Thursday, April 9, 2015

Going Solo

Ah, solo teaching. The one thing I never thought I'd get to do. A large part of being an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) is the A. Or so I thought. One of the phrases I've heard, and thankfully haven't been beaten over the head with, is every situation is different. And it's true. I know people who are given random days off because they "aren't needed" at the school quite frequently, people who work until 8-9 pm 5 days a week despite work hours technically ending at 4:05 (with no added pay), people who are most actively involved in their classes and others who are most actively involved in clubs. Everyone and every situation is different. Some schools require us to teach the maximum allowable number of class, while others much less.

Still, the one thing I thought I wouldn't be doing was planning my lessons (which I do for all first year classes and the English conversation classes). Let alone teaching solo! Now, let me make this clear. I LOVE SHS! I love my students and I love my co-workers. Everyone is really fantastic, but it didn't make me any less nervous to be teaching solo for the first time.

My first time solo teaching was way back around October. My JTE had a business trip and our students couldn't miss the class AND still be expected to give presentations before their final, so I offered to do it solo. True, it was the class I have the hardest time with and the class that has taught me oh how wonderful the "is it my turn now" stare can be at quieting a class. Despite that, I thought I was ready.

Haaavvveee you met Murphy?

Yep. Murphy's law. I completely lost my voice the day before my solo class. Luckily, I have this awesome little white boards in my class so I was still able to communicate via writing and miming. Thankfully the students were doing a lot of solo-writing work though. In the end, the class went okay. The students were the most on-task I think they've ever been. Which was weird.

The second time I taught solo was back in January. The teacher with a business trip this time was, admittedly, my favorite to work with. I am so used to her knowing exactly what to add and how to explain so that her students understand. I kept giving my explanation (extra carefully and with a dash of Japanese for the things that teacher would have already translated for them), but the whole time I kept expecting her to go "Oh..." or "You know, like..." or "Oh! You know this word! It means... Remember?" So it was strange because, in this case, I had come to rely on the other teacher being there and supporting me. I feel like those are the classes in which I really GET how team teaching is supposed to work and I felt at a loss for being without my partner. Compare that to my other classes where not a whole lot changes whether it's team teaching or solo teaching.

That same week, we had a teacher out with the flu so I wound up having my third solo teaching experience very soon after.

The long and the short of all this, I both love and hate solo teaching. In one way it is really freeing and gives me a chance to stand on my own. I felt like in some cases this was better. However, especially in the class where my JTE and I work especially well together, it made me feel at a loss because I was trying to do the same thing with way less than half the knowledge and with half the man power. I feel like team teaching can be a really great and supportive teaching method because you can rely on and fall back on each other if you need to as well as provide the students with double the resources. So, as fun as solo teaching is, I don't want to give up my partners anytime soon. Teaching on my own has, overall, shown me just how valuable team teaching can be.

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