By: Catherine L. Jongco
English/Chinese Mandarin Teacher
Many teacher applicants enter the profession with an idealism of going into public school,and I was no exception.This idealism is grounded in the idea that every student is teachable,and that I,unlike most teachers before me, will be able to unlock the learning of every student. All my students will turn from their unproductive ways,regardless of their life experiences, and become serious students. Hollywood gives us enough movies about these teachers – heroes that we believe we will be one, too. And I want to be a teacher – hero who positively influences many young lives, and inspires all my students to bright future in the pursuit of education. I entered the world of education in part because of altruistic goal to help humanity and make a difference. The reality of the classroom contrasts sharply with this dream. I am not ready to lay aside my dream, or give up on my students, but I have learned what a tremendous struggle school is for many students. There are many more obstacles to students’ learning English than imagined.
I learned that an exciting lesson plan isn’t enough to hold their attention, although it is a good start. For one thing, it’s very hard to be exciting and cutting edge every day, especially teaching Mandarin. At some point, students need to settle in and practice skills. Because I wasn’t able to maintain their attention by creating a satisfying attention, I needed to develop skills in managing their behavior and focusing their attention. Beyond planning the lesson, I needed to anticipate challenges of the day learning agenda and planned my own response to these challenges. I needed to do more than just present the tones in speaking Mandarin, I had to plan how I wanted the class period to go, what I wanted each student doing. When, and what my responses were going to be in order to obtain the desired learning environment and outcomes. Once I realized that I needed to put some structures in place, particularly for this Foreign Language classes, I made adjustments to my teaching to do this.
I have a picture in my mind of the teacher I want to become. It is an amalgamation of the teachers I have read about, seen on the big screen, and worked with a student teacher. I’m not sure how many personalities will impact this vision I have, but it is a vision of a teacher who has a complete control of the classroom, while encouraging a dun and goofy exploration of English and Mandarin. This past school year, I taught my students a song in Mandarin. We sang the song in as many loud and silly ways as we could think of. My goal was simply to let my students remember the song, and the fun of learning it. If they can remember the song, they can remember the tones and it is just a short step to learn using it. Still, my execution of the song wasn’t perfect. I still need to connect the meaningful lesson to the song. After singing the song, it was difficult to re-establish their focus on the lesson. In some ways the activity was a triumph. In other ways, it was a failure. It is a good example of how I need continuously improve my teaching.
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