Some recent comments on this blog by Jason and David made me think about a few lessons that I've posted materials and ideas for but then never fed back on how they actually went. This is probably because they didn't work quite so well as I'd hoped, or didn't go at all, mostly due to circumstances and my own lack of follow up. However, I think it's important to write about 'cause otherwise I might give the impression that everything in my class always works out ... which it definitely doesn't! Experiments go wrong, learners struggle and I am often lazy.
For example, the day I decided to use the Scene it! Arab protests lesson also happened to be the day that a male student started my all Muslim women class. Two ladies in particular are very conservative. They wear the hijab (head scarf) and niqab (veil) whenever they are outside or when men are present.
They were devastated... I really hadn't taken into account their perspective at all. We are full of bright ideas about integration, equal opportunities etc... and have successfully integrated men into several previously all women classes. However, this class was not to be one of them. One learner - 'A' told me that she would no longer be able to attend the class with a man present due to her husband. She actually used the phrase 'he will kill me' The other lady 'H' reproachfully asked me why I hadn't told her in advance. If she had known she would not have come and she was very worried about what might happen if her husband found out she had attended a class with a man.
This is a level above simple preference or even religion ... these ladies were genuinely distressed and scared. I felt awful. The atmosphere in class was dead. The two ladies moved to another table and worked with their backs to the class. Everyone was subdued including the poor, unassuming male learner.
Now we are an equal opportunities college and I certainly could not ask the male learner to leave. However, there was another class at his level at a different venue so I was able to transfer him. The situation made me agonise quite a bit over how I handled the situation and over my values ... for a number of reasons and if that other class had not been available I would have had to make a very difficult decision.
As you can probably imagine the lesson was a total flop :-/
The other session that I did recently was Trying Talk it Up! This actually worked really well in class... the learners got a lot out of the dialogue and I mentioned that I would get them to practice at home and have them repeat it in the next session.
Well I didn't :-/ whatever else I'd planned took over, learners came who hadn't come to the previous session and I wussed out! Consistent follow up over a number of sessions is definitely one of my weaknesses as a teacher. I am planning to try the approach again, however, and I will endeavour to follow through on what I say to the learners.
That class is a low level class but my higher level class with more language actually told me off today for not being more strict with them when they're late or when they don't do their set homework (because they know I don't follow through on what I ask them to do!) They said they like it in the short term but in the long term they lose out... which is very true!
This all sounds quite negative... I don't feel negative... I just know that there are many ways I could improve as a teacher and I want to be honest about the less shiny moments amidst all the delight of sessions that go well.