On Training, Acting and Character
Maybe you're undergoing TESOL training, or maybe you've completed your Cert and are about to start teaching, yet you have this niggling feeling - "I know the theory, but how do I put it into practice? How on earth do I start?"
Training is, essentially, acting.
So you're an actor, the training room is your stage - you decide what character you'll play. What type of trainer do you want to be? Not sure? Think of your own teachers and what you particularly liked or disliked. For example, Mr Owens always used to write a smiley face on the board next to the date - tick. Mrs Pelikan used to read straight from the Chem book - cross. Mrs Hoogersteger gave us space to experiment with our new-found knowledge, making mistakes along the way but allowing us to self-correct - tick.
So pick your character, and shape it to fit. One tip I'd give new language or VET trainers is to be genuine, be yourself, but remember keep enough of yourself back. Another tip? Remember the lesson isn't about you. While your tales of garden renovations or weekend getaways may be amusing, are they helping your students learn? By all means share, but make sure there's a teaching point in there.
Here's an example: my goal for a lesson was to teach my students the difference between "I love chocolate" and "I love eating chocolate", to demonstrate how we use that gerund and don't form sentences such as "I am loving to eat chocolate". Ugh. So, learning by doing, and teaching as acting, right?
[A classroom room somewhere in Germany. Late morning.
JACQUELINE, bespectacled thirty-something teacher,
enters the classroom with her hands full of books,
a steaming cup of tea balanced precariously on top.
She stops to look around the room and smile at her 10 students
before approaching the front desk and
placing her books and tea on it.
The students start to quieten down.]
Good morning, how are you all?
[general murmuring of hellos in return]
[taking a sip of tea] This is such a good cuppa tea. I like tea in the morning. [looking at MARITA] Marita, do you like tea?
Yes, I do.
Fabulous! Yes, I like drinking tea in the morning, but I don't like it in the afternoon. And I don't like drinking coffee, yech! How about you, Brigitte?
Oh, I like to drink a coffee.
Ah, you like drinking coffee?
[Segue to a general discussion around the room as to what
other students like / don't like / prefer doing, with
a focus on positive reinforcement, correction, exploring new words
- written on the board as necessary. Break into pairs, find similarities / differences with classmates, report back...]
Okay, so it's a fairly basic example, but what you'll see is that at no stage are grammar rules explicitly taught and yet through a comfortable, friendly chat the rules are learned, absorbed gently until the language sits comfortably. And my "friendly, chatty teacher" character remains intact, sharing a little but not too much, ensuring ample "student talk time", guidance, and perhaps a few structured activities as part of my planned formative assessment.
Keeping in character and depending on the group or level we could also have a group discussion about films, music, holiday destinations, politics, the environment,restaurants, clients, production processes, technology, a comparison between the past and present... Just keep in mind your character, your teaching goals, and your script.
Give it a go!