Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Quantum Leap in Teaching

Three years ago, I embarked on this great journey of gradually reinventing my ways of teaching with ideas and techniques from Cooperative Learning, Task Based Learning, lesson planning with ABCD objectives, to name just a few. I kept on trying out new strategies in my own class, microteaching, and teaching demonstrations. Of course, some worked so well, but some didn't. However, I've learned a great deal through this trial and error and eventually found a pattern that not only suits me so well but helps achieve the goal of getting students to talk in English.

I used to consider myself as a teacher who only taught in a very conventional way, instilling vocab and grammar efficiently in my students by overwhelming them with loads of drills and tests. I hated teaching demonstrations because I was so damned afraid of failing to live up to people's unrealistic expectations out of a member of the English Advisory Group. When I took on this position as full-time advisor and the Cooperative Learning Project for my school at the same time, I still sometimes feel amazed that I actually survived the first year even up to now. It is so true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Not only did I continue to stay on the job for another two more years but do teaching demonstrations outside of my school for 10 times.

What gives me the confidence to do this in front of all the English teachers without worrying that those watching in the back might be thinking, "Well, you're no better than me. How come you have the cheek to come to my school and do this stupid demonstration?". It was extremely intimidating and also challenging when I first did this last May. Well, I totally nailed it. I got many of the students to try to retell the story with their own words with the help of mind mapping and Gallery Walk. On top of that, the slow learners also were engaged by some of the activities that I specifically designed for them. During the class discussion with the teachers there, I gained so much confidence as well as recognition and appreciation of my hard work.

After that successful demonstration, I would ask the event planner whether a teaching demonstration would help more. Without a doubt, the question was usually answered with a resounding yes. Meanwhile, I took on the second and third English camps where I got to use only English as the medium of instruction and decided on what I want to teach, such as travel English, pronunciation, and intonation, Graffiti and Carousel, French toast and banana split and so on. On top of that, I also made my very first attempt to work on the Skype exchange project with an incredibly driven Japanese teacher, Akiko, and achieved great success in terms of creating an authentic Environment to use the language while also learning to appreciate the cultural differences. So far my students have experienced topics like school life, music, celebrities and the beauty of Taichung. As of now, I'm pretty sure I want to keep on working for International Education, for I see the true value of it from my students.

Of all the activities or teaching demonstrations I've conducted, there were some that didn't go well as I planned. I felt disappointed and discouraged, and then I realized there was no such a thing as a panacea for all situations. For quite a while, I was not aware of what to do next because maybe I was still not that good as I thought. Luckily, the demonstration at Erlun was so successful that it really revived me. Also, I really think I'm good at what I've been doing and some teachers can actually benefit from my sharing based on the feedback I received from recent workshops and class participation at different schools. For the recognition and appreciation, I really cannot ask for more.

I'm not saying how great or important I am that so many teachers have been inspired because of me. I didn't invent any new teaching techniques, either. All I did was keep on trying and trying, and I truly enjoyed every minute of it because now I can set up a variety of activities to motivate and provide scaffolding for students to apply the language with regard to reading comprehension and speaking skills. Well, looking back at how I got started three years ago, I feel so blessed and the need to create a mind map of what I've learned along the way.

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