Monday, 3 February 2014

The Trials and Tribulations of being a Language Assistant

Having been treated to a week of heavy snow, it has in the last few days all but melted. A few icy patches here and there but nothing more. So it looks as though spring is on its way in this far-flung corner of Eastern Germany (although I have been warned that there could very possibly be another snow shower this month), and while that's been happening I've been teaching teaching teaching.

A few weeks ago a few of the Year 12 students (the last year, due to take their final exams in the next few months) requested extra lessons, so I conducted my first after school English conversation class last Wednesday. It's a little different from the normal lessons - the students who stay behind for an extra lesson are the ones that really, really want to learn, so there's none of that bashing your head against a brick wall trying to teach bored students who aren't very interested business. They instructed me to stop them and correct them every time they made a mistake, and the conversations they were having as exam practice were wonderfully detailed and interesting. So there was even more of a stark contrast when I came into school the next day to try and conduct lessons with some classes who seem to have an abject fear of contributing. That's one thing I had neglected to prepare for before I came - in my mind if you ask students for ideas or answers they give you ideas or answers. But maybe I'd forgotten what it was to be in school. Students do have a fear of giving 'obvious' answers as they seem convinced you're out to trick them, most are also worried about being the first to speak, and if you ask them to talk to each other for something like pair work, it's sometimes difficult to get any sound in the classroom other than a series of barely audible whispers. I had forgotten all this (and now, thinking about it, I definitely remember doing it), but my first few lesson plans were far too optimistic and I did not factor in time lost in trying to prise answers from students. For anyone looking to do an Assistantship abroad, bear in mind that it takes time to get to know the ebb and flow of individual students and classes, and try not to feel despondent when lessons don't turn out quite the way you imagine. If anything, this job has made me much more adaptable and I have got to the point now where I can change/invent/eke out/shorten lessons as situations change.

There is soon to be another two weeks off, and this half-term has flown by; I can hardly believe that next week is the last week of school. However, I'm very excited as next weekend I am going on my first ever ski trip. It's only two days and I doubt I'll be a pro by the end, but I'm glad I'll be seeing mountainous Bavaria at least once whilst I'm here. It will also be fun to actually try out skiing and discover my natural talents - but more news on that front in a couple of weeks.

Bis bald :)