Archives for posts with tag: ESL

…and we’ve circled back.

This quarter, I’m teaching reading, and in some ways this is my actual dream. I love reading, and I’m still really excited to share this love with my students.

But we’re back to the baby-bird syndrome, something that I noticed in my grammar class during the first quarter (it’s now the third quarter).

In Grammar, I’d figured out that the way to wean the students from relying on me to directly spit my pre-chewed knowledge into their mouths was through self-directed companion worksheets. I made worksheets that they used to dig through the text to figure out grammar points on their own, and then they practiced mostly on their own.

When we went over the material, it was a lot of them telling me the treasures they’d found and me tweaking their understanding of the rules.

With reading, I suppose I haven’t quite found my groove, and I worry that it’s negatively impacting my students. I’m still in the trenches, and I’m doing my best to give them engaging material, to activate their schema and to practice what we’ve learned–but things don’t really seem to be sticking,

a fact that is definitely reflected in their test scores.

For a couple weeks, I had students doing silent reading in class every day, and we went over the tests together as a class. This seemed to result in a positive uptick in test scores, but I was worried that I wasn’t spending enough time on explicitly teaching everything in the course plan (we have course plans that detail the subjects/skills we should cover each week).

So, for a couple weeks, I dialed back the silent reading to once per week and stopped covering the tests in class.

This has resulted in a noticeable downswing in test scores. Of course, there’s also the chance that I’m not doing the right kind of practices, but to me it looks like the reading skills simply aren’t sticking.

So I think we’re going to go back to plan A–more silent reading, more discussion of plot for The Giver, and more explicit correction in errors. We still have two more quizzes for the quarter, and I’d like to see students’ test scores come up again before the final exam.

The students have told me that reading is getting easier for them, but I’m not seeing it reflected in an academic context and I’d like to.

That’s all, for now.

So this week I got a bit of feedback from my mentor that has me wondering, once again, if I’m even in the right field. I have pretty much been asking myself whether Linguistics is for me since my very first class, but I’ve trucked on through it. Now, at the end, as I’m doing my practicum, I’m back to square one in wondering whether this is for me. And kind of thinking it’s not.

Here’s the feedback though:

“Really study your charts before class.  Same goes for the exercises you choose for the day.  Pencil the answers in the book to avoid confusion in the moment.  Some of the students have studied this information before- don’t let [name of student who showed me up in class] (for ex) show you up when another student has a question.  That’s a really easy way to lose credibility with them.  They know you’re still learning, but it’s best that they aren’t reminded of it- ultimately, they need to be able to count on you for solid knowledge and you need to be able to do your job without them trying to take advantage of your newness. (for ex, we don’t want them saying well I got all these questions wrong on the test because I was confused about that point and when I asked you, you weren’t sure either)”

It’s so frustrating. Is it supposed to be this hard? I’m “teaching” upper-level proficiency students, and I’m teaching writing and grammar. I’m trying to think of these things as a blessing, but they really just make me feel inadequate because they expose how much I don’t know. And I feel like I just can’t predict what they are going to ask.

Teaching is hard. Teaching is truly, truly hard. I had no idea how difficult it is. And it is something that I feel like I have to literally take day-by-day, except that one bad day erases like 4 good days.

Is it supposed to be this hard? If I were meant to be a teacher…if teaching were something that I were meant to truly enjoy….would it be this hard? Wouldn’t I be good at it? Have a “knack” for it? Am I trying to force my square peg self into the round hole of teaching? I’m starting to feel like it’s truly not a good fit…


So apparently this session I’m just the [student] teacher that goes hard in the paint. I just started teaching again yesterday; today I gave my grammar class a quiz and tomorrow there’s an in-class writing assignment that counts as a quiz for the writing class.

I was messaging my mentor today and I asked her about whether I could use a quiz from the workbook or make one myself. She said I could do either, so I made one myself. In my most secretest place, in my heart of hearts I am a writer, so I figured making a quiz would be a cool way to exercise my creativity. Plus I like working the students’ names into stuff because I think it’s engaging.

So I make what, to me, is a simple, obvious quiz. Straightforward. Coordinating conjunctions. Add and/but/or where you need to. BOOM.

But the funny thing is that you just can never quite predict what is going to be straightforward and what will trip the students up. My little straightforward quiz ended up having a few answers that were justifiably right. And because it had a “correct the errors” section, students were looking for things that I would have never thought to look for. I have to remember to tell them “correct the errors that are relevant to what I’m quizzing you on ONLY. All other errors are the result of human imperfection and should be ignored/embraced.”

Now I am grading their quizzes and I have realized that I am one of those annoying teachers that corrects spelling errors (even though I don’t take off). From the side of the test-taker, it’s like “really? How anal.” From the side of the test-grader, it’s like “well…they probably ought to know how to spell.”

In my writing class, I asked students to bring in two articles to the next class, but apparently I told them Friday was the next class because the only person who actually brought in an article was the guy who came to my mentor’s office hours to double-check. I could see that. I almost never know what day it is anyway. On the other hand, my mentor and I were both on the same page in thinking I told them to bring these articles in tonight. It’s just such a learning process, because I feel like I never quite predict which will be the things that the students find to be crystal clear, and which will be the things that cause massive confusion.



so it goes. I guess in my line of work, things are hard to predict.

Today I taught two classes, one writing and one grammar. These are a part of my practicum, so they are not my classes, but my mentor lets me plan them and execute them and pretty much only jumps in if I’m drowning.


Tonight was my first night teaching again after a two-week hiatus due to both a family emergency and break between sessions, and I was mostly excited but also a bit nervous.

I was excited because I was teaching conjunctions and I felt like I planned this lesson to a T. I studied it and I had this nifty train car metaphor and I had conjunction junction and this lesson was gonna be IT, how I bounced back after a somewhat shaky first session (in my eyes).

I was nervous because I was also teaching a writing class and I had spent so much time and energy on the conjunction junction that I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do for the writing class.


As the saying goes, you can never be too rich or too thin. Or predict which classes are going to go well and which will have you looking/feeling/sounding lost.

In the writing class, I introduced the Objective Report by examining (deconstructing, I’d like to think ^^) an article on the New York Sugary Drink ban.

And that did have some issues, but they weren’t due to my teaching (mostly). They were just normal issues of, like, vocabulary and some students still finding their sea legs after moving up a level.

As opposed to my beautiful, well-studied conjunction junction which got stopped in its tracks. At one point, I literally said “OK I can see this is not working. Ignore what I just said and let’s just do this.” And then I proceeded to have them do some exercises out of their blue Azar book.

It seems that in my preparation for the lesson, I got too meta. I was too far above the material–I lost that balance of how to present it in their terms.

And I understood it so well that I didn’t know how not to understand it, so I was having a hard time even understanding their questions.

Which prompted my mentor to remark that she understood, and that it comes with working more with the class and getting a feel for them,

and that “you can’t understand the material TO them.”