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What a load off of my shoulders it was just to finish my first lesson in front of a real class!  This morning, I gave five intermediate-level Thai women a 55-minute course on the differences between Wh- direct questions and indirect questions using "Can/Could you tell me...?" and "Do you know...?"  It went amazingly well.

I spent quite a bit of time last night revising my lesson plan; I'd had a fairly good idea of the major points to cover after working on it Saturday night but I came up with some good ideas on how to improve it.  One thing that helped was being able to sit in on a couple of classes Monday morning.  I was able to see some things that worked (and some that didn't) for two of my fellow teachers.  In fact, I completely scrapped the dialogue and exercise questions as they were laid out in the student's book (we're teaching from New Interchange 2) and wrote my own, tailoring them specifically to Phuket.

I didn't really rehearse the lesson before presenting it.  I typed up a script of sorts, rather detailed and comprehensive and did a quick run-through with Tim as my rather reluctant student.  I practiced writing a few things on a small whiteboard I bought at Tesco-Lotus.  And, while in the shower this morning and during the ride into Patong, I thought of how I wanted so phrase certain parts of the lesson.  A surprise to me was that I didn't feel the least bit nervous once I arrived at the school.

I sat in on the other Mark's 9a.m. lesson with the intermediate class and, finally, it was my turn.  When the girls were taking a short break between lessons, I prepared the whiteboard with my planned warmer (an ice-breaker that comes before you get into the lesson itself).  It turned out that I was the only one of my classmates to use such a warmer on their first lesson (a fact that really impressed my assessor).  What I did was make a grid on the board, listing several words that said something about me:

New Mexico
retaurant manager
I left space to the left of this list and plenty of space to the right marked off into five additional columns (one for each of my students).  Once they entered the room after the break, I launched into my greeting trying to be the complete opposite of my usual reserved self by being very upbeat and animated:  "Hello!  How are you today?  I'm a brand-new teacher and I think you might have some questions to ask me.  I've written some answers on the board.  I'd like you to think of the questions."

I gave them the first one:  What is your name?  I had them repeat the question and then I asked each one the same question, filling in the grid to the right of my name as they answered.  I was then able to use their names in asking questions during the remainder of the class.  They were easily able to ask the remaining questions for my answers:
How old are you?
Where are you from? (at this point, I showed a map of the world, pointing out Thailand and the U.S.A.; then I showed a map of just the United States, pointing out New Mexico)
What is your city? (they had fun pronouncing that one!)
What is (was) your job?
After each correct question to my answers, I had them provide their answers to the questions.  It was a lot of fun (particularly as I stuggled on the spelling for a couple of Thai provinces and towns that I didn't know).  In a bit less than 10 minutes, we'd all gotten to know some important details about each other and had a few good laughs as well.

I then tied that into my lesson's introduction by pointing out that each of the questions they'd asked was an example of a direct question.  I defined direct and gave a funny example.  I then said that we were going to learn about another kind of question called an indirect question, explained what this was, gave my first example by changing "What is your name?" to "Could you tell me what your name is?", and continued on from there.

It all flowed very nicely and I gave the girls a lot of practice.  In fact, it went so smoothly that I went through almost three-quarters of the lesson in just the first thirty minutes.  I had included several practice activites in my lesson plan that took most of the girls a lot less time that I had thought it would.  I even used one of my fillers in an effort to stretch out that time; I was afraid I would finish too quickly and not be able to think of any more material.  However, the solution was to have them do the activity I'd planned for homework.  I had them work together (a group of two and a group of three) and alternated between them checking their work and giving some helpful nudges.

One of the girls (Ging) was either too shy to really participate or just didn't know enough English to fully understand.  She seemed too afraid to ask any questions and I asked her after the class if the lesson was too difficult for her.  She said that she only just began learning English.  I asked if she would rather be in the beginner class downstairs but she really wasn't sure.  She did thank me for my patience with her ("you jai dee (good heart)," she said which is a very good complement in Thailand).  Another girl (Lek — not Tim's friend) also seemed a bit slower than the rest but told me she wanted to stay in the intermediate class because I was good at explaining things and allowed them time to think of the correct answers.  The three other students (Jas, Gip, and Or) all seem very bright; Jas, in particular is a joy to teach and is very enthusiastic and funny.  At the end of the class, everyone gave me a wai and said, "Thank you very much, teacher."  You always hear about how highly respected teachers are in Thailand (John Mark Karr notwithstanding — he hasn't tarnished the image among the majority of the citizenry) but it certainly was nice to experience it firsthand.

After the lesson, my assessor gave me a debriefing.  He was full of praise for my lesson, told me how impressed he was with my warmer and the logical flow of the introduction and the body, and seemed surprised to learn that I was trying to stretch out the lesson for the last 25 minutes.  He told me that I won't have any problems with teaching and that he could tell I had prior experience (if you can call the years of restaurant management good practice for teaching!).  Really, the only criticism he had was that I failed to correct one slight grammar mistake made by one of the girls at the end (I didn't even notice it).  This mistake was repeated by another girl as well and again I didn't hear it.  I think this was due to my occasional difficulty in deciphering their accents. At one point, one of the girls asked me "Could you tell me where Text & Talk Academy (our school) is?" and I responded that I didn't know, producing some laughter but I simply hadn't understood that she'd said our school's name   I'd been listening only for the correct form of the indirect question rather than the subject being asked about.

At any rate, I was given a score of 8.5 (out of 10) which is excellent for the first time teaching in front of a classroom (for comparison, the other lessons given today received scores of 5, 6.5, and 8).  In fact, Paul said he would have given me a 9 if only I had corrected the grammar mistake.  I'm happy with that...

I'm relaxing some tonight, enjoying the satisfaction that I didn't completely choke in front of my first class.  But I can't take it easy for very long:  next up is a lesson about stress-timing in the English language.  Oh, joy...