Is it better to be given the teaching material and resources by your school?
Diary submitted by Charlotte M., Madrid
IS IT BETTER TO BE GIVEN THE TEACHING MATERIAL AND RESOURCES BY YOUR SCHOOL?
Certain school and English academies have structured learning programmes, very specific methodologies, meaning that they will provide you with all the material you will need for teaching that class. All you have to do is arrive on time and interact with the student(s) while using this material. In this reflective diary, I will be presenting the benefits and disadvantages of this, as well as how to make the best of it.
I started teaching English, mainly speaking, in Spain, at a school that gave me complete freedom and expected me to find all the material myself. I spent hours looking for more mock exams, for more questions to ask them, for more conversation topics (see ESL conversation topics) Yes, I will admit that it was at times tiring, but it also meant that I was free to teach about what I wanted, meaning that I could approach topics that interested me too, even with lower levels.
I was then placed in a school that gave me all the material I needed: each lesson was already planned for me. The students would listen to a recording about a particular subject, and then I would ask them question to check their understanding. At first, I thought it was wonderful, because I rarely racked my brain to find something to talk about or the plan the lesson. However, this also means being far more restricted, often having to ask very dull questions.
Eventually I came up with a balance, and this is one of the best lesson I have learned about teaching. As teachers, we are able to lead and stir the class the way we want it. Even with a strict school methodology, there is some freedom within the classroom to add your own style of teaching. For me, it was through expanding obligatory question of comprehension (of a recording the students had previously listened to), to broader questions about students’ personal lives and their opinion, for instance on topical political subjects such as the independence of Catalonia (see The Telegraph’s article on ‘Why does Catalonia want its independence from Spain?’).
As I always tried to keep as close as possible to the topic of the lesson, I found that this really helped them to relate to the lesson, as well as keeping them sharp and interested. As a result, they tend to register the information (whether that be grammar or vocabulary) more easily. Moreover, they tend to be more motivated to communicate their opinions to me, having to look (or ask) for more challenging words and structures. To me, this is the best example of reducing the TTT (Teacher Talking time) as much as possible and making the lesson more student-centred. However, when teaching English as a foreign language, it is important to remain culturally aware: student-centred approaches may not be easy to achieve in every culture, as mentioned in an article by Ian Clifford on the British council website, entitled ‘Do learner-centred approaches work in every culture?’. It is important to be adaptable.