My teaching style.
Growing up in school was not a particularly fun experience for me. Mrs Grieve would give us our books to read in silence and reprimand us if we looked up. There was zero interaction and the fact that I can’t even remember the book shows how little her methods paid off. Thankfully teaching has changed a lot since then. Having studied various methodologies and beliefs, I have taken what I believe to be the best parts from each and formed my own style.
For me the most important thing for the student to take away from my class is the ability to converse with English speakers. That is ultimately what a language is - the study of communication - and also it is the key to keeping students engaged and interested in what you are teaching. If you are simply talking at the student or allowing them to read on their own, there is no spark and little will sink in.
I tend to favour the Constructive teaching methods - using activities to ensure my students stay alert and do not fall into a passive slump. It’s important to use activities like debating, group discussions and presentations whilst also taking elements from a more Behaviourist viewpoint where you reward pupils for good work and encourage rather than reprimand when they struggle. This is also linked to affective factors such as students having low self-esteem or is naturally shy. A good teacher will work with this and move the class forward bearing this in mind. For example a student lacking in self-confidence will benefit from more encouragement while a student who is shy will need more personal attention from the teacher.
The VAK (Visual, Auditory & Kinesthetic) model is also something I take from as I enjoy using video clips, newspaper clippings, music and other aids to help engage with students. Using a variety of stimuli ensures they remain alert and will help material stick in their memory.
With every class it is important to target their needs or in the case of younger students, their interests. If you are teaching adults, then you need to find out what their needs are - English for Business, Law, Medicine, etc. With younger students you need to unlock their interests and focus on that, as long as they are learning to converse in English that is #1 priority. That will provide motivation and enthusiasm. It is always important to have the students’ respect as well as be someone who they can consider a peer.
As I said previously, when it comes to teaching Spanish I would prioritise speaking over the other macro skills - Listening, Reading & Writing. These will come naturally through conversations and over the course of the class. To get to speaking first the student must listen to the teacher and understand me. From there they will learn to use the vocabulary themselves then read and write.
With regards to the micro skills - Grammar, Vocabulary, Pronunciation and Spelling, I would favour vocab and pronunciation more as again both are key in carrying out the most basic of conversations. Throughout the course I would have a structured syllabus in mind - but at the same time a syllabus that could be adaptable to a student’s needs or level. Ultimately the syllabus is a structure for the whole course and takes into account goals and aims based specifically around the student’s needs whilst looking at key areas like Vocabulary, Grammar, Structures and Topics.
Personally I think a combination of task/exam syllabi would be most successful. You would have students working in class, with the interaction of the teacher and the ability for them to assess the student’s growth under a task-syllabus. But with exams added in, you would have students studying for exams under their own time and when they see their results, they will feel a sense of achievement that might be harder to convey in class.
I would usually begin the class with some rapid fire questions to get the students ready before addressing a current topic of interest - something that’s either in the news or of interest to the student. I would also provide visual/audio aids such as a video or song (or toy for a younger student) to help make the subject more engaging and memorable. Within this topic I would have them learn new situation-based vocabulary before opening up the exercise into more of a debate giving the student more of a chance to play with the language themselves and express their own opinion. After this I would move onto looking at a Structure of some kind but including a smooth transition to ensure the class worked smoothly for both student and teacher. I would ensure each class features a Topic, a Structure and a Vocabulary-based exercise. I would note down any issues during the class then at the end summarise any problem areas and test the student again, ensuring they go away knowing any areas to work on.
When a teacher joins a school, obviously the dynamic will be different each time. The ideal school for me would be one that allowed me a degree of independence with my structure and role as a teacher. There are many position a teacher can take: A needs analyst, a controller, an authority and more. I think regarding my own personal role, I would choose a mixture between being the facilitator where you encourage conversations between students, a needs analyst where you can successfully grade the student and see where their interests lie and what kind of syllabus is relevant to them as well as being a playmaker where you help the student along implicitly but ultimately allow them to feel like they have joined the dots and learned English themselves.
Although a teacher can play the facilitator role and help steer discussion, learning and results, they also needs to be more present when it comes to correcting students. This can be a tricky thing as it really varies in each situation to know when to correct - on the one hand you need to ensure they don’t fall into bad habits, on the other hand if you over-correct they can become discouraged. For me personally, it’s hard to give a general answer, as this really is such a case by case answer.
It’s the same with grading students’ abilities at the beginning of the course or even the activity. You can begin with simple questions and gradually begin to make the vocabulary and the grammar more complex using cognates, lots of examples and antonyms. Ultimately you just need to be attuned to their own needs and development.
When it comes to the students’ roles, they too obviously have a role to play. I would steer clear of them being the passive learner - as proven by my own time at school - the student comes away with nothing. Instead I would first focus on them being an imitator as they began to learn the vocabulary with me. Then they would be a communicator as we were able to converse successfully with one another before finally being the self-manager who had all the tools to speak English at their disposal and were able to put them to use themselves.
With regards to homework, I would set things to do but not every night and not always the same thing. Sometimes it might be a reading activity, other times, it might be preparing a presentation. Variety keeps the student enthusiastic and engaged with the material.
As I have said throughout my essay, the most important thing to bring to any classroom is personality and enthusiasm. I have been down a few other career paths before coming to teaching - Digital Marketing, Journalist & DJ(!) - All revolve around keeping people’s attention, keeping them engaged and that is something I believe I bring with me to my life as a teacher. If you can keep the students engaged and allow them to take time to enjoy learning English then they are much more likely to remember it outside the classroom.