As I have already mentioned, since my first day of internship, I have been teaching on my own. I can do what I like. I can prepare any lesson I want. And it also means, I have to know how to make my classroom quiet, how to get their attention, how to deal with everyday problems and at the same time, how to teach English. Well, if you have never taught English before and thought your first teaching experience might be giving English lessons in France, don’t do it. Never. I am lucky and grateful that I already have some previous experience and it means I don’t have to focus on the teaching itself so much. Since preparing lesson plans and doing some activities and exercises is the easiest part. I just care about the classroom management! It’s the tricky thing. All the time! It’s a big challenge for me! And you know what? Challenges are meant to be met and overcome! 🙂
You really have to discipline children in French. I don’t find that English is effective for discipline in most cases, they just don’t understand. And it is not easy to discipline kids in your second language! Especially if they are 12 or 13 and even the way you say “Bonjour” makes them laugh. Moreover, it is not easy to switch between languages! Mastering your instructions and the way you give commands in French really messes up your English. What is more, children know you don’t evaluate their work, the know you don’t talk to their parents and they know you will leave in a few months. So it means…they just don’t care about your lessons and instructions. Therefore, every week, I am trying different attitudes, different activities and different way of speaking to my classroom. And it works. Slowly.
Let’s focus on the English lessons.
First of all, the biggest problem and the reason of my classroom management problems was that the level of English children have is very low. They can do really well in writing and doing exercises, but they can’t speak. They can’t use the knowledge they have. Their pronunciation isn’t the best either, so it means that their listening skills are poor and therefore they don’t understand me.
I was really surprised when I realized they didn’t know the activity “find somebody who…” I find it the most simple communication activity ever. What is more, they sometimes stare at me and seem pretty surprised when I want them to talk in pairs, share their ideas in pairs or small groups. It seems they are not used to it.
What is more, they do not have books. Like the Oxford or Cambridge or whatever books. As Czech children have. Not at all. Teachers told me it’s way to expensive to get them for the whole school, but they have books in Geography and History lessons, so why not in English? Therefore, it’s difficult for me to know student’s level and to know what they did before I arrived. They simply get copies of exercises and then they stick it into their exercise book. There are some books for teachers they can use to get inspired, but I guess that 6 English teachers can’t share one book. However, teachers very often prepare their lessons plans together. I find it great!
The last thing I should mention is that the classes are not divided when having English lessons. So there are 26-32 students in an English lesson. It’s super difficult to work with such a big group! And I admire the teachers who manage teaching them. Usually, they work in small groups so that they talk about the topic or do the activity together and everyone can speak. I think that they speak just French, when in groups like this, but maybe I am wrong.