Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Teaching the Teacher

I am taking a teaching methods course and have already enjoyed our first two meetings. I’m not nervous about teaching per se—as John says, tongue in cheek, it’s one of the few jobs where people have to listen to everything *you* say, but you don’t necessarily have to listen to them. :-) And I am teaching two classes this semester on topics that I feel fully qualified to instruct others on—American English pronunciation and how to put together a presentation.

I am not quite up to terrified about teaching German, more like very, very nervous. I know my German is leaps and bounds better than when we moved here, but good enough to be able to help other people improve their German? I’m not so confident of that. Fortunately, I have from now to January to prepare for my 45-minute crack at teaching a German as a Second Language class; also, we are learning how to organize a class-hour so as to minimize any unpleasant surprises.

As part of our class, we are watching and analyzing videos of other people teaching. After we watched the first video yesterday, some people in my class were complaining that the teacher in the video didn’t give his students any rules about the grammar topic they were working on (past tense). This was a beginner-level class. They gradually worked their way up to the actual grammar topic via some introductory exercises (that were old-fashioned but surprisingly ingenious), and the way the teachers organized the lesson, the students came up with a simplified version of the grammar rule on their own, based on the earlier exercises. Some of my classmates thought the teacher should have given them the full set of “rules” regarding past tense at this point, and we debated it a bit. As I pointed out (*buffs nails on shirt*), this is not the last time in their German-learning that these students are going to work with past tense, so why overload them with rules? Maybe the teachers wanted them to have more a feel for how past tense works at this point, and then another time they can get additional examples that demonstrate some exceptions to the rule they came up with.

I came up with an analogy while walking to meet my tutee this morning. Learning a foreign language is a bit like learning to ride a bike. You wouldn’t give a 3-year-old a 27-speed mountain bike to start out. Instead, you give him something like this (which is what I saw a small child on this morning and which kick-started this train of thought):



When he gets really good at balancing and is tall enough, you move up to something a little bigger, maybe with training wheels.



It may take a while to build up to that mountain bike, and some people may never make it past 10 gears, but most people can learn to get around on a bike. Same thing with a foreign language. You can’t expect a person to be able to handle a whole pile of rules right away; you have to give him a chance to find his balance and get familiar with this new way of doing things.


Well, duh!
To Lower Costs, Hospitals Try Free Basic Care for Uninsured (NY Times)

1 comment:

westexgirl said...

You're going to be great at this!