The McGill/Royal Commission diaries – Term 1

  • Level: 0.
  • Section: 13.
  • School: JTI.
  • Dates: January 26, 2013 – March 20, 2013.
  • Term: #1.

Overall, the experience was pretty good. The students turned out to be better than I thought, both in their ability to speak English and their behavior in class. I’d heard horror stories, so I expected the worst the first term.

Lessons:

During one of the first weeks I taught here, one of the more experienced teachers said we need to focus on listening and writing. “If they can do all right in those skills, they’ll pass.” This turned out to be absolutely accurate. I will try to hit these skills hard in the next term.

It’s a good idea to be strict on the rules early in the term. This first term was tough because I didn’t have a good feel for the bounderies I wanted to set in class. I think I have a much better handle on this now.

At one point, I had a mutiny in class. One student was about to DN (which means he’s going to get kicked out of the program based on bad behavior). I caught him on his phone and had to write him up. When I did, some other students in my class jumped to his defense. I didn’t change my mind or anything, so after that period, the entire class went and talked with one of the administrators, complaining about the class.

Thankfully, management understood the problem and supported me, even though the Royal Commission ended up allowing the one student who was on his phone back into class. I worried that the disruption would cause more problems with the rest of class, but it really didn’t. Through it, I learned a little more about what my students wanted, and I think I’ll be able to explain the rules better next term.

Other than that, observation periods can be intense. In general, though, they’re quite helpful once they’re finished. The guys who observed my classes gave a bunch of constructive feedback I was able to use immediately.

There’s a push within McGill for teachers to focus heavily on the communicative method. The downside to this is that the students here aren’t motivated to learn when they come to class and the exams aren’t really structured around the communicative method. As a result, the communicative method can end up taking more time and effort than it’s worth. I learned after the third exam that a lot of what I need to do in class kind of side steps the communicative method and focuses instead on building a foundation in basic grammar rules and testing skills.

Pass rate: 27/38 (three DNs)

Rating: 7/10

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