Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quick Questions Answered

Class Lengths

How do you cope with longer class periods? I believe there is a huge difference between teaching a regular class length (45-55 minutes) and teaching a block (90+ minutes). I have taught both and I have to say I really prefer the shorter class periods. There are teachers that will disagree with me, saying they need all that extra time – that’s fine. Everyone has his/her own individual preference.

For me, 90+ minutes is torture. I have to figure out enough material to keep students occupied the whole time, plus dealing with their restlessness once the hour mark has passed. I have done different things with the time. Sometimes I use the opportunity to show a lengthy video, have students take notes, and have class discussion. I have also broken the class into two 40-ish minute halves with a 5 minute break in the middle – I run two individual (but related!) lessons so that we’re not doing the same thing for an entire 90 minutes.

I think I am the one teacher that loves 30-35 minute periods (we occasionally have them if we need to make room in the day for a special event). I love the pressure of rolling up the sleeves, getting in there and doing the work, and getting out quickly. I call it “kamikaze teaching.”

Handling Nerves

How do you handle your new teacher nerves? I was nervous the entire first semester – both times I was a new teacher. I was terrified of screwing up, of not teaching everything on the lesson plan, of handling fussy students, of accidentally breaking school rules. By the time late November rolled around, I was far too busy to be nervous. In December, I had a rhythm going and was fairly confident. Then January rolled around and I had new classes and I was nervous all over again.

If you get nervous, I don’t think there is any other way to deal with it except accepting it, taking a deep breath, and going for it. The hard part is not letting your nervousness show to the students – I had a professor in undergrad that was visibly nervous and I wanted to tell her to chill out, it’s not that bad! It was difficult for me to go to class every time and see the poor woman practically shaking.

First, I see teaching as part performance and being nervous is a great opportunity for that. Take a deep breath, step on stage, and act out your part. Develop your teacher persona, live it, and enjoy it.

Second, have a really good, solid lesson plan. Know exactly what you’re going to talk about for the entire class period. I found that the weaker my lesson plan, the more nervous I was. If I knew exactly what I was going to do, if I had a “mission,” I could get it accomplished without giving in to my nerves. In fact, plan something extra for your lesson in case you end up with extra time at the end of your class. This can be an activity that you can do at any time (a vocabulary review activity) or part of your lesson that, if you don’t get to it this class period, you can start the next class period with.

The final thing to remember is that you are the teacher and you know more than your students do. They are here to learn from you, so feel secure in your knowledge and confidently show off your stuff.

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