How to Troubleshoot in a TEFL Class?
As with most situations in life, a teacher will run into a set of particular difficulties in the course of his/her career. Unruly students, elusive questions, challenges with the composition of the class in terms of level or age, difficulties adapting course books to the needs of the class, etc. It is up to the experienced teacher to decipher these situations and to see which possible fix to apply to them. It is imperative that a teacher sees the situations for what they are and not for what they should be. In essence, the best course of action is to strike a balance between the class’ needs and the individual student’s needs. The challenge is maintaining a positive learning environment by pinpointing the root causes of off-task behavior whether it is caused by material needing adaptation, lack of motivation, distractions, ambiguous instructions or absence of a teacher-student relationship.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Evangelos S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
First impressions are important when setting the tone of the class
To have an unrestricted flow of information between the teacher and the class as a whole, it is important for the students to feel as if they can trust the teacher and his/her abilities. On the other hand, the teacher also has to feel comfortable enough to deliver the knowledge that the students need. So a systematic approach to the class is necessary to establish a certain degree of rapport with the students. ”Getting to know you” or warm-up activities, such as surveys and ice breakers would give the chance to the teacher to learn things about the students as a whole class and as individuals. That way the teacher will better understand how to approach each one of the students by being aware of their weaknesses and strengths. The teacher will also understand what the class’ tendencies are as a whole. It requires a certain amount of finesse to tease out the inconsistencies of each class. It also takes a certain amount of time to build the necessary relationship, which is essential to the success of the class. Alas, it might seem insurmountable sometimes to break through the walls that students put up between themselves and the teacher. Frequent teacher-student interaction encourages students and builds confidence. That way, students are more willing to engage more efficiently within the class. Having a personal rapport with students is also an effective technique for classroom management, as a student is less likely to defy the teacher’s authority and would be more willing to collaborate. Patience, kindness, and sincerity can only benefit the way the teacher relates to the class.
Even if a good rapport is established with students, it is possible to still encounter off-task behavior. Students tend to follow the class dynamics as a whole and they also tend to follow other charismatic natural leaders in the class. Consequently, if one of those students starts to misbehave then it is common for other students to join in the discord. The reasons for this kind of behavior may stem from problems outside of the classroom, pure boredom and lack of respect towards the teacher or other fellow students as well as distractions. Depending on the class size, maintaining all of the students’ attention is more of a challenge. There is a chance that the teacher did not dedicate enough time and attention to his lesson planning and the lesson is not engaging enough, or that the student is suffering from ADHD or another learning disability. It is up to the teacher to control the chaos with some strategic application of discipline, organization, and preparation. Some of the most common issues with new teachers are often the simplest. A lack of punctuality and preparedness for the class may give the students the impression that the teacher is not serious and can be taken advantage of. When it comes down to applying discipline, a teacher should never take things personally. Fairness and consistency should always be maintained. Respect given is also respect earned between teacher and student, and vice versa. All of these challenges can be dealt with with the application of fairness, respect, and preparation. Keeping the right frame of mind and a clear view of the problem is always the best course of action in the classroom, especially when it comes to controlling and maintaining discipline in a class. A confident teacher should not become flustered when an unexpected situation arises. He/she should be able to identify the source of the disorder and then will be able to deal with it in a calm, patient and consistent way.
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In conclusion, most of the challenges encountered during class can be avoided with strategic preparation and organization. Understanding the needs of the students is paramount in this regard. Moreover, by understanding the dynamics of the class and as previously mentioned, adapting the lesson to the individual student’s needs, one can avoid many pitfalls. Many new teachers fail to prepare themselves enough for the myriad of challenges that can present themselves. The organization is the key to success when it comes down to teaching. A well-organized lesson plan will make it easier to deliver the material and keep the students engaged longer. Similarly, when it comes to discipline, a light strategic touch offers more chances for a peaceful resolution. Fairness, respect, and consistency are the path to achievement.
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