A good day to moan

Bad lessons call for reflection to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. It doesn’t help wallowing in fail mode. So, by the time I got out of the building I was already figuring out what was wrong with my lesson.

I had prepared, delivered etc etc, all pretty similar to last year’s method but slightly improved. FYI I’ve been developing my own debate style/method since 2007. Yet, things didn’t work. 

The difficulties

1)Students peaking L1

2)Students joking and messing about

3)Students not doing the PW/GW tasks properly

4)Students not talking enough when called upon for a group debate

I grabbed some students at the end to tell them off but turned it into a Q&A to find out why they were how they were. My findings were that they were just doing what they did last year i.e. speak the L1 and behave like they were.

This means that no matter what I had done they’d have been like that. It wasn’t my lesson but the past teacher’s ‘training’ that was the issue.


I think I need to start off the next classes with a ‘talk’ about what I expect, what they need to do and also to find out what they are interested in and work from there. I tried that last year but got nothing back but maybe these students are different, maybe.



17 thoughts on “A good day to moan

  1. It is an issue so often when dealing with new students. Past teachers had different expectations (I’ll avoid saying lower expectations.. oops just said it), allowed certain behaviour which you don’t. I don’t like lecturing students but a discussion about what standards are expected probably doesn’t do any harm, especially as you are also trying to find out what will interest and engage them. It may work, it may not, but it’s as good a starting point as any. I have gone a little ‘drill sergeant’ with young learners sometimes in the past and told them what I demand. Sometimes it worked, although may not be in the teaching manuals, or probably not a good way to approach the problem but worked for me at times. At least everyone knows where they stand and what’s expected.

    Anyway, even under these circumstances, I was delighted to see a notification in my email box today that you had written a blog post. This is my most missed blog. It’s been too long since the 100th post.

    • Cheers Barry.

      I feel better after venting. I think we take th high road by trying to delivery quality but some jokes, feet up on chairs, L1 etc can quickly make student friends. They don’t learn and often get worse but if you’re assessed by stdt FB then…

      Yes, I’ll give the talk with my new class tomorrow and use my adapted lesson and I may even describe the format of my typical lessons and justify it.

      I think I had taken for granted that students always read the course blurb but that they would all be nice like mine last term. I’m getting sloppy! It seems that you do sometimes have to say “no swearing, shouting and using phone in class” to students who’ve been there years.

      Another example of lack of teamwork and people doing what they want. That used to drive me bonkers in China. I took great lengths to set test marking criteria and bands which would get blown up by ‘cool’ teachers saying “but they were sooo awesome that I had to give them all 100%”.

        • “Hey guys, how’re you doin? So, today, we’re gonna, like, y’know, like, yeah, learn, like, y’know what I’m saying? Learn English yeah! Yeah! Yeah? Yeah!”

          Translation=I’m going to talk rubbish to try to convince you that I know what I’m talking about and will add jokes so that you smile and leave thinking I’m a nice guy. I’m not going to do any work or preparation but I’ll give you all 100% in return. OK? OK? OK!

  2. Hello Phil,

    I always try to speak to my students from day 1 so we know what we expect from each other; of course, it doesn’t mean that what was agreed upon on day 1 will still be followed come week 4. But at least, we have an idea of our expectations. Much also depends on the type of students, doesn’t it? I’ve been lucky this year because I’ve been having motivated adults, so there are no problems in class. The fact that not all of them do their home assignments all of the time is disappointing but not that important. Their level of progress depends not only on me but on themselves.

    I’ve had disciplinary issues before and it’s such a waste of time and energy; worse, when, like you mentioned, your expectations aren’t the same as your peers and/or your employers. So, I feel your angst.

    Good luck! Hope it’ll all get sorted out by the next lesson!

    • Cheers Chiew.
      I did a basic rules talk and had half of my old students. the others were new. I think I underestimated how much my normal environment is to me and the old ones. This is the first time I’ve had this problem at this place but probably the first time I’ve taken over a full class from someone.

      It makes you think about how other factors, apart from what or how you teach, affect the lesson and the learning.

      If I’d have been doing an assessed DELTA/CELTA observed lesson I would have failed, I’m sure.

      • For sure, there are a multitude of factors which influence the lesson, some quite beyond our control. We can only try to bring them to within our control. As for being observed, let’s face it, how many of us, in real life, would pass? A class is not a laboratory; real learning does not take place in a lab. You expect to make “mistakes” or you expect not to be able to solve a problem. You just rectify them in the next class. To give a small example, do you bother with ICQs? I hardly ever. If they don’t understand, I just repeat the instructions, or do an example. It’s much quicker than dishing out patronising ICQs, I tell you. Anyway, I’ve ranted enough of this somewhere else, I believe.

        • ICQs??? ERRRR! No! I’ve even stopped with gist and detailed questions when the objective is discussion. I watched one C2 stdt skim a 400 word internet text in about 20 seconds and he got and was able to use most of the points. I could tell that is how he works with texts in his job, he gets info from them to use. He doesn’t sit around redreading 4 time s to fill in questions.

          If our aim is to get them to understand it and use the content then perhaps asking for a summary and their opinions on the important bits is all that’s needed.

  3. Hi Phil,

    Good to have you back.

    Another post that landed in my inbox today was by Willy Cardoso on his Authentic Teaching blog and it might be useful in the long term. It is all about talking to the students about the reasons for doing the exercises and what they should be getting out of the tasks. It probably won’t work in the short term if they have been used to a ‘cool’ teacher, but something to work towards.

    You can see the full blog at http://goo.gl/8gU36

    • Hi Stephen.

      Willy is the man!!

      I’m coming round to the idea of explaining more, especially when teaching abroad and out of TEFL schools. Yet, do I need to justify everything but also adapt to what they want?

      Turning a class round can take a while but is it needed? Who am I to say that my method is the best or that I know what they need better than them? Yes, I’m the teacher and in some countries we are the experts but aren’t we all into finding out what they want/need and giving them it? Fine but with 20+, objectives to meet and limited time you have to push through to a certain point.

      I had this in a previous job where I knew what they needed to improve, they knew but the school had a curriculum to follow.

      Something has gone wrong somewhere with all these mliddlemen. I’m pretty sure a good teacher could improve a classes level drastically but in a uni that’s not always what they want. they just want you to ‘do the course’. Maybe we need a CELTA for stretching out learning English.

    • Cheers Tyson. Yes, I’ll draft a PPT slide maybe instead of just explaining my usual rules. I have a feeling though that this was ‘not bothered about this job and leaving at the end of term’ syndrome. I’ve seen that by teachers who are going to leave where they let things go and then when you get their students it’s trouble.

      I think I’ll also go over the participation grading (which they all should know as it’s the same in every class) and how they can get higher marks i.e. focus on getting better not telling off.

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