Wednesday, June 16, 2021
We’ve made it to the end of the school year, and what a year it’s been! Last April, we wrote a blog post about what we’d learnt from online teaching and now we find ourselves thinking about what we’ve learnt from being back in the classroom and having to work alongside our friendly COVID restrictions. It’s been a year like no other, and we’ve had to continually readjust our ways of working to suit the ever-changing teaching environment we find ourselves in. So, what can we take from this experience and how can we make sure that next year is even better?
Here is our summary of the year, as well as some top tips on how you can make the most of the summer and the coming year of teaching.
With so many last-minute changes and variations in class delivery, we’ve had to make sure that we are much more organised in terms of what we are using in class. If you have students at home in quarantine, you can’t just photocopy a worksheet 5 minutes before the class. We’ve also had to work closely with the school administration to make sure that all information gets passed to the students in good time.
As some of us have been teaching blended classes, we’ve had to learn how to incorporate what we are doing in the physical class, as well as what’s on screen. This has meant we have had to be much more creative in terms of the digital material we use and how we display this in class.
Along the same lines, we’re just much better at independently using digital media! After having used our computers for so long to teach online, we’ve continued to develop these skills on our return to the classroom. We are much quicker and can find what we want much more easily. We can even solve our own IT issues with the help of a quick Google search.
After everything that’s happened over the past 18 months, we’re much better at remaining calm in unexpected situations and learning to take each day as it comes.
As the majority of us have been teaching with masks on for a while now, we’ve had to develop our gestures much more in class to support what we are saying. Students can no longer read our lips when in comes to getting cues to help with understanding, so we have had to make sure our gestures and CCQs are on top form in every class.
Do something in the classroom that you’re not used to, such as incorporating new activities or mixing up the structure of your lessons. Try to think of new activities to try next year with different groups and keep an eye out for our summer blog posts in which we’ll give you some ideas of activities to try with different age groups.
Despite the fact that we’ve improved in this area, there is always room for improvement. Think exams, material you’ve used in class, student reports and audio files - the list of things to organise is endless. Make sure it’s all easily accessible so you can get to it easily in future years. We’ll be talking about teacher organisation in a new blog post, so watch this space for our top tips!
For so much of the past year, we’ve had to rely on our instincts and learn as we go. Don’t go back to your old ways of sticking to what’s safe and make sure you listen to what your teacher intuition is telling you. Go rogue in class from time to time and really listen to your students so you can work out what will help them in class.
We’ve had to think outside the box a lot recently and our students have also had to assimilate a whole new way of learning into their daily lives. Don’t let it stop there - make sure that you challenge ss to think in more depth and really use the language for a variety of purposes, not just to pass an exam.
If there was something that you weren’t quite sure of this year, or you think you could have taught better, don’t wait until next year to realise that you didn’t do anything about it. It’s our job as teachers to know the content that we are teaching and not just direct the ss to the back of the book. If you don’t know, then crack open a book and look it up!
We’ve got much better at this, so make sure you continue to incorporate this into your face-to-face classes. We often tell you in these blogs to take things out of the book, but we really do mean it. If there is any way you can make the coursebook content more attractive to ss, then do your best to learn how to do it.
A teacher’s lesson plan is their best tool to ensure successful achievement of lesson aims. Make sure they are clear and if you keep them safe, you can use them again in future years. Lesson plans mean that your classes have a clear path, and the structure is clear for both you and the ss.
If your institution doesn’t offer any teacher training, then ask yourself whether this is a place in which you are going to be able to grow as a teacher. If you work autonomously, then seek out teacher training- there is plenty on offer and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Just ensure you check the credibility of the institution delivering the training, so you know it’ll be worthwhile.
This goes without saying, but one of the best ways you can increase student motivation and attainment is to have high expectations of them. Make sure that in doing this, you also have high expectations for yourself as a teacher, so you do your best to create the best learning environment possible.
It’s not just the students that have had a tough year, we’ve all been through the wringer! It’s so important that we don’t burn out and that we make time for ourselves. So, put your feet up and enjoy a well-deserved summer break, ready to face the challenges and the joys of the next academic year.