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I’m currently on a sort of busman’s holiday, teaching at a school in Bournemouth. It’s still teaching, but quite a bit different to the sort of teaching I’m usually used to – the school intake made up largely at the moment of short-stay students from around Europe, teaching based on coursebook and skills lessons (though not exclusively), a larger quantity of interactive whiteboards and even a class set of iPads.

After teaching, I can even do this…

The change from my usual teaching situation has brought a few assumptions I have about teaching, lessons and students, partly brought about by my experience in further education and development while doing the Delta. Some of these will be obvious, especially to those who already teach in the private EFL sector, but some may serve as a reminder never to take anything in teaching for granted.

  1. Intrinsic motivation is not a given: I am used to teaching ESOL students with a real and ever-present need and desire to learn English. They have to learn so that they can buy the right things from the shops, deal with formalities to do with the Home Office, make appointments at the doctor’s, and so on. They may have come to the UK fleeing oppressive regimes or to find better conditions to live and work in. The same may not always be true for students in private EFL institutions. They may be studying to improve their chances of getting a job in their countries, or to pass a prestigious exam like IELTS or TOEFL, or they might just see their stay of 2, 3, 4 weeks in the UK as a summer jaunt. Whatever their motivation (or lack thereof) may be, there may be a need for a carrot to get them working.
  2. Technology is not always a boon: I’m not used to having access to many IWBs, nor is a class set of iPads something you often come across while teaching ESOL. A key thing I’ve learnt, or rather been reminded of, over the past week is that technology should never be relied upon without a sound plan of action. In particular, certain apps and features that are to be used in a lesson should be tested out thoroughly beforehand. A comment of ‘I didn’t come here to learn iPads’ hit this one home for me.
  3. Getting out of the classroom is at times a must!: Not a usual problem in the UK during summertime, but over the past week it has been broiling heat. Fortunately, the school I’m teaching at has the advantage of having a fairly spacious garden area. Whenever possible, I have taken classes of students outside for some activities.
  4. Proper breaks make all the difference: This summer, I’m really learning the benefit that having a good break between lessons and a proper lunch break can have for your teaching. Too often over the past year, it feels like I’ve been snatching a lunch break at college, scoffing down my food in half an hour.
  5. Lesson length can really affect how lessons go: Where I work, lessons can last for 2 to 2 and a half hours. A break can be taken halfway through the lesson, but lessons can be long! A time of 1 hour and 30 minutes is so much more manageable, and doesn’t leave you exhausted by the end.

Also, these are pretty nice sights for pre- and post-work moments…

Bird and houses from the train

Used to be a sandcastle

Seagulls evening

Harbour light