of standard that the children I am tutoring should be held to. Some sort of measure that the teachers use to assess their kids. No such thing exists, so I was left with no point of reference when working with these kids. I literally had no idea what level they were at, what level they should be at, and where I should begin. I developed my own assessment tool to give me an idea of where they were, bearing in mind that they are in 4th grade. I was astonished to discover that they literally had no idea how to do the assessment because they do not understand enough English to decipher what is being asked of them. I then tried to simplify it even more, but they do not understand enough english to understand when I ask them a simple question like, "What is your favorite color?" Some of them can read in English, but they certainly do not understand what they are reading. And still, I have no idea what exactly I should be working towards with them because the school does not have a real curriculum. It has been quite a challenge to get my bearings and set goals with no point of reference.

Ashley said...

The biggest challenge for me right now is coming up with ways to tutor each of my students effectively. As of right now each of my students are at a different language and age level. So when they all come together they have different knowledge and experience. I have tutored one woman by herself and I noticed it was a lot easier to come up with decent materials and ideas for each tutoring session. However, when ever I have to go and tutor my larger group I noticed that this is a problem. I don't want my students to feel like I am wasting their time, nor do I want them to become more confused because of using materials and things that are too advanced or them to not feel challenged because I am using materials that are not advanced enough. So far they haven't said or acted like they were bored or frustrated but it is something that is always on my mind during each lesson. I sincerely fear that I am not meeting the expectations and needs of each of my students during our lessons. I only now realize that when teaching a larger group of students it can be extremely difficult to properly teach each and every one of your students. During each session I try my best to ask each of them if they understand, would like me to clarify, or if they have any different questions that they would like me to answer. I hope that by doing this I am at least attempting to reach out to each of my tutorees and aid them in anyway that I can.
But yes, definitely figuring out how to teach a group with differing language and age levels is proving to be more stressful and difficult then I had originally anticipated it to be. That doesn't mean I'll give up trying to solve this riddle though. :)

Ashley said...

I definitley know how you feel. Even though I don't have to worry about the acceptance of my teaching styles and methods by other teachers surrounding me I still feel that pressure. I worry that my students have had a better tutor or instructor before me and that they prefer the other tutorer more then me or my methods. Likewise, every time I tutor there are always other people tutoring in the same room I am and sometimes they are other native english speakers teaching english like I am. I worry that I the other tutors will see my methods or ways of tutoring as primitive or pointless. The fear of being judged or rejected because of your teaching styles is a legitimate worry indeed. I know that when I am in the same room as these other tutor's I try to listen in and see what they are teaching and how they are teaching it, all in the hopes that maybe I can learn something from them that I may have never have thought of on my own. Criticism is a scary thing but also a powerful motivator. :)

Ashley said...

I've noticed that there are quite a few posts about organization and attendance. Both of these pose very big problems as an unorganized environment can lead to sloppy or inadequate learning. I think the best a teacher in that kind of situation can do is to attempt to organize their classroom and materials as best as they can. Maybe overtime the organization can branch out and attempt to be applied in other locations and areas around the school. But for starters one can start small and try to make the best of their surroundings. If organizational instruments are required perhaps you could make some shelves or things out of boxes or cardboard or what ever is available. You know, do little things. Maybe you could even have a lesson on organization and teach the students how to be organized and stay organized. Perhaps they will then apply these things in other areas of there life. (one can hope) Motivate the students and keep them interested in the topics you are teaching, even if it's organization, and i'm sure you'll have a great impact.

la viajera gringa said...

Biggest challenges right now is definitely a lack of motivation from students. They pay to come and take English class so the internal motivation is there--I know it! But, they are so tired. Most of them work from 8am utnil 6pm with a mid-day break, and then English class is from 7-9pm. They are so tired and worn out from a busy day of work that it is so difficult for them to come and focus. This puts a lot of stress on me as a teacher because I am being a performer, entertainer, educator, motivator, all at once--with heavy focus on entertainer. It doesn't help that our book isn't entertaining at all! We're doing good now after the class has warmed up to me, but man is it exhausting.

Carolyn said...

One of my biggest challenges so far is thinking up new activities for my homeroom class. I have my homeroom class every day, Monday thru Friday for 70 minutes total (40 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon).

At the place I teach, we are broken up by states and my state is Minnesota and many times, I will give them short presentations about different parts of Minnesota and because I have all of the autonomy in the class, I can choose whatever I want to do for the class. My homeroom is 15 year olds and many times besides these mini presentations, I try to do more speaking activities with them because it is what they wanted to improve the most on along with doing journal writings because it helps me to see what problems the group as a whole has in terms of grammar troubles but I feel like I am running out of ideas.

Some days as well, I will take them outside because it is an English Camp so I do not want to make it seem entirely academic either and teach them different team building games that I've done in the US and it has worked but any other suggestions on fun ideas relating to speaking or activities that would be engaging for the students would be very helpful and much appreciated!

Carolyn said...

Another big challenge that I am also having is with exhaustion.

I am teaching from 8-4 everyday at an English camp in Lithuania and I feel like after I am done, I am so exhausted that I end up going to bed at 8 in the evening and waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning. Although I feel well-rested, when I finish teaching again the following day, I still feel more tired than before.

Any advice that you have about not wearing myself out as much or from not feeling as exhausted?

Carolyn said...

@Heidi Gradall,

I can understand where you are coming from in terms with the importance of attendance. While I am teaching my music festival lessons and it is taught to 7 classes with 3 lessons total, with one lessson a week. When some students in the class do not show up and their group members are gone, then it puts them at a disadvantage because they do not have their input and also for the students who are not there either because they may be lost for what I am trying to teach them so it definitely can be a real frustration.

Jennifer Speier said...

I think I probably answered this question in my last post...but it has been a few days so I will try it again. My biggest challenge right now is time. In all senses. My job is part administration/part teacher. I don't have time to complete all my administration duties. Lesson plans that I need to read and give feedback are stacking up, and being saved haphazardly. I don't have time to plan my classes (it usually gets left to Midnight when I get home from tutoring) and then I have to teach at 7am. I don't have time to journal/reflect after class because I have to start doing administration stuff.

Time in class is also a problem. My students are great, thankfully they all arrive on time to class because we only have an hour. I am used to teaching 2.5 hour classes to adults, so 1 hour goes by way too quickly. There is just not enough time to teach and practice, so I am left having to give them optional practice/homework to do at home.

The other challenge at the moment is lack of communication at the work place in general....I would say this is a cultural thing. One of our new Kids' Teachers is also teaching adults and no one has explained to her how the modular system works: how the students get their grades, what the projects are, when important dates are, nothing. She had to come to me for the answers and then she got yelled at for not getting the answers from the adult supervisor who has been telling her for the last week and a half (of a 4 week course) that he is too busy. In the same light, I have been teaching my class for a week and a half and I just got my class card to enter in attendance and grades. In my mind this should have been emailed to me Day 2, after registration was completed.

My class is a bit complicated because the teachers for the last 3 levels didn't follow proper protocal. The grades and the project details from their levels are all missing, which now throws off my level. I gave my first quiz today and they actually did pretty good. There is one student who needs definite extra help.

Taylor Shryne said...

My biggest challenge while teaching in Peru was that my classes were formed by English proficiency, not age. That means that in a typical class I would have ages ranging from 15-40. This made planning activities a bit difficult because an activity that is appropriate for a 15 year old may not be that interesting to a 40 year old. It was really difficult to lesson plan at the beginning but it was just a matter of choosing activities that were kind of neutral and would be fun and interesting for all ages. I got the hang of it after a while, however, I really feel like it limited my options for a fun & creative lesson!

Taylor Shryne said...

My biggest challenge while teaching in Peru was that my classes were formed by English proficiency, not age. That means that in a typical class I would have ages ranging from 15-40. This made planning activities a bit difficult because an activity that is appropriate for a 15 year old may not be that interesting to a 40 year old. It was really difficult to lesson plan at the beginning but it was just a matter of choosing activities that were kind of neutral and would be fun and interesting for all ages. I got the hang of it after a while, however, I really feel like it limited my options for a fun & creative lesson!

Taylor Shryne said...

My biggest challenge while teaching in Peru was that my classes were formed by English proficiency, not age. That means that in a typical class I would have ages ranging from 15-40. This made planning activities a bit difficult because an activity that is appropriate for a 15 year old may not be that interesting to a 40 year old. It was really difficult to lesson plan at the beginning but it was just a matter of choosing activities that were kind of neutral and would be fun and interesting for all ages. I got the hang of it after a while, however, I really feel like it limited my options for a fun & creative lesson!

Jessica E said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica E said...

The most challenging aspect of my teaching experience thus far has been the attitude that children and teachers have about schooling; thus resulting in teachers with a lack of behavior management practices, and children doing anything they please while in the classroom. I am used to the order and routine you often find with American children in the classroom, in daycare, and in activities children participate in. In Guatemala, education is not a priority for the majority of the population. Much of the country is in poverty, Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests, kids not placing a high importance on education makes sense. If a child is hungry or in danger from day to day they will not find importance in working hard at school, as much of their energy and time is used finding their next meal, or trying to survive. However since I was working at a school in an orphanage, this should not have been an issue as the children here get three meals a day and are pulling snacks out of their desks at an alarming rate. So it had to be something else affecting their lack of motivation, and overall lack of care for education.
Since safety and hunger should not be affecting their school performance, I believe the lack of classroom management is more or less because students are not motivated to have an education. Schooling is only required until the 6th grade, and it is not seen as something you must have in this country. So classrooms seem to be full of teachers who are not engaging with the children, do not challenge them, and do not have behavior management techniques. It seems to be more of a cultural difference more than anything, but it can be frustrating nonetheless. I feel almost like a circus performer in the front of the classroom, because if I am not keeping the kids engaged and excited about the material they will start walking around the classroom whistling, or begin yelling at each other. I must admit this does keep me on my toes, as I always have to be ready with a new activity if the one I am doing is not engaging the kids, but I do feel very frustrated with the behavior that is deemed normal in Guatemalan classrooms.
I think classroom management here is most challenging for me because I do not want to offend the class or change their classroom culture by making the children sit in their desks the whole time I am teaching. They are just not used to behaving that way here, and it seems to be more of a cultural attitude of thinking of school as a means to socialize, than teachers not caring to discipline the class. That being said, I am doing what I can to adjust to classrooms here. At first it was so difficult because I have worked in a school-aged daycare where we, worked hard to make sure the children followed directions, were quite when a teacher was talking, and were respectful. So these classrooms are taking a bit of work to adjust to.