From abroad

22nd May 2009 at 01:00
Today's Emotion - Frustrated (imagine appropriate emoticon here)

In the words of MySpace: Today's Emotion - Frustrated (imagine appropriate emoticon here). I have been sent a fantastic book called How to be a Brilliant Trainee Teacher, by Trevor Wright, which was given out free to teachers beginning their probation year.

To be honest, all the lesson plans and Curriculum for Excellence information I was able to gather online had my head in a bit of a spin and I was feeling quite unwell at the prospect of spending my PGDE year trying to make sense of what I was being told, never mind putting it into practice. So it was with foreboding and doggedness that I cynically viewed the cheeriness of the title. However, to my surprise and delight, it has been a gem and has really helped me visualise how the pieces of theory I have been studying would look in the classroom.

All this has had an unintended negative effect, though. Through tinted spectacles, my Korean adventure doesn't look so rosy. Suddenly the games I am playing with the children and the smiles on their faces don't fulfil me as much. I ask myself, what were they supposed to learn? Did they learn it? How do I know? - which are the three key questions the book sets out, and instantly my card house is tumbling.

To use Trevor Wright's analogy, I feel I am not a teacher but a postman delivering information, and if I evaluate how much English the students have learnt through my practice, I must admit not much.

On the other hand, business is booming. We are surrounded by school closures but our numbers are up 70 per cent. This brings home the position I am in. As a business, we are not teaching for the students, but for the parents. Questions such as "Did they learn what they were supposed to today?" are viewed as unimportant when parents can look at completed workbooks and listen to their children reciting today's conversation perfectly on their home computer.

On starting, my role in the classroom was defined as checking pronunciation and playing extension games to encourage speaking; both of which I am fulfilling sufficiently for my employer, though I admit, I am beginning to doubt whether it is sufficient for myself.

Colette Lynagh is gaining teaching experience abroad prior to applying for a PGDE course.

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