I had the opportunity to take over the Elementary German class the week before Spring Break. Even though I had subbed before, this time I did it for three days by myself. Of course, I must thank my friend and fellow Intermediate German classmate Becca Jones for being there with me as a source of moral support and also for taking pictures. Being a student myself, it can be hard to get other fellow students to take you seriously and be engaged and focused in the same way a teacher would. I honestly felt like I was holding a peer tutoring session rather than a formal class; however, I also felt that my tutoring experience would help me get comfortable with the class since I had worked with several of the students in the past, either individually or in a study group setting.
Some of the challenges I encountered included being there on time and ready to go; not having an 8:00 a.m. class this semester has spoiled me a bit to be quite frank. Last time I subbed, I had difficulty with the technology aspect of the class because the off-site students couldn’t hear me all that well; however, this time it was different: I made sure I had the lavalier mic close to me at all times. Furthermore, I had to rely on my previous knowledge in order to explain the grammar concepts in a coherent, easy-to-understand manner. I personally enjoy working with and explaining grammar because it allows me to talk about how each element works together to produce a correct sentence. I am aware, however, that this doesn’t hold true for everyone, and this is why I had to come up with strategies to make it easier for the students to make sense out of all the grammar terminology just as I did back when I took that class myself. On a side note, I had a student whom I tutor on a regular basis thank me for drawing arrows to better illustrate and simplify the verb conjugations that were causing him trouble; this goes to prove that when it comes to teaching, one must adapt to all forms of learning. I learn by doing, but I had to acknowledge the fact that the students might not have the same learning style I do, and therefore, I had to modify my strategy accordingly in order to cover their learning styles as much as possible in the 50 minutes I had at my disposal.
I usually don’t have a problem talking about a grammar or cultural topic during a tutoring session, but standing there in front of sixteen on-site students and four off-sites really pushed me to think on my feet. Group work time, on the other hand, provided the chance for me to work with the students more closely and also gave me time to collect my thoughts and prepare for the next topic or exercise. Similarly, getting everyone to try to answer a question is not always easy. There are some students who just try to keep a low profile and wait for the class to end, while there are others who are eager to read, answer questions, or help their classmates on a regular basis. I had to call on certain students to participate; of course this is easy to do being the one holding the teacher’s edition with the answers, but since I have been put on the spot countless times during my student career, I know that a little guidance and encouragement from the teacher and/or classmates is always welcome. And this is exactly what I did; I either pointed them in the right direction or asked other students to help. Having all the right answers in front of you doesn’t mean that you don’t have to know the reasoning behind why something is the right answer, quite the contrary and even more complicated to do, it means that you now need to explain to the students why that is so. Consequently, you, as a teacher, have to think very quickly, and most importantly, think correctly.
I didn’t notice a difference teaching off-site students; I asked them to participate just as much as I asked on-sites. Luckily for me, off-sites were ready to answer questions or read, and at times, they even volunteered more than on-sites. The fact that we were not in the same classroom wasn’t an obstacle whatsoever.
Getting positive remarks from the students after each class session was very pleasing and lets you know that you are doing it right. Learning from your teacher that what you taught made sense and that the students still remember it even after Spring Break is even more rewarding. Overall, I think this was a positively different learning experience for both the students and me, and I would most definitely be glad to have the opportunity to do it again in the future.