The ELEVEN challenge

About a month ago I saw this challenge in one interesting blog by Vedrana Vojković Estatiev and I found it really catching and fun. Moreover, her questions appealed to me a lot, so here is my Eleven Challenge about teaching English. Sorry for long answers)

The first part of the challenge is telling 11 random facts about yourself and staying in the ELT topic of my blog I came up with …

11 teaching facts about me

1. I decided to learn TEFL at university because my level of English was really low. And TEFL at my university was far from ‘the CELTA way of teaching’.
2. I remember myself being about 5-7 years old pretending teaching my granny to speak German. And I was really strict)
3. Being an adult I’m actually really weak, so children tend to misbehave at my lessons.
4. I rarely like my lessons.
5. My biggest problem with planning is timing.
6. I constantly worry about everything even when I’m sure that I’ve done everything right.
7. What appeals to me the most about teaching Business English is teaching how to negotiate and give presentations. I love having my students perform in these situations.
8. I’m irritated by the fact that people are apt to think that native speakers are better than any non-natives but in fact when I attend native speakers’ lessons I get disappointed by the lessons and the outcomes. Of course, that’s not the rule but that’s how I feel most of the time.
9. I hate teaching grammar and I can’t explain why.
10. I’ve never had a chance but I’d love to teach a speaking course. It looks a bit more difficult than usual course, but we should constantly challenge ourselves.
11. Having passed CELTA about 2 months ago I already dream about DELTA.
I would like to see your comments about DELTA if you’ve already passed it or just planning.

The next stage of the challenge is answering 11 questions listed by another blogger. Hope I won’t disappoint Vedrana too much)
1. What are the pros and cons of teaching only online?
You have all your materials in appropriate format and if you teach only online you may have chance to use one and the same materials with different students preparing them only once and just adapting them if necessary.
Since you don’t have to spend time on usual preparations (handouts, cards, printing, exploiting the classroom etc) you have more time to explore what the Internet offers us in terms of modern online tools for teaching. I mean you’re concentrated on one field only and dedicate more time to it.
You save time and you’re more flexible.
Having only online students motivates to use better equipment like camera and microphone or even paid online classrooms, improving the quality of your lessons so there is less possibility of having technical problems and both you and students benefit from your development.
You are tuned to working in a more or less narrow format (I might be mistaken, correct me if so), so you develop only in this way of teaching. I mention this because I really enjoy teaching bigger groups where you can always bring variety in interaction patterns, and make students work with different people, and make them move around, and exploit the classroom…
One more thing that makes me concerned is feedback. In case you can’t see students’ faces it’s difficult to get what I think is the most honest and natural feedback – facial expression. A few people can control their emotions perfectly therefore it’s useful to notice their faces while you offer them a task or explain something. Shy students tend to say they understand but seeing their face you know that they are hesitating. The more practice you have reading faces the effective you work is. Analyzing this feedback you can improve your further activities and explanations.
I’d like to highlight the fact that I’m really interested in trying to teach online classes and it seems to be the future of education. We have wider and wider choice of tools and programmes which enable us to create classrooms as close to real as possible.

2. Why are you enthusiastic about eLearning?
Frankly speaking I have never tried eLearning as a teacher but as a student I found it really convenient and efficient way of learning. That’s why I am interested in trying to implement it into my teaching by creating a classroom at Edmodo. I’m just doing a trial course with myself as a learner to understand how it all works from both sides. But it won’t substitute real lessons with the group I want to ask to participate.
So, why am I enthusiastic about it? It looks like magic for me. I imagine teaching English online and it is like operating a sophisticated machine. I want to see how close to the real learning conditions I can make a virtual classroom be and what features of eLearning might make it a better setting for teaching English, for example, the possibility of recording everything which I rarely do in my classroom but it is useful for students to listen to themselves and analyse.
That’s why I’d say I’m not enthusiastic about eLearning, but I’m enthusiastic about giving it a try as a teacher. I wish I had more experience in this area to give a more profound answer.

3. Which new technologies did you try out last year?
I’m going to disappoint you here because except Edmodo mentioned above which I am actually trying out now and plan to implement in my teaching I used only social networks exploiting the YouTube format of vlogging with my students asking them to vlog their days and we watched it in our classroom.
Among other networks and websites we used Facebook, Twitter, and TripAdvisor. I know they can hardly be called ‘new technologies’, I wish I could impress you with something more sophisticated.

4. What do you like about Moodle?
I’m not a user of Moodle, but from what I’ve heard and seen about it, the programme seems to be created to have some necessary features of a usual classroom combined with those which enable you to make the process more flexible, interesting and beneficial for students as well as for teachers.
What do I like about it?
Firstly, it can be used for home tasks and you can integrate something different from common tasks, offering your students to watch related videos, read books, articles, go to suitable web sites and all goes in a set for each topic or unit or anything depending on how you want to organize it.
Secondly, in case you want your students to do the test they can immediately see the results of their work right after having completed it and thus students can reflect on their answers. Or you can make the key accessible only when all the students complete the test. I think the variety of assignments and options to check them and the fact that you’ll never lose anything and you can easily access everything is a huge plus.
Moreover, there is an opportunity to provide students with all the material if they were absent in the class and no one loses any paper with important info. Students can’t say they haven’t done their home task because they didn’t know or their friend told them to do something different or any other excuse. Everyone knows where everything is and this is immense help to organize work in a classroom.

5. Can a teacher run a successful business?
The very first thought I had after reading the question: ‘A teacher can do everything’. If we think about teacher’s functions and roles in a classroom, they appear to be versatile and a good teacher has the very skills to manage people and to run business. A teacher is a leader who encourages people and motivates giving them an example, a teacher is a manager, who juggle tasks and interaction patterns, a teacher is a psychologist, a facilitator, a designer etc. the range of functions is huge and most of them I believe coincide with the functions of a business person. On the other hand, all people are different and I know good teachers whose students improve quickly and significantly, but the teachers don’t aim high and are pretty content with teaching position. Moreover, their teaching is sometimes different from the ‘CELTA way of teaching’ because it doesn’t fit their nature. They won’t run a successful business since they are not motivated despite having some necessary skills. Some business people claim that you only might be born a successful businessman and you can’t acquire this trait of character. I’m not going to either agree or disagree with that since I’m not a mature business person. Answering the question I would say ‘yes, if a teacher really wants to run a business’.

6. What do private language schools look for in a teacher?
I’d say they look for pretty many things. If comparing with state schools or universities, I’d mention that private schools expect you to be entertaining and create the atmosphere of fun so that students relax and enjoy, a teacher is to make them feel in a company of friends encouraging more or less natural use of English. Moreover, private language schools usually expect teachers to participate in extra-curricular events, presentations, holidays, entertaining programmes and summer camps. A teacher should also concentrate on self-development and attend seminars which arevsometimes compulsory, which is not a bad thing actually. Some private schools also ask teachers to take part in promoting their school on the Internet and among friends.

7. Should a DoS teach?
It’s difficult to answer bearing in mind what a DoS should do except teaching. Imposing teaching job might lead to lack of time for the other responsibilities but if a DoS can afford to have some teaching hours a week it would be beneficial since they can keep up with teaching and have real existing practice to base on while advising and giving recommendations to teachers. As we know teaching develops, there are new technologies, new tools, new ideas and a DoS might find themselves far behind those teachers who are up-to-date following new tendencies. What also changes rapidly is the society. Teenagers haven’t changed completely but you won’t fail to notice the differences with the ones 5 years ago. Communicating with younger people not only will enable you to stay updated and understand their needs better but also it will help you to stay young inside). That refers also to adults and children. The more people you communicate to the broader your horizons become. And this is really important for such a person as DoS.

8. What are the biggest differences between teaching adults (in-company courses) and university students?
Having taught a lot of in-company courses I still consider adult students be completely different and it is difficult to characterize them as a whole, but if we oppose them to university students, I’d say the latter are more concerned about results and exams rather than the process of learning. I’m not saying that they don’t enjoy learning or that the process is boring, but usually students know better what they need exactly to pass the exams.
You may expect university students to be better organized and do their home task more often but still it depends on people’s personalities.
Depending on students’ majors you might consider developing different skills and using different ways of practicing these skills which might be similar to or different from those you concentrate on with adults.
Actually, this question is either global for me or it’s difficult to see fundamental differences.

9. What are your favorite ice-breakers?
Due to the fact that I teach corporate clients I assume that my students know a little about each other but still they are not complete strangers. Bearing that in mind I quite frequently use one team-building ice-breaker so that they start feeling comfortable in each other’s company. Of course, you need to make sure they know each other first. After that I introduce myself and get to know their names and I write them on the board so that there is enough space between the names. Then I give them an example by showing what my colleagues think about me and all the words there start with the letters of my name (I usually write something funny here like ‘eats constantly’ for the letter ‘e’ in my name). Then I hand out star shaped stickers and ask them to write at least one thing about each of other students starting with the letters of their names. Then they place stickers on the board around the relevant names and we discuss what we have there, if it’s true or not and if each person agrees with what others have written about them.
I think this ice-breaker is good for such situation to make students feel comfortable in each other’s company, to relax and to have positive impression about coming to English classes.

10. How do you ask for student feedback and what do you do with it?
At the end of each class I make a routine of asking students how they have benefited from this particular lesson and what they liked and disliked about the way it was done. At first they are shy to answer such questions and I don’t insist but when they get used to it they are active and here is when I get my yield. I learn which types of activities they like better, what kinds of explanation they prefer, what topics, what formats and a lot of other comments (including even my hairdo). With lower levels it doesn’t work well because they can’t say much so I face read and give them a short questionnaire after a lesson (not every lesson) where I write a list of activities we did and they put a score for each one from 1 to 5.
What goes after that? Knowing what these particular students enjoy I plan my lessons bearing this in mind. Sometimes it’s a good idea to have a notebook for writing down what each group enjoys and dislikes because it’s easy to forget in such a flow of information.

11. Do you prefer working with a textbook or without one?
Like the majority of teachers I prefer working with a textbook. I’m going to list the reasons briefly:
• A textbook covers a solid range of topics, grammar, vocab and functional language suitable for a certain level and I don’t need to make it up myself since people who know better have already done that.
• In a textbook the material is combined wisely (usually) so that you have listening texts containing target vocab you’ve just learned, for instance, and everything is logically connected.
• Authors provide us with home task suitable for the target language or skills we deal with at a lesson.
• It’s a time-saver.
• Teacher’s books offer some communication tasks and games which go well with the topic.
To sum up: everything is logical, and coherent, and ready for you to use it, plenty of material to choose from and there is a chance to refresh already learnt items further in the book.
Important thing is to choose a good book and to use it wisely (that’s what I’m learning to do).

Now I would be delighted to read your answers to my questions which are important for me at the moment. It would be a pleasure to read your challenges with these questions or even some answers in comments.

1. What filler to you have in your sleeve to use in almost any situation?
2. Have you ever had your students insisting on vocab being translated and refusing to accept any explanation, or synonym, or picture as means of defining words? If you have, what did you do? If you haven’t, any ideas?
3. How can we help students to get interested in and find time for reading books in English?
4. What are your ‘life-savers’ when you’re working with a group of very young learners? or How do you survive there? (I love children, they just exhaust me)))
5. How do you make lessons in a group of 2 or 3 people more diverse? How do you implement pairwork there?
6. What are ideal conditions for professional development? (Type of school, groups, work conditions etc)?
7. How do you behave with students who are constantly checking your knowledge? What if it’s a one-to-one class?
8. What is your development strategy and how have you built it?
9. Do you have a special way/ technique/ means for reflecting about your own lessons? Could you recommend one?
10. If you need inspiration, which blog do you read?
11. What or who has influenced your way of teaching the most? How?


3 thoughts on “The ELEVEN challenge

  1. Hi springcait,
    Wow! You weren’t kidding when you said the answers were long! 🙂 Seriously, I’m so impressed that you took the time to think about all the questions and comment on them in such depth. It’s great to read your thoughts and I’m glad if answering them helped you arrive at some conclusions, or prompted you to ask more questions (sometimes that’s all that happens no matter how long you’ve been teaching).
    I originally wrote the questions as a part of the tag, true, but also because these were some of the topics I thought I was going to blog about. Since then, I’ve only done a post on #10, but you’ve made me want to write about the rest right away! Which is brilliant, so thank you!
    Regarding your own questions, I’d like to answer some of those as well (except for #4, because I haven’t worked with young learners), but I already know each question would be a post in itself, so you might have to wait a little.
    It was interesting to read about your CELTA experience – I’ve heard very good things about the course from teachers who worked at our school – and I wish you a long and happy teaching career!
    Take care,

    • Hi Vedrana,
      It was a pleasure for me to answer and I enjoyed it immensely and yes, it was the process that made me think about the topics you touched upon in your questions and some others as well. I’m so happy I’ve encouraged you to blog about all of them and I assume I’ll benefit from your writing a lot) So, I can’t wait to read your further posts.
      Similarly, despite the fact that I asked my questions because I’m really interested in getting answers, I became motivated to research the topics and to blog about it later.
      I’m also really glad that you’re interested in answering some of my questions. I’m looking forward to your answers.
      Thank you very much!
      Best wishes,

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