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No long term planning

Teaching Sin #3

Welcome to the third post in this series. No pressure, but this one is probably the most important :-)

As teachers, we often forget the obvious—like that most people study because they have some sort of goal in mind. It’s not rocket science, right?

However, we teachers often end up teaching from lesson to lesson. We teach the book; the article we’ve downloaded from the internet; grammar we feel our students have not mastered; something we didn’t finish a week ago; something we tried with another class that worked; an activity we learned from that great presenter at a conference; and so on.

But that’s not what teaching is about.

Teaching is about helping our students achieve their goals—be it getting a job in an international company, representing a company at the annual shareholders’ meeting, studying abroad, or proposing to an English speaking love-of-your-life. Anything we do in a lesson has to be done with these goals, the student’s goals, in mind. The teacher first has to conduct a proper needs analysis to find out what the students’ goals are, then prepare a long term plan, broken up into months and lessons, to get there (if you are not experienced enough, ask the academic office of your institution for help).

Each and every lesson must bring the student closer to their goal. If it doesn’t, it isn’t a good lesson. Well, the student might be satisfied; we might feel good about our teaching; but sooner or later the student, or their HR Manager, is bound to ask “I’ve spent XY money on the language training, so where is the result? I feel I’m not any closer to the goal than I was a year ago…”

The only way to help your students reach their goals is to PLAN, PLAN, and PLAN.

And COMMUNICATE the plan to your students. Quite often students complain that their teacher has no plan and that their lessons are “ill-structured.” I then talk to the teacher just to find out if they have a solid plan at hand and if their lessons are all developed with the plan in mind. Many times the teacher has done this, but they haven’t presented the plan to the students. As clear as the sense of each activity might be to the teachers, the students are not TEFL professionals and usually do not understand how a particular activity might help them, for example, pass the Cambridge First exam.

The remedy is simple. I call it Martin’s military rule (you can see it on the kitchenette notice board at Live TEFL Prague).

  1. Tell your students what they’re going to do (this lesson, this month, this semester, this year)
  2. Guide them to do it
  3. Tell them what they’ve done (this lesson, this month, this semester, this year)

Simple, clear and, if followed, bringing happiness and a sense of achievement to your students’ minds. This approach brings the students, and the HR managers, peace of mind and provides a key reason for them to ask for a pay rise for their teacher. Because, as in any other job nowadays, a TEFL teacher has to deliver results. Long and short term planning, well executed and communicated to your students, certainly delivers.

Happy planning!

by Martin Hejhal, 27 February 2015



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