Teaching Practice from a trainee’s point of view

As part of your Trinity CertTESOL course, you’ll keep a detailed record of the lessons taught and observed during the course and, towards the end of the TP component, write a conclusion on how you have developed in this area during the five weeks.

Huge thanks to Harry, one of the trainees on the October full-time course, for allowing us to share his Teaching Practice conclusion.

Harry (second from the right) with his teaching peers and learners

When initially making the decision to take a TESOL course, I carried out research on my various different options and I have to admit that the idea of taking an online course for a much lower price did have its temptations. However, there were many factors that swayed me towards taking the course with Active Language, but by far the most persuading advantage was the opportunity to gain experience of real teaching practice. I only hoped that for the far higher cost in comparison to achieving what appeared to be a similar qualification online, it would be worth it for what I was going to gain in experience. Taking a retrospective view from my position now at the end of the course, I could not be happier with my decision. I now see no possible way that I would have been able to develop myself as a teacher in the way that I have without the face-to-face contact with my truly incredible teachers during input sessions, observing both professionals and other trainees teaching, and most importantly by going through the ‘process’ of real teaching practice. I feel that every extra penny spent on taking the  course in person has been more than worth it for the value that I have received in how it has developed my abilities as an English teacher.

 

I talk about the teaching practice as a ‘process’ as after experiencing how it was structured, this is exactly how it felt. A ‘process’ of constantly developing in a tactical way, in that my personal development stages never seemed too overwhelming but as a whole have led me to attain so much in gaining and improving teaching skills. The way in which every class I taught was analysed both personally and by my tutor enabled a constant self awareness of current personal strengths and weakness that was fundamental in giving me focus and direction of improvement throughout the whole duration of the course. This approach guided me to improve my teaching abilities in a step-by-step manner and kept me constantly motivated to reach my next goal and to ultimately achieving a vast amount by the end of the course. The documentation process has also been absolutely fantastic in allowing for a constant reference of what stage I was in by highlighting what I had achieved and what I needed to concentrate on improving. When I look back through my personal reflections and tutor feedback notes over the past five weeks I can see my exact path of development in the journey to becoming an English teacher. Furthermore, I feel that this process of teaching practice has taught me that developing as a teacher is an ongoing process and although achieving such a great amount throughout the experience, there are so many areas of teaching I wish to further develop. It has also shown me that this is a thought process that I must continue to hold on to, continuous development is something that even the most experienced teachers need to constantly consider. Everything involved in teaching from different approaches to technologies and available materials will always be developing into the future and I feel that being on top of this and self-developing with it is crucial.

 

To think in more detail about what I have achieved throughout the past five weeks of teaching practice, firstly, it has given me the opportunity to experience and learn how to approach a wide spectrum of focal areas in teaching English. I have now taught lessons that have focused on grammar, phonology, vocabulary, reading, listening, speaking and writing, learning the best approaches to aid students’ ability to achieve aims in each. I have also had the chance to work on and improve lesson planning. This included setting suitable aims for different levels of class proficiency that were both challenging and realistic and were ultimately going to help students improve their proficiency with the English language. Following this my development in lesson planning improved my abilities in working out stage by stage how I intended for learners to achieve aims with details that were based on the engage, study and activate teaching model. I also worked on how to foresee what potential difficulties students may experience and how I would deal with these as and when they presented themselves.

 

Throughout the teaching practice experience I also improved on my proficiency in classroom management. This included configuring the best approach to the more tangible aspects of the classroom such as seating arrangements, whiteboard use, and selection, adaption and creation of materials. My classroom management techniques also improved in the more intangible aspects such as how I built good rapport with students, using my voice and language effectively with the consideration of rough-tuning, monitoring during exercises to judge and guide learner progress, and conducting whole group feedback to ensure classes were en route to achieving the aims of the lesson. Further to this, I learnt a lot about how to maximize student talking time (STT) to give students as much practice as possible speaking the language. This involved, for example, how to organise class activities so that students were working in groups or pairs where applicable and by using nomination in periods of feedback. In terms of teacher talking time (TTT), I felt that this experience of teaching practice really got me thinking about teacher talking quality (TTQ) as well as ensuring I was consistently giving instructions that were both clear and understandable. Another aspect linked to TTT that I felt I developed my skills in was that of error correction. This included not only the correction aspect but also, of equal importance, collecting and analyzing errors. For me personally, this was one of the more difficult teacher skills to learn, but over the practising period I found myself improving in being able to listen for and pinpoint mistakes, understand likely reasons for why mistakes were being made, select when to use hot or cold correction, know when to correct errors on class or individual levels and how to adapt my error correction strategically depending on stage aims being more about accuracy or fluency. One final aspect that covered the whole range of teaching methods and skills that I felt I really learnt the importance of was to be dynamic in teaching. I saw how important it was to be able to adjust a teaching approach or lesson plan in the moment. An example of this would be by spending more time than planned on a particular stage aim if feeling that students needed more time and guidance aiding their understanding and possibly eliminating other planned activities instead of rushing through them due to time constraints. In hand with this, I also learnt how crucial it was to hold good time management skills both in and out of the classroom.

Another aspect of the teaching practice that I found a great help to my development was when I was not actually teaching, but observing. It is amazing how much you can learn by watching someone else teach. The documenting processes involved in carrying out observations were great at leading me through this by prompting me to observe the class and how it was taught generally or to focus more closely on a particular aspect of teaching. I found the observation of other trainees a great way to think about my own teaching in considering replicating what they had done ‘right’ and what had worked well in their lessons. It also helped me to consider avoiding replicating their mistakes, as I am sure they will have done by observing the mistakes I made. When it came to the guided observation, I think this was what I benefitted the most from when it came to me developing by observing. It was obvious to see how professional the teachers were and they modelled teaching perfectly setting such great examples. It was also very interesting to see how much the teaching styles varied at a highly experienced level of teaching and how styles could be so different yet equally as effective. I think I am still yet to find my true teaching style but I am sure this will come with more practice in the future. I really value the opportunity to observe such high levels of teaching ability in the guided observation and must admit that I often found myself thinking about how they would have approached my lessons both in planning and during teaching.

By the end of the teaching practice I found that I had noticeably improved in all aspects of teaching and overall this had given me a far higher level of confidence as a teacher. The teaching practice as a whole, however, made me consider aspects of teaching that I had never thought about before. As the course progressed and focussed more deeply on teaching skills, further considerations always seemed to emerge. This leaves me with the impression that, although I have developed more than I could have ever imagined from the experience, I have many areas of my teaching that I need to improve on further in order to build on my strengths and diminish my weaknesses. For example I feel like I still need to further my abilities in modelling my language in a manner that is most helpful to aid the development of differing levels students, my ear for collecting errors and methods in eliciting correct answers, my approaches to explaining meanings of vocabulary, and my application of materials that will create the highest levels of engagement as well as effectiveness in helping learners achieve class aims. These are to list a few and I am sure the more teaching practice I experience, the more areas I will see in which I feel I can improve. This brings me back to my awareness and understanding of how important it is for me to view continuous improvement as something I need to consider throughout my career as an English teacher. This being said, I now feel that after my teaching practice with Active Language, I am ready to start officially working as an English teacher as this has given me the levels of ability and confidence to take on an official role teaching the English language. I am certain that in years from now I will look back at this experience and be sure that it could not have been a better kick start to my English teaching career and really got me started off on the right foot.

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