#firsttimeteaching – and #myfirstblogchallenge!

‘First time teaching’ was a blog challenge I first noticed on Joanna Malefaki’s blog – for once, it wasn’t her setting these brilliant blog challenges, but her acquaintance Theodora Papapanagiotou.

I noticed Joanna’s post for this challenge on Saturday 9th May, one day after my last ever CELTA input session at the Berlin School of English, and two days before I taught my first ever class as a CELTA graduate. I therefore thought it’d be good to share my first-hand experiences of teaching straight after CELTA for an interesting comparison.

So, it’s now Monday evening and I am delighted to say that I survived my first post-CELTA teaching experience! I won’t mention the name of the school it happened at, but I am covering the next three weeks’ of classes for a guy I got to know through a Facebook group for language teachers in Berlin. It’s an intensive course at lower-intermediate level (B1), from 8.30am – 1.30pm with very few breaks in between. I was actually really looking forward to the challenge to put all my CELTA techniques into practice until the normal teacher (I’ll call him Theo) told me on Thursday afternoon that the leader of the school had added three new students to the class. Great, thought I, all keen and naive!

Alas, they are three students at roughly A1 level, which is quite weak in comparison to the rest of the class! This was not something that we covered on the CELTA….I was instantly then a little bit more apprehensive, but prepared as best I could over the weekend.

I prepared a lot of getting-to-know-you activities, so that the existing students could get to know the new students. I also prepared a little needs analysis exercise, so they could tell me what sort of vaguely business-related tasks they wanted to be able to do. I credit David McFetridge exclusively for this idea!

So, this morning I got up at 5.15 so I made sure I wasn’t late for the start of class, like I had been late to meet the Director of the school in order to sign my contract during the middle of my CELTA course (in my defence, there was a train strike and the main ‘circle’ line in Berlin was not working!) Thankfully, I was lucky with the trains this morning, and arrived a full hour before class started, at 7.30 – but nobody was there!

I waited a little while until someone let me into the building, and then around 7.45 the Director let me into the little school – not without a complete fright that I was waiting inside the building already!

I busied myself with photocopies, introductions to the few other teachers and checking that the CD worked whilst the students started to arrive. I was also hugely grateful to be allowed the exception of being granted access to the WiFi, which is apparently otherwise never given to teachers (!) This meant that I could hook my lovely little English laptop with Windows on it up to the printer and just press ‘print,’ rather than worrying about using a USB stick and a Mac (eek!)

Anyway, I just about managed to compose myself before 8.30 and in the end, I had a nice little class of 7. I think I managed all the paperwork OK at the beginning: getting the new students to sign the house rules and the fire regulations, and getting everyone to sign against their attendance in the register.

We started with some reverse guess-the-questions, where I put some answers about myself on the board and they had to guess the question, and then ask those same questions of their partners. For example, some of mine were ‘badminton,’ ‘English teacher’ and ‘Oxford’ – if you know me well enough, you’ll know the questions that would prompt those answers! We did this a couple of times to get to know each other, both on a more professional level and also socially. Then I played ‘Find someone who….’ bingo, which seemed to go down well. My basic worksheet for this is here, if anyone is interested 🙂 I must refine my materials writing technique!

We then had a break, and then I got out my little bits of paper to work out what kinds of things they’d like to talk about. My cutting left a little to be desired this morning, but I’d had to wait to get to school to print everything, so I didn’t have much time left for keeping within the lines! Although the students mightn’t have found this the most enthralling of exercises, it will certainly be helpful for me!

We then talked about the excursion the students went on on Friday, when Theo had already left for his holiday, I was still studying my CELTA and the school building itself was being audited – an excursion was a great way to get the students out! It sounded quite interesting, actually, and I have the German printout of what they did, so I might take myself for the same walk one day 🙂

We then spent the remainder of the lesson working through some pages in the Cornelsen A1/A2 book Business English for Beginners, learning about small talk, conference hotels and ‘working off-site.’ The students seemed to manage the listening exercises quite well, and there was always chatter when I did my CELTA pair-checking before and after most exercises.

I was absolutely exhausted by 1.30, but the students all said really lovely things to me as they left: that they like my accent, they like that I write down all the new words on the board, and they like that I write up mistakes on the board and correct them sometimes. All of these things are straight out of the CELTA, so it’s nice to see them being appreciated! It was certainly hard work teaching 7 students of such mixed ability, and I think I am going to have to stick with the A2 book now that the level is generally a little lower than it had been the previous week. Theo had been using a B1 book, but some of the students said they’ve had trouble with it, so hopefully the A2 book will be OK, and then I’ll try to prepare extra exercises for speedy finishers.

This week I only have three classes anyway, as Thursday and Friday are both Bank Holidays in Germany! So my reward for surviving my first three days as an English teacher is that my wonderful boyfriend is coming to visit earlier than planned 🙂

Any tips for teaching such a mixed ability group are welcome, but otherwise I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a blog challenge! As usual, it was probably far too wordy but Joanna, this one was for you, for introducing me to blog challenges in the first place 🙂 For any ELTers out there interested in blog challenges, I really recommend a search under the hashtag #youngerteacherself as well!

About BerLingo

My name is Rachel, I am 25 and I love Germany. I studied German, Spanish and Italian at Durham University for four years, one of which I spent living in Europe, and then worked at Routledge academic publishing house for almost 3 years. Towards the end of 2014, I decided it was time to finally fulfil a long-held ambition to live in Berlin, and so in April 2015 I completed the CELTA qualification (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, adminstered by Cambridge University) here in the German capital. Now qualified, my blog berlingo18.wordpress.com charts my experiences as a new English teacher in my favourite city... (More information about my plans can be found in my first ever blog post.)
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7 Responses to #firsttimeteaching – and #myfirstblogchallenge!

  1. joannamalefaki says:

    Hi Rachel,
    I loved this post and congrats on your first lesson and your first blog challenge 😀 You are a natural, dear!! You have really nice ideas and I think that you are going to be an excellent teacher. You are already getting informed and trying so hard!! Well done!!
    Thanks for mentioning me btw, you are very sweet 🙂
    Good luck in the future, and I am waiting for your #1stobservation blog post :p
    Have a nice bank holiday and once again, well done!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • BerLingo says:

      Thanks Joanna, that’s very kind! I’m not sure I’m a natural – you should have seen me panicking over the weekend! But I do enjoy it once I get going, and am always chuffed to get kind, positive feedback from the students.
      I don’t think my #1stobservation post will happen at this school, but if my interview goes well tomorrow then hopefully at that one 🙂
      We shall see….!
      Thanks again for the inspiration; I love reading your posts 🙂


  2. Hi Rachel,

    Really great to hear that you found the needs analysis helpful! Thanks very much for mentioning me in your blog! It’s nice to hear that you’re getting on so well. Mixed level groups are always a challenge. You could try and pair your weaker students with your more patient, stronger students. Have a nice weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • BerLingo says:

      Hi David, sorry for the delay in approving your comment – the internet in my new flat is terrible!
      The group I’m teaching at the moment certainly is a good first challenge post-CELTA! Thanks for your tip; thankfully all the students are so nice that they are helping each other, at least! Only two more weeks to go anyway; just a brief ELT baptism of fire!


  3. Sophia says:

    Hi Rachel – congrats on passing the CELTA and jumping straight in! I enjoyed reading this a lot – it brought back memories too. The reality of the classroom will never be what you have trained for, not exactly and sometimes not at all. But the best learning will always be on the job, so just keep enjoying it, I love your enthusiasm! If you are interested, I wrote this a year ago about my first lesson: https://languagelearningteaching.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/value-the-unexpected/

    Liked by 1 person

    • BerLingo says:

      Hi Sophia,
      Thanks so much for your comment and apologies for the delay in approving it!
      I am definitely enjoying it, even if it is challenging! I can huff a little bit about the planning the night before, but as one of my CELTA tutors taught us, ‘plans are worthless, planning is priceless!’ – so at least I’m not killing myself writing 10-page lesson plan as well at the moment!
      I’m going to go and read your post now 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment; I’m still touched that experienced ELT professionals are kind enough to read my witterings!
      Take care,

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: #BlogChallenge: What did you teach today? | BerLingo

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