Weekly Evolution

It occurred to me recently that I am a terrible teacher on Monday and a decent one on Friday.  This is because I teach the same high school lesson 12 times each week.  I am terrible at estimating the amount of time each activity will take.  My tendency is to overestimate, and that is a problem.

If the lesson plan involves three activities, and I come up two minutes short on each activity, that leaves six minutes of awkwardness at the end of the lesson.  Unfortunately, a six-minute gap would be an improvement.  The past two Mondays, I had over ten minutes to burn each class.

The standard way to deal with this problem is to have a few games ready at all times.  You get to waste a few minutes, and the students love it.  This isn’t possible for my classes.  My students’ listening skills (most students, at least) are so low that I can’t explain how to play games without lots of demonstrations and translation.

This forces me to get my timing right.  My goal for next week is to pack so much into the lesson plan that I can’t possibly finish it all in 50 minutes.  I thought I’d done that this Monday, but I was wrong.

When I go backpacking, I have a rule for collecting firewood.  Pile up a ridiculously large amount of firewood.  So much that I could never possibly burn it all in one night….and then double it.  I plan to apply the same rule to lesson planning going forward.  With any luck, I’ll spend next week running out of time instead of staring at a classroom full of bored kids waiting for me to entertain them.

Until next time.


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5 thoughts on “Weekly Evolution

  1. Bird says:

    Why won’t they play games?

    • wtl0715 says:

      It’s not so much that they won’t play games, it’s that ten or fifteen minutes isn’t enough to communicate the rules and purpose of the game. There’s a bit of a Catch 22 – the classes with the most advanced students are assigned to the KTs (Korean Co-Teachers) with the highest English skills. So the classes with the lowest-performing students have the least capable teachers. Most of my low-level teachers can’t translate for me or help me explain anything (I mean anything).

      It’s hard to find games that are simple enough to explain AND capable of entertaining a bunch of 16 year-olds. I’ve found a few, but they take so long to explain that it’s useless to begin them without 30+ minutes.


      • Bird says:

        I have always wondered how you can teach the English language to people without them knowing any English at all. i know it is done all the time, but my experience with learning Spanish for two years was that I didn’t, and my Spanish teacher spoke both English and Spanish. In two years, all I learned was how to ask where the bathroom is…Worthless, because I wouldn’t know what the answer was…

      • wtl0715 says:

        I know it seems counter-intuitive, but I think immersion learning has the potential to be very effective. Unfortunately, my school’s implementation of immersion learning isn’t ideal. In fact, many schools are unable to properly implement an immersion program. The classes are too large (35+), the students lack motivation (English grades don’t affect their GPA), and I only get them for one hour a week.

        My friend Chris has a worse setup than mine. He gets 9th grade twice a week for one month, and then he moves on to 10th grade, and so on. So they get four weeks of English, and then twelve weeks without a single English class. No required practice in the interim. Plenty of time to forget whatever they learned during the month of English classes. It’s pretty ridiculous.

      • Bird says:

        You poor guy! That sounds awful..There is no incentive for them to even try! No wonder you liked the Good Will Hunting letter!

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