Back to the classroom

Being a busy DOS, it’s easy to lose touch with teaching.  There is enough to do, and more, to be honest!  The classroom is at the core of our business, however, and I make a note to myself at the start of each year to get in a teaching stint.

What would be ideal for all DOSs and ADOSs is to pre-plan a week of teaching (especially if you get to pick a level you like and a week on the syllabus which talks about something you are interested in and like teaching).  You can prepare and then go into the classroom with lots of fresh ideas and well-prepared resources.

So far, teaching experience as a DOS hasn’t been like this! What has happened each year is this; a teacher lets us down in a very busy period (usually first thing on a busy Monday morning 5 minutes before class starts).  And so, with zero prep time, I dash in and, well, teach.

This happened a couple of weeks ago.  When our ADOS and receptionist were on also on holiday, so while I was covering 3 jobs I got that call…to say we were a teacher down.  Trying to call various cover teachers was tricky so I hopped into the classroom and asked the school’s director to keep trying teachers to come and rescue me.  5 minutes in the classroom, I texted him: “Cancel the cover teacher.  I’m fine teaching all morning.  I’d forgotten how much I love this...”

Borja taking notes for his article while Ariana and Liam chat away.
Borja taking notes for his article while Ariana and Liam chat away.

So, I got my teaching stint in.  The only problem was I couldn’t stop being the DOS either.  I had arranged an appointment that morning with Third Age Ireland, which was too late to be rearranged as I knew the reps, Ariana and Liam, would already be on their way.  I had contacted them after reading about their impressive Fáilte Isteach project which “is a community project with older volunteers welcoming new migrants through conversational English classes. Failte Isteach utilises the skills, talents and expertise of older volunteers and harnesses their desire to contribute positively to society.”  Working with the older generation and with migrants sounded like something I would like to be involved in, so I sent them an email asking if we could help in any way.

So, I have a wonderful group of advanced level students from Spain, China and Saudi Arabia in front of me, no materials prepared and my visitors on their way.  The weekly topic was “News”. An idea was forming.

The lesson goal would be to plan an article on the Fáilte Isteach project.  To introduce this, I asked the group about life stages and what the various challenges were of each.  The group discussion gave us a sub-theme for the day – connection.  In fact, the students led the lesson and I build a structure around their suggestions – I enjoyed the challenge while guiding them towards generating ideas for the next part of the lesson.  The came up with very rich concepts about what the Third Age means and what is important during this life stage, how the younger generation can benefit, ideas to increase connection…

I then announced we would have some visitors to the classroom.  We reviewed some info about Third Age Ireland and then prepared interview questions for the two visitors.  As the students acted as journalists and prepared, I dashed downstairs to welcome Ariana and Liam, find out more about the project, brainstorm ideas about how we can lend our support…and then asked if they would chat to some very keen students.  I’m always trying to bring authentic materials into the classroom anyway…

All parties were delighted and the ‘interview’ was fascinating.  I forgot I was teaching and enjoyed listening to both the students’ questions and learning about the Third Age project. I’m very impressed and looking forward to reviewing their excellent teaching and training materials.

Borja, Lydia, Mohammed and Ali with their rules for life.
Borja, Lydia, Mohammed and Ali with their rules for life.

After the interview, the group pretended they were 80 and giving advice to their 30 year old selves….we came up with rules for life then finished up listening to this.

Back to the desk now…I look forward to next year and don’t mind at all if it’s last minute again.


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