Interview with a teacher – Christine

Our new category on the blog ” Interview with a teacher” , is supposed to help other teachers to get new ideas, but also to see that sometimes we as ESL teachers go through similar things – so we don’t feel alone.
If you are interested in being interviewed as well, send me a message at contact@teachenglishkids.com 
I would love to hear from you! 
1. In which country are you teaching?
2. How long have you been teaching ESL to children?
3 years
3. How old are the children you are teaching?
2 to 12 years
3a. How big are the groups you are teaching?
Maximum 10 kids per group
4. Tell us about a teacher who has influenced your life the most and what made him/her different from all the others? (From your own school days or colleagues now)
My primary schoo teacher from the ge of 5 to 7 – she believed learning should be fun, and used lots of games, songs, stories, arts & crafts that may have looked like there was no learning value to it from the outside, but actually taught us a lot because it was interesting. I try to employ this style in my own classes.
5.When you first started teaching small children, what did you find the most challenging and how did you deal with it?
Teaching 2 year olds – nightmare! Biggest problem was the parents wanting to know why, after a month of twice-weekly 90 minute classes, their 2 year olds couldn’t speak fluent English. They also wanted drilling-style teaching and one parent even insisted I taught her 2.2 year old 50 new words every lesson! I explained that 2 years cannot learn in that kind of environment, that they eed repetition, songs, games, fun things, if they want to pat the wall – let them as long as the teacher keeps talking in basic English! Kids this age have a very small world, with very little mother language which they are surrounded by daily, yet parents are unreasonable to think that English can be learnt within a few weeks. I usually ask the parents how much mother tongue the kids know, and how long it took to learn that, and then wait for the understanding to sink in. The hardest part is standing my ground when I refuse to teach 2 year olds drill-style, with enforced classroom rules.
6.What do you find the most rewarding aspect of teaching kids?
For me, it’s when that ‘slow’ kid the one who works so hard for very little result, suddenly has a EUREKA moment….they may produce the most simplest of English, but to them they just climbed a mountain.
6a. What do you think s the most important trait a teacher should have when teaching ESL to children?
There isn’t a single one – patience, understanding, flexibility, and knowing that every kid learns differently.
7.How do you think a perfect ESL-for-kids classroom should look like?
There is no set style, because all kids & groups are different. I think it should be bright, with lots of intersting work/pictures on the wall (produced by the kids), with plenty of seats & desks set up accordingly. We use rainbow coloured furniture, the floor is yellow & blue square tiles, the walls are white with lots of murals. There should be plenty of interesting & colourful props at hand, but not within reach of the kids to fiddle with.
8.What is your favorite song to sing with the kids?
I just taught the older ones Do Re Mi with different groups singing different parts with actions, they loved it and performed it at the christmas party to great applause. I think my favourite has to be Twinkle Little Star with the young ones, because every kid in every country seems to know this & it’s lovely to see their faces as they try to sing the words.
9.What is your favorite game?
I will play whatever the kids are interested in, but my favourite at the moment is Blow Fish. Cut out several fish shapes from paper card, decorate, bend the tail up at a 45 degree angle. Line them up and blow on the tail to make them scoot along the floor. I incorporate it as a race (the winner gets a point, the others have to answer questions), or first to answer gets to blow once (first over the line wins), or flashcards scattered and I say the word and they blow their fish to the flashcard, first one there makes a sentence and gets a point. Very simple, but the kids love it!
10.What is your favorite book to “work on” with the kids?
The Very Hungry Caterpillar! Lots of vocab, cute story, useful phonics lesson.
11.Can you tell me about a successful behavior management strategy you have used in the past that helped engage a student or a group of students?
One kid was ALWAYS disruptive…smarter than the rest in the group & got very bored very easily. So I made him class monitor and he is responsible for helping to hand stuff out, tidy equipment after games etc, and he is very proud of his responsibility. He understands that he will lose it to another child if he misbehaves. In mixed group, I also find putting a ‘slow’ kid with a ‘fast’ kid for pair work helps…the better ones enjoy helping the slower ones, and it teaches them the benefits of peer aid. The slower ones are now the better ones in some groups and they are automatically helping the slower ones now without being asked.
12.How do you evaluate your students?
I have a set monthly assessment by campus that I cannot deviate from – mosty vocab checking, key sentences, and Q&A. However, when I write their monthly report I also put in stuff I have oberved over the month, good & bad, to back up their tests.
13. Do you have any story of a child that made fantastic progress to inspire us? (progress in the sense that he/she overcame something, may it be big or small in our eyes, but wonderful for the child – for example finally becoming more creative, suddenly pronouncing words that have been very hard before etc).
I had a 3 year old who sat like a statue during class. No response, almost like in a catatonic state. Never spoke, blinked, nothing. For weeks, the Chinese teachers would almost shout at her (poor little mite), whilst I tried to break through, but nothing worked. Then one day, I was blowing up a balloon which popped. All the other kids shrieked and giggled, but this child was right in front of me bit with her back to me and she didn’t even flinch. So I stood right behind her and clapped very loudly, then once each side of her head. Nothing. Called her parents in and advised them to get her hearing checked. They did, and sure enough, the child is almost deaf. So we changed tactics, squatting down right in front of her to mouth words clearly, lots of ‘extreme’ TPR & mime, and slowly she started to engage, and laugh, and take part…the day she stood up in class & said ‘My name is Poppy’ actually made me cry – the pronunciation was muffled & clumsy, but I thought that day was the best day I ever had teaching!
14. What advice would you give a new ESL4kids teacher?

Stay calm. It’s overwhelming. When you think you can’t do it, take a deep breath and remember WHY you wanted to teach. If your class is a disaster, learn from the mistakes. If you earn something, how can it be a disaster? We all have favourites, but do not show it, treat all kids the same. Be fair, be just, be kind. Remember, even the naughtiest child is naughty for a reason, try find out what that reason is. And, above all, have fun!Thank you very much, Christine <3

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