Here are some comments from other teachers about their first teaching experience.
- Abdulrahman Al Muftah :
Opening the door to my classroom where I would be teaching was a frightening thought. What if my students didn’t like me, what if I couldn’t help them in the ways they needed help the most, are all thoughts that raced through my mind as I opened the door. Fortunately for me, these thoughts never became a reality.
After introducing myself to the class and learning the names of my students, I began the lesson. Whenever I would ask particular students a question, they would stand up from their seats, answer the question, and sit back down; and whenever one was called on, they would always being their sentence by addressing me with the title “sir” and to my teaching partner “ma’am.” The degree of respect received from these students, was paramount. I had never been called “sir,” and the sound of it coming from men old enough to be my father irritated me. Some would be flattered, but my partner and I felt it was wrong. We explained to them, that they should call us by our names (even made up nicknames for ourselves so the students would remember our names more easily). We did not feel that our students should call us in a formal manner, and we especially did not want our students to feel like they were beneath us.
In the beginning, some students continued to call us “sir” and “ma’am,” but after seeing the others calls us “Abdul” and “Jumango” (our nicknames), the whole class started referring to us by these names. We made sure, that we made our class know there was no distinction between us, and that we were all the same level. This definitely enhanced the communication between the students and us.
To ensure that each student could maximize their potential in learning the material, my partner and I sat with individuals and went through exercises with them. Sitting next to them, you could tell from the faces of the students that they felt more at ease talking to us. You could sense the shock in some students, as they perplexed the idea as how could someone like me sit next to someone like them. This idea sickened me, knowing that many of these students who were fathers, grandfathers, more knowledgeable in things I would never know, would think that I was above them. Therefore, it was our priority to make it clear to our students that we were no better than them. In the end, this message was successfully delivered.
The classroom was made up of students, who had the ability to read and write to a certain level, to those who could not do both. My partner and I were extremely successful in tackling this matter. From the start, we knew that we could not just let the students do the work alone; most would not go very far. Therefore, we would go through all the exercises together. In order to make sure that our students didn’t just hear words coming out of our mouths, we acted out the words; for we all know that actions speak better than words. We would pretend to introduce ourselves for the first time, act out certain emotions of words, make a little skit to bring froth the idea of what we meant more clearly. To know if students knew the alphabet and could read out words, we played the game Hangman for several words. Activities like these had the students asking for more and we were glad to give it to them.
A major highlight of our teaching experience came when my partner and I decided to combine our class with that of the other teaching instructors (Fatima and Meshael). Our excitement to bring our classes together emphasized to our students that we really wanted them to enjoy their time with us, and learn as much as they allowed themselves. It was made clear, that this was not a competition to see who would know how to speak and write English perfectly; it was a journey to discover one’s abilities and hopefully use not all, even just one thing they have learnt from our classes, to better enhance their lives.
- Amal Alamri :
On Friday October 15th, 2010. Assem and I had our first teaching session with the migrant workers. Before Friday, we planned to prepare the first 2 weeks of the materials incase we have extra time left or if we felt that the students already know the materials of week 1 well. We printed pictures that were related to the materials because we found it’s going to be helpful to visualize what we are planning to explain to them and also, we brought pencils, papers and markers incase the students don’t have one. Finally, we divided up the activities between us and decided what demonstrations could be helpful for them such as having conversation between me and Assem asking him about his name and how is he doing …etc.
On Friday, Assem and I went to CMU before 5 just to rap-up everything that we need to do in class. At 5 Julie came to CMU and picked us to the industrial area and she told us that the Egyptian guy who was driving the bus is going to be a student in the class as well as to 3 Sari Lankans and 2 Nepali. The driver tried to speak English with Julie and for me I think it was a good step for him. He also told us that he wants to learn how to speak English well and how he can communicate with people effectively and we told him that that’s why we are here. We told him if you think that you need to learn something that we didn’t cover, tell us and we will be glad to teach you.
We arrived to the industrial area about 5:30 pm. The HR manager – Majdi- welcomed us and introduced us to the place that we will be teaching the students in. We got a small class with tables and computers and it was perfect to teach in but the problem that there was no whiteboard to write on. Then, the students arrived to the class and they were smiling to us. We said hi to all of them and welcomed them to class. When all the students arrived the teaching session has started!
First, we introduce ourselves by doing small demonstration and wrote our names on a piece of paper and in turns we asked the students to introduce themselves and asked them to write their names as well and stick the paper infront of them. We went over the materials of week 1 and actually it went very well. The students were interactive with us and they seemed to follow what we were saying. One of the activities that we did was having 2 students to come infront of their colleagues and try to demonstrate what we learned today. They did great job except for one of the students who seemed to be shy a little bit. Julie was telling us all the time to encourage the students by saying ‘excellent’ and ‘good job’ …etc because they are not confident enough to talk in English but by saying these words we motivate them to speak and that’s our goal that we need to achieve.
We finished the materials of week 1 quickly so we decided to give them the pre-test just to get sense of what they know and what they don’t. Also, we thought it is going to be a good step to know the different levels in class. The problem that we faced that some of the learners didn’t know how to read and write so obviously they didn’t know how to solve the test. The good thing that as we were reading the exam for them some of them were able to answer orally which was something good for us because now we know what does the class need to learn. One of the students wrote the answers in his hometown language. Also, there was Sari Lankan guy who seemed to be really good in English. He was the only one in class who was able to solve the test. He helped us a lot in translating some of the pre-test questions to his colleagues. After we finished the test we noticed that 2 out of 6 students can read and write while the rest can’t. Then we gave them break for 15 minutes. At this time we were deciding what we should do later. At first, we were thinking to split the class into two levels but Julie told us not to do that because they would be helpful later if we keep them together Finally, we decided to go over the alphabets and numbers just to make sure that everyone is on the right track. One more problem that we faced that the class didn’t have a white board and the HR suggested to go to different room that has a board. The room was big, dusty and has a big whiteboard but the problem that there were no desks. We thought that the whiteboard for now could be really helpful to explain on.
After they came from the break. We told them that we will go over the numbers and asked them to write their mobile numbers on the board. Everyone showed good understanding of numbers. Then, we started with alphabets some of them knew them and some didn’t. We went over each letter and showed them the sound of each letter and wrote them on the board and also, we had examples for each letter. Some of them were confused because ‘c, k and q’ had the same sounds but we told them its okay and with practice you will know them well. Finally, the class is over and we were able to go over all the alphabets. We were happy because we made it through the first day.
In my way back to university, I was reflecting in my mind about what went right and wrong and what should be done next week. Assem and I thought about what we are going to do next Friday and I think we have more solid goal that we want to reach by now.
- Humaira Tasnim :
The first week of classes was a very pleasant experience and went very well. We got to know the workers on a personal level, and also taught them about a few basic lessons in English.
We had prepared our introductions, and also made copies of the Pre-Test to test the skill level of the students. Knowing the students wouldn’t have supplies with them we carried marker pens and pencils. Lastly to aid us in the teaching of the students we also brought a lot of pictures with us.
The students’ reaction and enthusiasm were really good and heartwarming. They seemed so comfortable and we could see their eagerness to learn. Most of them answered our questions very well with respect. There was one student who was very shy in the beginning, even though he knew how to read and write. We asked him questions, to try to integrate him with the class and appreciated his answers and later he got involved in the class lessons and answered questions himself. It was very rewarding to see him grow and get comfortable over time in the class.
The classroom was a small room with four round tables, and in each table there were four students. In terms of introductions, we did the same activity that we did in class during our teaching sessions. Nijat and I introduced ourselves and then we moved to the students, we asked each one of them what their name is, and they could all say their names. Next we gave a sheet of paper to all of them and asked them to write their names on it and place it on their tables. All of them wrote their names, and some of them also designed their names, but there were two of them who needed help writing. They didn’t ask us for help; instead they were discussing with their nearest class-mates and then wrote their names. Since there were many students in the small class, it was difficult for us to check upon what the students at the back of the classroom were doing.
After the introductions, we asked them why they want to learn English. Everyone replied except two of the students, and we understood that they didn’t know to read, write or speak in English. But the response we received from the others was pretty good. One of them said, “English is life.” When we asked him why, he replied that English is needed everywhere, in every aspect of life, and that is why he wants to learn English, to make his life better. It felt really motivating, hearing such positive responses. After that, we showed pictures of objects like the bus, car, television, computer, etc. and asked them what they were. They identified all of them and they could all say the words in English. When I saw that they were finding it too easy and boring to say the names of the objects, I thought of asking them the spellings of the words. They could spell the words correctly too. For some of them, it was really easy and the skills and attitude they were showing to us confirmed that. So we decided to make them do the Pre-Test, and we gave them the question papers. We explained the questions to them, and then Nijat and I said our dialogues for the Listening comprehension twice. The part that most of the students were confused about was the second True/False question, where it said that Sudi is a janitor. A few students asked what janitor meant, and when we said that it meant “cleaner”, they answered True, because in the conversation, Sudi says that he is a cleaner. But most of the students didn’t think about the meaning of janitor, and so they answered False. We will be giving them their answers back next class, and we will make sure they understand that janitor and cleaner mean the same thing.
After the Pre-Test, we gave them a 15-minute break, and they were all back before the break ended. Julie came to our room and told us that they were very enthusiastic about the class, when they were talking outside during the break, and this was really motivating. After they got back, we asked them about how they feel in Qatar. Most of them replied that they liked it here, because they are getting money, but some of them said they missed their families. We then asked them to draw pictures of what they like to do in their free time, and I found some drawings really good. They do possess other good qualities and have a lot of talent in them.
One of the most important parts was when I myself made a mistake in my teaching. When we were doing the first reading from the True Stories book, we asked them to say what all they saw in the picture, and I was writing down the words. They said that there was a mop in the picture, and instead of writing “mop”, I wrote “mob” by mistake. One of the students pointed out my mistake, and said it should be a ‘p’ and not a ‘b’. I really liked the way he pointed out my mistake, as I wanted the class to have a mutual learning environment, and by doing so, I got to learn from him. I thanked him and corrected it. Now I know I will never spell the word wrong again. Moreover, based on the story in the book, we could also get the students to discuss what they would do if they had 2.3 million dollars, and whether they should spend money for their own purposes or donate it. Also, while they were reading along with the pictures, one of the students said that it’s written, “He doesn’t drive a big car”, whereas the car in the picture is not big, it’s a small car. I assumed that big cars meant four-wheel drive cars to him. I showed him the next picture where the car was relatively small, and asked him which car was bigger, and he looked at me and smiled. He seemed satisfied with it and it made me feel good that I could clear his doubt. I liked the way he critically thought about the connection between the picture and the sentence written with it. We then explained them the homework and they all thanked us and said goodbyes to us individually when they were leaving the class.
In coming out of the class I was very proud and pleased of how this teaching experience went. The students’ reactions and their eagerness to learn motivated me to come to the next class, and have another memorable experience.
- Jummana Kahlout :
The buildup of the course has finally arrived and we started teaching this week. Every article we read to prepare and every paper we wrote to theoretically explain how we should teach and what we need to take in to consideration came to play. That is exactly how I felt on our way to the class. I was filled with both excitement about teaching this class and finally applying the theory from the class but I was also somewhat frightened to start because I did not know if I could deliver as well as I thought I can or whether our students will be very interested in what we have to offer.
We arrived to the location. I found the labor camp location and state very ironic. The labor camp within the luxurious Pearl, the constantly lit Pearl of Doha, but the road to the labor camp was as dark as could be. The labor camp itself was not too bad but that I am only judging from the conference rooms we taught in. I parked my car and saw a large number of men standing in the open area in the middle of the camp staring at our cars. They seemed eager to see us and enthusiastic about the class. Their smiling faces were very reassuring.
Getting out of the car, we had many folders to give the learners; we carried them in to the classrooms and found all our learners sitting in their seats waiting. They all greeted us warmly and were very pleased to see us. At first, when I heard them greeting us, it felt like the majority of the class spoke English very well already but I could not be sure about this, I heard our peers who started speaking about their experiences last week and I remembered that some of their learners were embarrassed by not being able to read or write so did not speak up about it. Thus, I did not make any generalizations and we went through the lesson plan as provided.
The class went smoothly; we introduced ourselves and asked all the learners to state both their names and their nicknames. We gave them our nicknames along with our names too just to break the ice. The greeting section went well and the majority of the class managed to greet others simply and ask for a persons name. However, when we started our exercise where every pair had to greet each other in front of the class, we noticed that some of the learners did not speak as easily as the others and spoke rather fast so we could not catch on to them. It was then quite obvious that we did not have a very advanced class which is what I got from the first impression.
Communicating with the class was easy because everyone was very respectful and kind. All the learners seemed eager to learn and did not mind repeating after us even when we made them say out the alphabet. Midway through the class I noticed a separation in the classroom. Most of the Nepali’s sat on one side and the Philippines on the other side. Also, out of four tables in the classroom, there were three tables where the learners knew how to read and write but a table where they did not. Thus, there was more than one form of separation in the classroom, based on knowledge and nationality. It was the first class so we did not do much about it just to keep things comfortable for the learners but I think that next class we need to break these bonds to avoid having conversation between the same nationalities.
To conclude, the experience did not turn out to be frightening at all. All my worries about not delivering properly or my students not being interested disappeared when I saw the learners waiting eagerly for us to arrive and start the classes. I hope that by next class the workers can stop calling me madam and would just call me Jummana, but I guess that is something I can work on. Other than that, the experience is great so far. I feel that this class will make me a more patient person and will encourage me to continue and offer support to the community because as selfish as it sounds, it feels really good.
- Mashael al-Misnad :
Given the opportunity to teach in this literacy program was by far one of the most rewarding experiences I was ever given. So far, I’ve had the privilege to teach twice. However, it was very unfortunate to change the class we taught since I felt that we built a strong connection with our first class from the first day. Nevertheless, this did not by any means discourage us. We built a just as strong connection with the second class even though it was much harder to connect with the students in that class, as they were a larger number.
The first week was great; the first group of students we taught was mainly Indians and Egyptians. Although there was a clear segregation between the two nationalities in the class, we went out of our way to get them to interact with each other and start conversations.
We went to class ready for three different possibilities regarding the level of students, one was if the class spoke really good English, one was if they didn’t know any English and one was if they were at a normal level of English. However, the students didn’t really fit into any of those categories, they were better than we thought they would be. The only option then was to give them the pre-test and during the break we discussed what we would do next. We had prepared to do a story in a situation like this. And it worked, the story lit up the class, started a long interesting and vibrant conversation that all the students wanted to be a part of. They were very opinionated and that was the main reason why the class discussion lasted the entire hour. The last ten minutes of the class, we spent explaining the homework and asking the students what they want to get out of this program. It was very unfortunate that we didn’t go to them the following week, as I know they were extremely excited to have us come again.
The most challenging part of the first lesson was not knowing what level of learners we were to teach and preparing for all cases was extremely difficult. It was also quiet challenging to enter a room and start teaching highly skilled learners something they might already know which in return would make us look like fools. Thus, we had a plan to try to start a conversation with the students as they entered the room so that we have a basic idea of where they stand before we make a fool out of ourselves.
I am a very caring individual and I love getting to know people and knowing details about the struggles in their life, thus this was of great advantage and a good time killer for the first class as we had a lot of time to spare because our learners were advanced and we didn’t have the advanced materials with us. I loved getting to know each learner, as they were very enthusiastic about the idea of having a Qatari woman as their friend. They spoke to me freely about what they were going through and it was very touching to hear their stories and how simple their dreams were yet see how happy they were. My social abilities was rewarding from their end as they never thought that a Qatari women would ever be interested in what they had to say.
The second lesson we taught was very different yet just as fun. However this time round, we felt that students gained much more from the lesson, as they weren’t as strong as the students from the first week. We had 14 students, a mixture of comedians, shy learners, and serious learners. However, towards the end of the lesson, they managed to loosen up and talk to us more and ask more questions. The students had a tendency to call us ‘Ma’am’ even when we told them to call us by our names and now I know how frustrating it is especially because I hated being called that and I didn’t want there to be a segregation, after all, they are older than I am.
All in all, my first two lessons were very rewarding and something I would love to continue to do as I spoke to Julie about taking this further than just a requirement that I have to fulfill for one of my classes. The fact that learning English was so precious to the students was amazing and made me cherish what I have. I felt special for being able to give back to people who have served my country for so long. Their hopes and dreams were very modest which eventually made me reassess mine. I will hopefully learn to overcome my fear of the learners not enjoying what we provide them or fear of them finding our lesson boring and learn to have fun with the material.
- Nijat Ibrahimov :
Before starting to describe our teaching, I want to describe the pre-class preparation. Honestly, my team members and me were pretty stressed about it because none of us have any teaching experience before. In addition, we did not know the level of our students in advance so we came up with several plans. Basically, our plan was divided into several parts such as if students’ levels are below lesson plan. Meshail and me have found extra material like alphabet and various pictures to this plan. Second plan was if the students are suitable for the lesson plan. For this case, we printed out pre-test and other practiced how we are going to lead the class according to lesson plan. Third case is if students are too advanced for this lesson plan. We looked at the end of the lesson plan where we found more sophisticated lessons. We worked a lot on plan “A” and “B” assuming that our students will not be advance.
However, our expectations were wrong our student were pretty smart and had really good command of English. Fortunately, we were really good at leading the class and even if material was very easy for some of them, our students did not get bored. We gave them pre-test and most of them scored really well. So, we decided to change they we taught and made class more discussion based. The different levels of English of students were creating some problems; however all of them were involved in the class.
There are few things that I noticed was really helpful for our class. I liked the way Meshail was welcoming students to the class. I think that it is really important because some of them were really shy and all of us tried to make them speak. It was really surprising to me how all of them started to discuss the story about cleaner. After the break we decided not to follow the lesson plan and made new plan. The reason why we came up with this idea is because our students were graduates from universities. However, lesson plan at the end of the class Fatma and me asked question about what they really want to learn and what their expectations are.
I really liked my team because we were really prepared. I liked the idea of planning before the class. Plus, we have bought notebooks, pens and highlighters. At the end of the class we gave them snacks. Generally, we were extremely prepared and in my opinion we did really well.
After teaching first time in my life, I realized many things about teachers. I believe that “first impression” is really important for teachers because if teacher is friendly from the beginning students feel this friendship and they become more active in the class. Another important thing, teacher comes to the class with the aim to teach something and when students leave the class they should feel that the time they have spent there is productive. Even if the plan of the teacher can completely change its direction, teacher should always move to the goal from different way. For achieving it, teacher needs plan and at the same time be flexible.
- Omar Shaath :
Last Monday was my first day in teaching adults literacy. Fortunately, my students were able to read and write in English to communicate well enough. However, some students were slower in writing and reading than others. The experience was unique, and it’s an interest exchange chance, as I like to call it. I teach the students English, and they teach me how to become a better teacher.
First thing I had to in class is establishing security to make my students open up. From reading Vella’s book Learning to listen learning to teach, to create safety in classroom, students should trust the feasibility of the objectives and their relevance, realized that the environment is nonjudgmental, competence of the teacher in class, and activities. It was my first time teaching adults. However, I was prepared with a good curriculum, which sequences the lessons from simple to complex, as well as reinforces the repetition of exercises and skills through in-class work and homework.
In class, I decided to start off with icebreakers so I can get to know the students and try to remember some names. Using a tennis ball, I asked students to throw the ball on each other asking/answering about names and nationalities. I thought age might not be appropriate. After that, I decided to give them the pre-test to assess their levels in English to prepare for next class. Who finishes his pre-test was free to leave for a break. After the break, I introduced the first story in the curriculum because they were able to read and write well enough. Taking turns in reading, I realized that some process slower than others, but everyone was able to read. After reading, I decided to introduce different activities rather than teaching because they seemed to be a bit lousy and enjoy playing except very few. Therefore, I introduced many different activities. First, I introduced the hangman and I realized that they could spell. Then, I introduced the pictures from my resource bag. However, I asked them to form four groups and each group is responsible of writing a sentence for each pictures. Identifying the pictures seemed a bit too easy for the students. Finally, I introduced a game of competition. Each group had to pick a name, and then I asked a variety of questions. I asked them mathematical, geographic, vocabulary, spelling, and opposites questions in addition to comprehension questions from the story we have read. I was trying to be a friend rather than a teacher. I was also trying to enforce a nonjudgmental dialogue in class. For example, when I was asking them about what they do in their day off, one student answered: “I Search for women like her” pointing at my colleague, Tasneem. “I am single” he assured. I went on asking him about the places that he goes to searching for women, and then I changed the subject by asking what means they use for transportation and where they go to do their shopping. I was mostly trying to ask open questions to build confidence and sound relationship for learning.
For next class, I believe I would teach them starting from week 6. From analyzing the pre-test, it seems the students need to practice reading more. Hence, I will give them a writing assignment along with the homework. I will also try to have an activity in each class. Next week, it happens that the day of class is my birthday. I will bring a cake to class and celebrate with the students. I will be turning 22, and I know that there is at least one student in my class who is 22 years old and probably the youngest. Since the students loved the competition on the first day. I’m thinking of having a jeopardy session on the last day after the break. I’m not sure if I can get funded by Vodafone, or even from the course’s budget. What I do know is that it is not going to stop me from bringing chocolates and juices for the students in the last day after we finish playing the jeopardy.
In the end, I have learned few things from my first day. Firstly, dressing professionally helped me getting more respect and trust from the students because they are much elder than me. Activities get them excited upon learning. In addition, it is very essential the teacher prepare activities beforehand to use in class when there is extra time. In the beginning of the class, I was nervous and Tasneem was too. Nevertheless, I introduced myself and started the icebreakers. I was glad that my face didn’t turn red, but I was sweating badly. I could notice that one of them was trying to turn up the AC. Finally, I was confident enough to speak out loud, and take control of the class.
- Tasnim Jahan :
First day of teaching in Pearl labor camp was really amazing. All my students were really friendly and enthusiastic.I was expecting that the students will not be very advanced but it was the opposite. I thought they need more advanced materials. That’s why I and my colleague planned to play educational games just to analyze their levels. Because though they were very good at communicating but they had lacking in reading and especially in writing. But there were two or three students who were really very advanced than the other students in class. So we are still thinking how we are going to teach them. Other than this, all the students were very friendly to us. I liked them and I think they liked us too. They enjoyed the class a lot and I hope all the students will come back to the next class.
At first I started the class with writing names on the tags. I asked them to write their on names on tags and put them on the table. All of them were able to write their names on the tags except one who didn’t get what to do. I explained him what to do and then he was able to write his name on the tag. Then we introduced ourselves to them. I noticed that while introducing ourselves, they were so interested to learn about us and why we were there. I described our purpose of going there and teaching them.
Then we moved on to the pre-test. While talking with them, I understood that they were much advanced and their communication skill is really good but I still wanted to assess their writing skills and that’s why I gave them the pretest to check whether they can write properly or not. After looking at their pretest, I thought the activities from week one was really very low for them and that’s why I moved on skipping those and focused on the games. Me and my colleague decided to use the games and activities we had in our resource bag to entertain the students. We played different games and the student really liked it. We played hangman in class which was really interesting to them. They guessed words so quickly and it was really amazing. I gave then words consisting of 7-8 letters and when they guessed 3 letters they could easily guess the whole word. This part of the class really amazed me. Later on we played a asking question game where we asked them questions related to numbers, spellings, opposite words, synonyms etc. we divided the class into four groups of four people each and we did a competition between the groups. There was a tie and then we decided to ask some hard questions to break the tie. The whole process of testing their levels through games went really well and I got a rough idea of their education levels.
Other than the games we asked them to write sentences with the words on the pictures that we printed for them. We actually planned to point out each picture and ask them what the object or thing is but as our students were pretty advanced we thought it would be a bad idea to ask them the name of each picture.
After all the activities and works, I explained the homework to them. Though the homework was really very easy for them but still I though it would be good idea to keep them practicing. But three students found it difficult to understand the homework. But when I explained the homework for the second time, they got the idea.
One of us was taking over the class and led the discussion while the other one explained the activity to each of them clearly. For the next time, we are planning to give them more advanced homework and class work so that they can learn something new. From the beginning of the class I noticed that they were very dependent on each other and they did all the activities together. Though group work is always good but in this way some student may become very engaged in the activities while some may just sit and watch other working. That’s why I am planning to engage them more in individual work rather than group work so that they can work independently. I was really surprised by their advanced communication skills and interest in learning. In one point, I felt insecure because of some students’ improper behavior but I just ignored them and I thought I will get over this situation in the next class and I decided to take actions if they repeat the situation again.
Other than these all the students were very friendly and well disciplined. I didn’t have any problem handling them and I really liked them. It is really a great experience for me to teach a group of student who are older than me and I am expecting all the students to come back to the class next time. I can’t wait to see them again!