Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mistake Making

Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. The host for this month is Vanessa Long, here you can find other similar articles. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article to this blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with me at, and I’ll let you know how you can start participating!

I made so many daily little mistakes in the different countries I have taught in - cultural faux pas, language mishaps, that time I accidentally dropped all my underwear in my neighbors yard... 

In the classroom, I'm sure I made just as many mistakes. I made the mistake in the country of Georgia of doing an English "tournament". Well, I'm not sure if it was a mistake or not - the kids loved games, but those that were good at English were so absolutely devastated if they did not win. I thought the tournament would be fun for everyone and give the students who weren't the best at English a chance to win small prizes along with the better students.  Instead, I had a bunch of crying children - the good students who usually aced the tests- who hadn't been quick enough on the games and were now sobbing over it. I felt terrible. Maybe they didn't have the concept of "just for fun" competition over there? Lesson learned was to ask more if they had ever had a precedent of that sort of thing, and make sure to explain how it was for fun only, and not a reflection of how smart my students were. 

In the Dominican Republic, I was thrown into a Creole speaking pre-school classroom where I not only taught English, but Spanish, writing, and math. I had no idea what I was doing (I had signed up to be an English teacher in an immersion school, but that had fallen through). I came expecting it to be like Georgia, where I had support from other teachers and was told what were the classroom rules to follow, etc. Instead, my very first day there I was told to stand up and teach with no preamble at all. My mistake was not stopping right then and there and asking "what are the rules? What form of discipline do you use? Can I watch others teach for a day?" I should have been bolder and asked more questions at the beginning, instead of letting myself be rushed along. I struggled with classroom management every day and felt that I couldn't ask questions because now it may reflect badly on my organization. When I finally did ask questions everyone was happy to help - but I should have been asking from the beginning. 

So just ask a lot of questions. About everything, all the time. Take the risk of being that annoying foreigner, because in the end, that's what will set you up for success. 

No comments:

Post a Comment