Our first two weeks at SEE TEFL were spent in the classroom learning grammar, teaching skills, and Thai. We also had a Thai cultural day, and a half day spent visiting a school and observing Thai and foreign teachers.
The second two weeks of the course are entirely spent preparing for and teaching at our six Observed Teaching Practices (OTPs), or student teaching.
The OTPs are a major reason Jake and I decided to take our course at SEE TEFL. Each OTP is in a real Thai classroom, so we get to see what it is like to teach in a real school, with the schools’ real classrooms and facilities, and with actual Thai students of various ages.
SEE TEFL sets up the OTPs at 5 different schools around Chiang Mai, plus a one-on-one lesson at EFL, the English language arm of SEE. The instructors provide us with the lesson, grade level, day, and time we will teach for all 6 OTPs a few days before each one.
On the morning of the OTP, we arrive at SEE TEFL between 7:40 and 8:00am. Usually everyone is very early, but there are always at least one or two people finishing up last minute printing, copying, or other preparations. When it is time to leave, we pile into the back of either John’s truck, or a songtheaw to head off to today’s school.
We arrive at the school towards the end of morning assembly. At some schools we meet the Director and then are immediately shown to the teachers’ room or a common space were we wait for our turn to teach. At other schools, we are brought up in front of assembly and each take a turn introducing ourselves to the entire school.
The first group to teach begin at 9:00am, so they rush off right away to find their classrooms and start preparing their whiteboards. The rest of our class waits in our teacher’s room where the school usually provides us with coffee, water, and some snacks.
There is a real sense of comradery in our teacher’s room. No matter how class went, everyone comes back from teaching either exhausted or extremely excited, eager to tell their story (good or bad!), and almost always dripping in sweat.
When it is my turn to teach, my observer from SEE is either sitting in the back corner of the room, or switching between two rooms next door to one another if they are observing two of us at once. Other than that, the class is mine to teach as if I was already a certified teacher, and they are my regular class of students.
During my observed teaching practices I taught Pre-K (2-3 year olds); Primary 2, 3, 4, and 6; and an adult intermediate level ESL student (an early 20-something intern at EFL).
Each of these lessons follow the “3Ps” methodology–Presentation, Practice, and Production. For each lesson (except for Kindergarten) I prepare a detailed lesson plan, whiteboard plan, whiteboard images to be used during the “Presentation” phase of the lesson, a worksheet for students to complete during the “Practice” phase, and flashcards for a “Production” activity where students practice speaking and producing language on their own, without any support on the whiteboard.
Although we still follow the 3Ps, the Kindergarten OTP is slightly different. For kindergarten (where I taught farm animals), we sit on the floor in a circle, and there are no whiteboard plans or worksheets. Instead I prepare a detailed lesson plan (including “hello” and “goodbye” songs!); big, bright, colorful flashcards to use during the presentation phase; toy animal props to use during the practice phase; and finally a giant, colorful, handmade box with farm animal images on each side. The box is used for a fun production activity where the students take turns rolling the box and saying the name of the image that pops up (obviously to then be rewarded with lots of praise and a high-five). Even the little 2-3 year olds are producing language by the end of class, which is extremely exciting to see.
The students are wonderful, although there are definitely the occasional discipline issues. The only “horror stories” I heard were from a kindergarten class (a student who kept kicking another student in the head–this was Jake’s class), Primary 1 ( students continuously putting plastic bags on their heads), Primary 2 (the trainee teacher had to confiscate some pretty inappropriate drawings), and Primary 4 (a student cut another students’ hair in the middle of class–also Jake’s story).
However, mostly the students are sweet, attentive, engaged, and trying their best. There are lots and lots of high fives, group hugs at the end of class, students giving the teachers cupcakes or stickers, students chanting the teacher’s name after class, or running up to help clean up the board and gather our materials. I was very lucky and I loved every class I taught during the TEFL course.
Teaching practices, at least for me, are usually really fun. It is exciting to see the class learning and producing the target language (even if only slightly). Also, other than 50 minutes of teaching, for the rest of the time spent at the school I am able to relax and hang out with my TEFL classmates; or walk around, explore the school, and look in on other classes.
Once the last trainee finishes their lesson, we say goodbye to the school Director and pile back into the songthaew or John’s truck to head back to SEE TEFL. We meet upstairs in our usual teaching room, Paris, and receive some general group feedback from John and the rest of the observers. We then break into small groups with whoever observed our class for that day in order to receive some personalized feedback. Finally our observer gives us our evaluation sheets with their comments, and our grade for that lesson.
Once we have our feedback, we head out for a lunch break, re-group, and then come back to SEE and immediately continue preparing our lessons for the next OTP!
If you completed a TEFL course, did you have Observed Teaching Practices? How does your experience compare to mine? Were you taught the 3Ps methodology? Let me know in the comments!