Authored by:
Elizabeth M.

My first semester teaching was certainly a learning curve. My first day of teaching here in Morocco was my first time teaching anyone...ever! There were hurdles and stumbles, but I've got my balance moving forward into the second semester. 

Here is what I learned my first semester that I am sure will change how I approach and handle this next semester.

Schedule. I've since learned my class schedule and what exactly I need to do to prepare for each class and that in and of itself has been a game changer! I know exactly how long it takes to get to work, make copies, or plan and it has given me freedom to schedule time to do each of those things. 

Names. It was such a struggle for me to learn my students' names. Not only was I trying to assign 100 names to 100 different faces, but I was also learning Arabic names. I didn't have students named Emily or Lauren and Michael or Luke, but rather Fatima or Houda and Nour or Amine. And then there was the struggle to pronounce my students' names correctly. There are a few that I still can't pronounce perfectly, but it's gotten much better! So, I'm confident I'll know all my students' names when the next semester rolls around.

Syllabus. I give my students a syllabus on the first day of class so they know exactly what to expect. I include class times and room number, my Honor Code policy, the schedule of what lessons we will do each week and when they have quizzes and exams. It has saved my butt as a teacher so many times! I layout my classes with the following schedules and I factor in days off and other holidays.

For my Teen classes, I structured my classes like this as we have 10 weeks to get through 4 units:

Week 1- Intro and Ice Breakers

Week 2- Unit 1

Week 3- Unit 2

Week 4- Review and Unit 1 and 2 Quiz

Week 5- Unit 3

Week 6- Unit 4

Week 7- Review and Unit 3 and 4 Quiz

Week 8- Final Exam Review and Games

Week 9- Final Exam Review and Games

Week 10- Final Exam

For my Young Learner classes, I structured my classes like this as we have 10 weeks to get through 3 units.

Week 1- Intro and Ice Breakers

Week 2- Unit 1

Week 3- Unit 1 Review and Quiz

Week 4- Unit 2

Week 5- Unit 2 Review and Quiz

Week 6- Unit 3

Week 7- Unit 3 Review and Quiz

Week 8- Final Exam Review and Games

Week 9- Final Exam Review and Games

Week 10- Final Exam

I've found that even though we move quickly through units, my students are able to keep up and if they falter on a grammar point or forget the vocabulary, there is plenty of time to review and dive deeper during the review weeks. This schedule also keeps the amount of grading that I have to do to a minimum.

Staff. I better knew the Staff’s names, what roles each person played, and how to communicate with each them. Each person has a different level of English, which creates problems frequently, but you'll have to learn to work through it. It’s all a learning curve!

Music During The Call to Prayer. STOP music or listening activities during any of the calls to prayer. If you don’t, your students will likely ask you to stop it and you should.

Preparation. My students seem to rarely be prepared for class. I have students that refuse to buy the book or don't come to class with a book at all, no paper, and no writing utensil; just them and their money for snacks at break. It's frustrating, but its cultural so you'll learn to roll with the punches by rearranging the classroom so that books can be shared. It'll all work out.

Grades. Inevitably, you'll have a student or two (or more) fail each semester. You'll give them, or their parents, their grade report and sometimes they're thrilled and sometimes they'll be sad because they failed. If they fail, 9 times out of 10, they could be found crying at the end of class begging you to let them pass or wondering why they didn't get above a 70% on their listening activities. It's hard, but you'll have to explain to them why they earned the grade that they did. Don't be surprised when the "coolest kid" in the class is the one crying in the middle of class after he/she learns their grade. 

Parents. Every interaction I have had with a parent has been relatively positive and they always seem to have my back. I had the opportunity to meet some parents during parent/teacher conferences after the first semester and they were all supportive of my feedback and endlessly grateful. Most parents brought their student along with them. If I told them that their son/daughter was too talkative in class they tended to discipline them right there in front of me which was difficult at first, but the students were more attentive and less talkative that very next week. I've also asked the staff admin assistant to call home to say that a student was disruptive or talkative or had behavioral issues in class. After that, I've had parents come in to talk to me and they've told me to be more strict on their son/daughter and to kick them out and call them if it ever happens again. Your students' parents are great allies if you work together throughout the school year.

It wasn't always easy, but I'm figuring it out!

Good Luck!


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