IHCYLT 1: Pre-Course

I got some news last week that my upcoming course was at risk of being postponed to a later date. I was beginning to think that I was extremely unlucky or just not meant to do this course. Fortunately, though, it is going ahead as scheduled and it’s set to commence in two days.

I’m looking forward to starting the course and being a student again. Over the last few years — doing my high school program and the countless Coursera ones — I discovered that I actually enjoy studying and it’s something that I’m not entirely terrible at. I was preparing all the things I needed last night and I was absolutely giddy setting up my notebook, putting my pencil case together, sorting the highlighters, post-its, and other stationery. Come to think of it, stationery is probably the reason I like being a student (and teacher).

There will be a lot of work involved in the course and I have been warned by a course graduate that it will take over my life for the next twelve weeks and I can expect to have no time for anything else other than work and study, which I’m completely prepared for (I think).

Something I’ve learned as a teacher is that it’s important to have an environment that’s conducive to studying and learning. Currently, my environment is an ice box. Hanoi winter is no joke, and it doesn’t help that I’m not built for cold weather like this. It’s cold, it’s damp, and it’s gray. I have not seen the sun in quite a while and mold is rampant and expected to get worse. In spite of this, I will do my best to get the work done.

For now, it will really come down to organisation and good time management. I may need to say goodbye to Facebook, Netflix, and other distractions temporarily. We’ll see how it goes — I’ll keep you posted as best as I can.

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Lessons from the Classroom

I have been living in Vietnam and teaching young learners for four months now, and as much as I would like to say that I’m a complete natural at it and that I’ve adjusted seamlessly, the truth is, it has been a tremendous challenge so far and I still find that I struggle with many aspects of teaching young learners.

I find that teaching children is a completely different universe from teaching adults. A typical young learner classroom is filled with little humans running around shouting, playing, laughing, fighting, and crying. Oh, the crying. They will cry because of the most natural things, such as being hit by a classmate playing rough during break time, or because of some other reason, such as their group mate isn’t playing the game properly and/or is cheating. Since I started here, I have seen so many tears, so much snot, a fair amount of boogers, too much spit, and I’ve heard enough pencil cases crashing onto the floor to last me an entire lifetime.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned so far is that an effective classroom management system is key. I never used one for adults because, well, they were adults, and they held themselves accountable for their learning and their behaviour in class. With children, though, monitoring their actions and behaviour with a good reward or incentive system to ensure control of the classroom is imperative. The other challenge is that it isn’t only about finding the one perfect formula because what could work flawlessly for one class may have absolutely no effect for another. It’s about finding what works well for a particular class then using it and tweaking it in the most effective manner to get the best results.

Another thing I need to adjust to is energy levels. Adults are mostly fine with sitting down for long periods of time talking to their seat mates or occasionally getting up to do an activity or switch groups. Children, however, need a good balance of both, especially the younger they are. They need activities. They need to be active. They can’t sit still for extended periods of time. They will start to daydream and you will lose them.

I always knew that coming in to teach kids would require some form of myself having to leave my comfort zone of being a quiet and properly composed teacher. Kids need a teacher who can be active and silly and funny. The teacher’s mood does rub off on the learners. I have spoken to my academic manager about this and she told me that it isn’t necessary for me to change my entire personality to successfully teach kids, but that I do need to find some kind of compromise or balance. It will be a challenge.

My course starts in two weeks. I have a lot of work ahead of me and I need to balance full-time hours with the coursework. If the last four months has taught me anything, it’s that I need this course and I really want to do well in it. It isn’t just my inner overachiever saying this, it’s the part of me that knows I still have so much to learn and that doing this will enable me to become a more capable, competent, and confident teacher.

It’s like one really big puzzle. I love puzzles. But puzzles that I can’t seem to solve eat away at me until I get it, and this is one of those puzzles. It has a solution and I want to solve it, and I can — it will just need time, patience, and a lot of work.

Hello, 2016

2015 was a pretty good year for me. I completed my first contract abroad, got a new job in a new country, met some wonderful people, made some nice memories, travelled a little, and ended the year at home with my family.

The last quarter of 2015 was challenging — relocating, adjusting to a lot of new things, disappointment over the cancelled YLE course, and basically just burning out — which has resulted in very few blog posts, but many lessons learned. Overall, I have no complaints.

As always, I am hopeful for the new year. Two important career milestones to look forward to in 2016 are the IHCYLT qualification (end of April) and two years post-CELTA classroom teaching experience (first week of August). Lots of hard work ahead, but I am preparing myself for the challenge.

Positive vibes for 2016. 🙂