Team Teaching with Different Teaching Styles
As an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) working at an elementary school in Japan, I have to mainly work with seven different teachers and teams to teach the English lessons together. The number of teachers I work with more than doubles if I include the grades that I only teach occasionally and also the classes at the other school that I go to only once a week. It is no surprise that ‘flexibility’ is often mentioned as one of the most important traits to have to be an effective ALT. In this summative task, I would like to share some of my experiences and how I have learned to work with multiple teachers with different teaching styles.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Seong H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
I would like to talk about two teachers that I found to be extreme opposites when it comes to teaching style. One teacher that I used to work with did not have great speaking skills in English and was therefore not confident about speaking English during class. Furthermore, he seemed to have expected that I would lead the lesson, even though my role was to be his assistant. Not knowing that he had such an expectation, I would initially let him lead the lesson while he spoke entirely in Japanese and heavily relied on the textbook material by playing the audio and video files from the DVD. I quickly realized that this was not what someone could call an interactive, fun, and effective lesson, so I decided to take action. I talked to the teacher about whether I could lead the class instead and have him support me as necessary. With lesson after lesson, we started to learn more about each other’s teaching style and I discovered that he was great at playing the role of the participant by joining the students in the activities or games that I would often do with the class. This was quite beneficial to the situation since we had a really small class with an odd number (9) of students. There was one student who was especially shy and unconfident about her English, so the teacher would often be paired up with her to give her the extra help and encouragement that she needed.
The other teacher, who I am currently working with, has a teaching style that could almost be described to be the complete opposite of the aforementioned teacher. He has an intermediate-advanced level of English and is therefore confident in speaking in English in front of the students. His personality can be described to be quite charismatic and someone who likes to have control over the students while they give him their undivided attention. I often found myself to be excluded from the lesson, and he would proceed to teach students everything by himself, sometimes including even pronunciation. While his pronunciation is satisfactory, it is far from perfect, and therefore I felt that he needed to at least entrust me with the role of drilling and teaching pronunciation to the students. I talked to him about this and although things didn’t change immediately, with time, he started to involve me in the lessons more and more and we finally established a clear delineation of our roles where I could support him in areas that he lacked compared to a native English speaker.
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My approach to dealing with multiple teachers with different teaching styles has been quite straightforward. I spend the first couple of lessons observing how the teacher conducts the lesson, where their level of English is, and what kind of role they prefer to play. I use this observation to then communicate with them regarding what changes I think should be made and how. I think that the most important thing to remember in team teaching is that both teachers each need to play roles that complement each other to bring about an effective lesson. With constant and sufficient communication, I believe that effective team teaching is possible with most teachers regardless of what their teaching style might be, and therefore one should not be discouraged even if initial efforts don’t seem to result in any immediate improvements.
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