Do’s and Don’ts

Greetings from Chennai! Happy New Year to everyone!

Well, as is kind of apparent from my last post, I teach a spoken English class, taught through drama at Pudiyador. After each class I teach, I work with my co-teacher to write up a report on that class. In that report, we discuss how each component of the class went, whether it was the energizing game at the beginning, the English lesson, the improvisation activity, or the short performance at the end. We then move into talking about each child’s behavior. I’ve developed a behavior matrix that we’re building on and adapting to use for Pudiyador’s various programs.

Also, each report ends with a section on “Do’s and Don’ts for Teachers.” The list below shares some of those Do’s and Don’ts. Please note that these are very specific to our class and our students. Therefore, I’m not trying to make the argument that teachers elsewhere, in various contexts and communities, teaching in a plethora of different areas, should try to follow these guidelines. I see these more as personal learnings (not a real word but a word I learned while working at CARE) and hopefully tips for future teachers of this class, if they’re hoping to reuse and recycle activities and lessons, or are hoping to have some insight into our interactions with kids or how we changed our teaching style to accommodate our students’ personalities. However, even if these learnings don’t directly relate to you, I hope they’re at least an interesting read! Thanks!

Do’s 

  • Do make sure that respect is always prioritized and children are listening when they’re not performing. They can learn as much from other’s performances as their own.
  • Do make sure teachers have coordinated prior to the start of the class who will lead which part of the class. This can prevent one teacher from talking over another and the children getting bombarded with multiple voices and sources of information.
  • Do ask students to recap the previous lesson themselves, and encourage them to help each other while doing it.
  • Do focus on getting kids to sit in a circle more than a structured, teach on one side and students on another kind of setup
  • Do end class with an energizing game as opposed to having all the energizing stuff at the beginning. We want the kids to finish class feeling good about it.
  • Do be sure that one activity will lead to the other so that .the energy will flow and there won’t be too many breaks, without losing all room for improvisation depending on the students’ response and interest.
  • Do have some structure to all the lessons. However much kids enjoy games and playing around, if a class has no sit-down lesson or structure, kids get very hyper and they end up losing interest in the fun activities as well. These kids are very smart and appreciate a bit of structured teaching. Make sure to have a good balance of fun and structure in your lessons.
  • Do focus on speaking as much English as possible in the class, for 4 reasons:
  1. Students will hear a lot of correct English. This is a very important skill for teachers to gain, to default to explaining rules of English in English as opposed to trying to find avenues in Tamil to explain concepts. It might be tough at first, but that’s been shown to be one of the best ways for kids to learn a language, being exposed to it.
  2. It will encourage students to make the effort to talk in English.
  3. It will eventually boost the students’ confidence in making an attempt at something that does not always work but they can learn and grow from. So, for each attempt, congratulate the student on trying before correcting mistakes.
  4. Remember that this is, at the end of the day, a Spoken English class.
  • Do show students the result of their work. Take videos of each performance and show the videos at the start of another class. It allows for more constructive conversation and feedback but more importantly, it allows for another opportunity to congratulate students on a job well done. Our kids love seeing the fruits of their labor and it creates an energy that lasts for the entire session!
  • Do get enough sleep the night before teaching a class. If you are low energy, the kids will notice and mirror you with low energy or low interest.

Don’ts

  • Don’t get turned off by inattentiveness and disinterest. Kids have good days and bad days. If kids are not interested in the lesson or are not paying full attention, this is not always a reflection on you.
  • Don’t explain everything you’re going to do before you do it, don’t be afraid to spring some things up on the kids. They like surprises and get distracted with long explanations of activities. They want to just start and get moving!
  • Don’t force things that don’t come naturally in terms of group work. If kids are unwilling to work together, do not force pairings. Learn from that for next time and try to discuss with kids why they work better with certain students rather than others
  • Don’t give your feedback straight away, allow children to come up with their own feedback on their own and other’s performances and behavior first, before you as a teacher provide your input and reflections on performance, content, and behavior
  • Don’t encourage harsh criticism of each other. When you ask the children to share what they did not like about the activity, focus on the activity and re-direct the conversation if they start talking about what they don’t like about each other. The reflections should be about the activity itself rather than personality clashes and differences
  • Don’t start corrections and feedback with what the kids did wrong. Put the emphasis on what was done right and how they can work on the more difficult pieces to bring it to the level of other aspects of their work. Emphasize that feedback is only given to those who show great potential.
  • Don’t ask understanding questions while telling a story to children. For instance, if one teacher is telling a story, wait until the entire story has been told before asking kids questions on what they took away from the story. One teacher should not interject questions while the other teacher is telling the story. This ruins the flow of the story.
  • Don’t go through a lesson without consistent translating to the other teacher. If one teacher speaks Tamil and the other doesn’t, remember to translate as much as you can without drastically throwing off the flow of the session. Alternatively, students could even practice their spoken English by translating what one teacher says in Tamil into English for the other teacher to understand

Swathi was born in Tamil Nadu in India and is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work as a Clinton Fellow in her state of birth. She moved to the US at a very young age but has always had strong ties to India, through language, dance, music, and social justice initiatives. She has returned to her country of birth many times and has worked on projects at a rural hospital, an internationally reputed eye care facility with significant rural outreach, children's homes, and with self-help groups. Swathi is a recent graduate of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University where she focused her coursework around chronic disease and nutrition. Prior to that, while an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Swathi was involved in many extracurricular activities centered on social justice and access to services for the homeless community. She was also a part of a team that started the first student-led microfinance initiative in the United States. Currently, Swathi works at CARE, a global NGO focused on poverty alleviation through programs that empower women and children, on their Nutrition Plus team. Swathi has always been motivated by her peers and mentors to work harder, do more, and never forget that life is a constantly evolving learning process. She is excited to explore the world of youth education in India through this fellowship, hopes to integrate many of the skills she gained in her masters program into her work and most importantly, forge deeper and stronger ties to the people of Tamil Nadu, and India.

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