October, what happened? I blinked and you were over.
October has definitely been the most challenging month of 2020.
I really felt as if the weight of the world had been on my shoulders and nothing I tried seemed to shake it all off. I feel as though the pandemic is really taking it’s toll on us in the UK, but anyway! This is not a pandemic post.
If you’ve been following along, you will have picked up on my routine of recapping my month as the next one begins. So, here we go!
- Be a better teacher
As always, I have tried my best with this one and I really think I have succeeded this month. I had the pleasure of teaching a wonderful Brazilian couple for four weeks and, even though they’ve moved on now, I am grateful for the opportunity. I had to go into a school to teach them for two weeks, which was both weird and refreshing. I had missed the classroom so much, but it was also bizarre to suddenly have to write on a board and faff about with computer and audio technology that wasn’t my own.
What have I learnt? I finally had the opportunity to teach business English, but I had to source the materials on my own. The first few days were tricky and I really wasn’t sure what to include or how to present them, but by the end of week one I had sourced some great books and seemed to have found my rhythm.
My lessons were broken up into 3 x 1 hour slots per day to teach from EnglishFile, a grammar or vocabulary lesson and then a business lesson as well. I was sceptical and worried about the division at first but once I realised my students were really flexible, the lines blurred a little and the lessons ran smoothly. I especially enjoyed the lesson where they brought in their laptops and we worked on CVs and cover letters – I have helped people with these before, but not students in a classroom. I really enjoyed it and was a great learning experience for me!
For week two, I created a fairly detailed weekly plan and had to source all of the materials – and make sure they had been uploaded to the GoogleDrive. I have no doubt that state school teachers are already doing this every week, and I usually do this for my individual lessons twice a week, but to have had this much to do felt odd over that first weekend.
I was so relieved that I did it though. Weeks two and three went so smoothly. All of my audio files, worksheets and homework were uploaded, ready to go and easily accessible for my students. It’s such a little thing, but it really made a huge difference to my week.
Week four was a little different. On the Sunday night before we started, my students sent me a message to say that they wanted to focus on their speaking skills and gaining confidence ready for their interviews. I had no idea how we were going to spend 18 hours speaking about interviews, but I quickly realised that there was in fact so much I could do.
I went through EnglishFile and found plenty of every day topics that included grammar sections, I also used Lingua House and Business Vocabulary Builder for materials. My plan was to give them relevant grammar and sentences about certain topics that would likely come up in an interview or when meeting new people. Using this new vocabulary they had to speak for 1 minute about the topic, for which I had provided a list of questions they could pick from. As they spoke, I typed their words up on the screen (they couldn’t see me typing) and at the end I showed them and they had to work together to highlight what went well and what they needed to change or improve on.
I hadn’t used this technique before and I’m surprised at how well it worked. (I’ll definitely be using it more often!) The last week flew by and I was sad to see it come to an end.
I also took the plunge into teaching pronunciation, which I am really proud of. You can read about it below but to summarise, I loved it and my students definitely improved through it.
- Pushing students from C1 to C2I’m writing this is because I’m at a bit of a crossroads now. Most of what we do is either easy or fairly easy for him and I‘m not happy with that. I love that he’s able to use English to such a high level, but I want to challenge my students…
And finally, thanks to Becky, I bought Doug Lemov‘s book Teaching in the Online Classroom to help me with a bit of inspiration and so far I’m really enjoying it!
I have continued to teach the same three amazing students that have been with me since March, May and July and whilst we have a good laugh throughout the lessons I am confident that they are learning and pleased that they are also teaching me things as well.
With my youngest student, who’s preparing for the CAE exam, he gets a five minute break in which I leave a blank screen for him to draw on. He has done this since day one and they have me in fits of giggles every time, especially as he always gives me an explanation of them as well. I thought I’d share a few with you all.
- Continue being healthy
I hate to admit it, but I’m really not doing very well this year. Since lockdown struck the first time I really have stuffed my face with so many sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks. But, I’d rather be a little bit on the chubby side than be dead skinny and living in pain. So, I just have to work a little harder, especially now that it’s getting colder and darker.
I have bought a hula hoop and a set of scales to try and help myself.
- Work on my languages
I have finally booked my Mandarin level test (after 5 years!) and I found a lovely, patient teacher to help me.
I am so happy to be speaking Chinese again and only wish I could afford to have 2 or 3 lessons a week. I’m absolutely nowhere near the level that I used to be, nor can I speak without making mistakes, but I am learning 25+ new words a week and gaining some of my confidence back
(For anyone who hasn’t read my learning Chinese blog (here), I am using the iTalki platform!)
I have tried to remember the new Spanish words that my students have been teaching me, and that is really cool! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to speak Spanish but being able to understand it certainly comes in handy during lessons now and then (Especially those false friends!).
- Work consistently (and if possible, full time)
Once again I have worked non-stop! Last week I worked 10-14 hours a day because I wanted to put some money away in case I lose any work in November or December. I think it’s paid off because my students are happy (or so they say!) and I’m feeling confident with how much I’m learning as a teacher. I’m reading a lot of teaching books on pronunciation, teaching online and trying to find new apps and websites to incorporate into my lessons.
I’m proud of myself. I know many of you are probably wishing I’d stop saying it, but I spent nearly 3 years of my life, up until last Christmas, not being able to work consistently. Some weeks I’d not even manage to get out of bed, never mind go to work. My life, especially regarding work, has changed so drastically and no matter how tired I get, I’m so grateful for what 2020 has thrown at me.
Plus, my students are absolutely brilliant and make every effort so worth it.
- Reach 7,000 blog views
I’m trying to blog as much as possible, and I have definitely been better at it recently. Fancy a read? See the recent posts below!
I would like to reach a wider audience (without paying for it) and I’m still working on making my posts more useful, interesting and insightful (any tips welcome!). But most importantly, I am enjoying blogging and reflecting more often.
Through the webcam you can’t always see that frown of confusion or those ‘lightbulb’ moments, and that’s something I miss.
My own students are absolutely wonderful and I’ve not had a single bad, negative, weird or worrying lesson with them at all. They always do their homework, they always engage with the work and they are so dedicated.
I have created a board to help my students revise some (just some!) of their new vocabulary from this week. If you have a moment, why not check it out?
- Reach 3,000 Twitter followers
Well, I did in fact reach 3,000 followers in October! 2 months before the end of the year! I still did not expect to even reach 2,000 so this was a lovely surprise. I have to say, I absolutely love my Twitter network. It’s full of amazing people. Feel free to check out some of the people that follow me here, the list includes teachers, headmasters, teacher trainers and more!
- Calm down
I think it’s safe to say that October has been the worst month I’ve had in a long time and calm has been a distant dream in my life. But, I’ll keep trying!
Any suggestions, readers?
- Read 40 books
Let’s party! I have finally reached my goal and it’s only November. I didn’t read from May to September, mainly because I was too busy and tired to sit down and just chill. However, I have finally picked up my Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo and I’ve really enjoyed them.
I miss reading, but unlike some I cannot pick up a book to help me relax, rather I can only read when I’m already feeling calm. It’s a shame really, but hey ho!
What have you read lately? I’d love to know!
Also, if you’re on Goodreads why don’t you give me a follow?
- Stop buying things I really don’t need (and save money!)
Yes! I have stopped buying plants (Honestly, I have!) and anything plant related (Claire, u ok hun?) which has definitely saved me a lot of money. For the first two weeks I was travelling into the city centre, so I spent money on bus fare and Boots meal deals most days – Hey! Why not?
Then, I needed new jeans for my COVID weight gain and I decided to treat myself to some fancy new boots and the cosiest pair of pyjamas!
I’ve also bought some teaching books and tonight we’re having a take-away, but other than that I think I’ve done quite well.
- Pay off as much debt as possible
Yay! Thankfully, I am still able to pay off my never-ending debt with my parents. Sadly, it isn’t a lot but it is more than I’ve been able to give them in years and that makes me feel happy.
- Enjoy being me
Well, this is a weird one once again. On one hand I am still really impressed with how much I have achieved this year, with the goals I am working towards and the friends I have made. I enjoyed being back in the classroom and seeing the sunrise on my way in, and also meeting friends for ‘socially distanced’ coffee.
On the other hand, I’m feeling down and stressed and don’t feel as if I’m ‘enjoying’ life as much as I could be. I’m going to try and work harder in November on being more positive.
So, what has November got in store for me?
- Fewer teaching hours – I’m worried about money but also looking forward to some ‘me’ time when I plan to make Christmas cards, write more blog posts and catch up on some reading.
- Chinese lessons – I am enjoying these so much that I’ll definitely be carrying on with them. I do, however, need to study a little bit more on my own.
- A healthier lifestyle (Still! I’m still saying this.)
- Think about what I’m going to do for my birthday (It’s a big one this year!)
Do you have any goals for November?
I’d love to know how your month has been and if you have any goals coming up. I know many of us across Europe are facing another lockdown, but you can benefit from this even if it’s not the best situation for you.
Feel free to message me over on Twitter or leave a comment here!