Thursday, 7 August 2014

Learning by reading

It was by lucky chance that I got hold of the book See Me After Class by Roxanna Elden.

The book may be described as a teacher's manual or a guide to beginners and it is focused on American schools, yet the tips and tricks given in the book easily apply to most teaching problems in the world.

What I liked about the book is that Roxanna Elden looks at everyday troubles in class with humour and confidence, making it possible to believe that every difficult situation can be resolved positively and there is no need to despair and despond.

Though many situations and rules differ from those in my country, and most situational examples are given for primary level (which is not relevant to me), there are lots and lots of  ideas and tips that are universal and can be applicable to any school, any class.

Here are a few ideas that I liked and will try (seriously!) to use in my work.

1. Files! Filing every paper or document that enters your classroom is not only an ancient idea but also a very productive and hard-to-manage idea. Roxanna Elden suggests to keep a number of files, all labelled, for any paper that "touches your desk", for example, Blank forms, Department information, Emergency, Lesson plans, Extra copies, Sample student work, Leftover copies etc. I have been doing something like this for some years but I have never reached perfection (which would be the ultimate goal of this system).

2. There are loads of tips regarding student management and discipline, e.g. Establish clear rules and consequences. This is my weak point as I often tend to forget the rule I invented and it is the worst thing that can happen to any rule. If its implementation is not ensured, the rule stops to exist, doesn't it?

3. I liked a few ideas about how to start a class, e.g. meeting students at the door and either distributing handouts to them or collecting homework. That may be a great time-saver!

4. "Shaving grading time off each assignment". Who wouldn't want it? Some ideas: grade only part of the assignment (but tell this to your students), focus only on one problem, pick only a few assignments to grade, give two grades for a longer assignment, e.g. an essay, do "holistic grading", i.e. skim the assignment for effort, understanding, completeness, then give a quick grade and move on.

5. Roxanna Elden pays special attention to relations with difficult parents and co-workers, advising to avoid negative teachers (I second that!) who constantly complain about their job. She says, "Complaining about your job is a lot like drinking.... If you do it too much, you'll be sorry."

The book consists of 200 pages and each one is packed with true-to-life teaching moments, teacher stories, problem situations, tried-and-tested tips and solutions. And, yes, you should read it if you find it.