A Non-Teacher on Teaching

So today was my first day in the classroom.  Ever.  In Georgia, in America, everywhere.  My first time in the classroom was teaching Georgian police officers English.  Kind of an intimidating audience to audition for.

As if that weren’t enough, I’ve been assigned four classes, three times a week, totaling around 85 students.  I assumed it was a mistake when I saw the schedule on Friday afternoon, that I had accidentally been assigned the classes of two volunteers, but upon actually getting the opportunity to speak to an authority figure within the police department today, I found the only mistake was the one that resulted in me being scheduled for an hour total that violates my contract.

Sometimes these things happen.

The first class was rough, mostly because I was unprepared.  I looked through the book a few times over the past few days and thought that the exercises were well-suited to a lesson plan, but this fell apart in the first few minutes.  My assistant and I stumbled through the rest of the class, picking random exercises out of the book and having them repeat key phrases.

It went okay.

The second class was far better because I wrote out a lesson plan based on what worked in the first class.  It was much shorter because I covered just the bare bones without any introductory games of exercises.  Things were also helped along by the English abilities of this new class—they had more experience and were more eager than the first to participate.  It may have been a function of better preparation—actually, now that I think about it, it almost certainly was.

The third class was at a different building and with a different assistant.  It was also the second two classes combined into one, and it was not held in a room so much as a foyer that included numerous windows overlooking a busy street.  We also lacked a black/whiteboard, which made some explanation more difficult (a vs. an, he/she/his/her) and the big exercise (a dialogue between students) impossible.  I think it will be smoother when we cut the group size down and get a board.

I hope.

One thing that we went over in orientation reared its head today very strongly: the acceptance of cheating.  Evidently in Georgian culture it’s more like “helping” each other, so it’s not frowned upon and sometimes even encouraged.  While I didn’t give out test today, I did see some of this mentality.  When a student was struggling with a question—I taught them three common and simple questions and their corresponding answers and then went around the room, asking each student one of them randomly, forcing them to parse the question for meaning and come up with the appropriate answer—others would “help” them by giving them the right answer.  Even my assistant, who I asked to translate the question into Georgian if a student struggled, would tell them the answer I was looking for.

It’s frustrating to try to teach them to think in English on their own and be subverted.  I hope that I can work on this with my students, and that the other Georgian teachers will back me up.

At least a little.


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