What to Consider When Curating the Best Possible Course Experience
The overall “course experience” or a critique of daily experiences are too often considered only during course evaluations or in response to vocalized dissatisfaction. As an English teacher (or any teacher) it is your responsibility to craft, adjust, and/or carry-out a course experience that will be the most effective and enjoyable one possible. To do so requires that you give broad thought to your audience, schedule, and how you show up in the course.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Sara S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
When curating a course experience the first thing to consider is the audience. Each audience will breed its challenges both with how and what you cover in the English language. Moreover, different audiences demand different “soft” experiences as well. “Soft” considerations here can be considered as the behaviors, demeanor, purpose, and bigger picture that is to be held in mind when you’re teaching, even on a day-to-day basis. For instance, the ideal course experience considerations for a class of children will be prioritized differently than that of multilingual adults.
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A course experience for children will be better made when you as the teacher shape your demeanor with the knowledge that your students are still learning to think, read, and respect one another even in their native languages. You will need to show up like any other teacher in their native-speaking world would: sternly but joyfully because children need praise and discipline in their activities. By contrast, your considerations for an audience of multilingual adult learners will demand you figure out nuanced context with care. Are they refugees or immigrants, wanting to blend into a new English-speaking culture? If so, you will want your activities to prioritize applicable survival and communication skills for the environment. You may be one of just a few English speakers they interact with regularly, so you will need to represent well, be courteous, warm, and consider yourself not only as a teacher but also as a peer in our world.
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Another consideration when creating a course experience is the schedule-- daily as well as broadly. Many schools, companies, organizations, or independent learners will provide you with built-in limitations of how the course is constructed. This is good to study as soon as you can. Notice the natural rhythm laid out: are there big breaks and holidays that students will likely be looking forward to? Are there cultural or political challenges that will impact the class dynamically? What about any periods when lessons will be routine and steady? Where will you need to allow for flexibility because you just do not yet know certain information? It is a good point of reference to make sure your overall course structures in challenges (such as exams, big projects) that build anticipation and progress markers; celebrations (such as appropriate holidays in the class, field-trips, or out-of-regularity releases of tension); and practice (the every-day repetition of coursework). Giving broad thought like this upfront will prepare you to curate the most effective course possible. However, it is also key to sculpt a daily schedule as well.
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The daily schedule (which refers to each meeting, not necessarily every day of the week). Groups of students of any age and in one-on-one study benefits greatly from a class routine. Expected behaviors such as a warmer and Engage, Study, Activate phases make students feel safe and give them a sense of control.
Finally, creating a course experience depends, too, on how you show up as the teacher. This does not simply mean your dress- which will vary from class to class due to cultures, professionalism, and other factors. “How you show up,” also means what values are you carrying? What external knowledge can you offer? How do you make people feel? It also means how you show up in the space. Do you bring music? Colorful posters? Lots of research exists on color theory that impacts the psychology of students- the same with audio. In borrowed spaces, there are things you can do to demonstrate a class culture (or one-on-one course, too) such as creating class ground-rules. In any event, both your demeanor and how you impact a physical space are impactful.
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It matters that you, as the teacher, give broad thought to the course experience in which you are participating with students. The leadership role of being a teacher, whether paid, volunteer, veteran professional, or otherwise, breeds power. You must think beyond simply bringing English content to your students. How you conduct and choreograph yourself, space, and the schedule (daily and macroscopically) can make a lasting impression on any student-regardless of whether they realize it right away or if they reflect on it later in life.
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