Monthly Archives: October 2009

The IATEFL TEA SIG Conference in Cyprus

Well, my brief sojourn in Cyprus is over, which was a nice break, in addition of course to getting to hear a lot of innovative ideas about the teaching and assessment of speaking. What’s even better is that one of my colleagues has now written up her reflections of the event on my  school’s blog (click here to read all about it), thus saving me a job.

Don’t be confused by the picture, it really was hard work out there!

I have had a bit of bad luck over the years when it comes to conferences; I always (always) end up presenting in the final slot on the final day when everyone is suffering from conference fatigue. This was again the case, but my presentation went fairly well (if you want a copy, click here). My presentation covered, to quote:

“What constitutes effective pre-oral exam practice?” shared findings of research conducted on student perceptions of what constitutes effective pre-oral exam practice. What students consider beneficial, what they find less useful, overall feelings regarding oral assessment and the mismatch between teacher and student perspectives at the preparation stage were highlighted.

I’ve actually written up the presentation for the school blog, you can read it in full here.

Related Blogs

    Is it in the nature of the job to move to different countries?

    Have you ever moved to another country for a new teaching job? If so, what was it that finally tempted you to do it? These were the questions I posed to English teaching professionals on the ELT World forum. What got me thinking was the fact that many of my colleagues have arrived here in Turkey after having taught elsewhere or have moved on to another country after teaching here. I consider Turkey my home and have no intention of moving on, at least not in the foreseeable future, but I ponder whether we as English teachers see it more than being an unalienable right and perhaps even a duty to travel the world.

    The nature of the job

    It’s sort of the nature of the job,’ declares poster denise, as if to prove my point. ‘I bet just about everyone has… that’s what we do,’ reiterates MELEE. If it really is, then what exactly are we moving to other countries for? Do we collectively have this amazing spirit of adventure or is it a necessity if we intend to follow a TEFL career path. There were several interesting and very different reasons suggested:

    ‘What tempted me? A full time contract for a university position at a school I knew to be really good… money’s a part of it, but there’s a lot more to it. Here, we teach across faculties, so I’m not stuck teaching the same old courses over and over. I knew some of the teaching team before I accepted the job, and I’m really happy with my colleagues.’


    ‘Staying in the US wasn’t really a good option, given the job market.

    ‘Moved from Japan to Chile – my program in Japan was being closed down and I had always wanted to go to South America.’

    ‘Moved from Chile to Peru – I didn’t like my job in Chile, so I quit and moved up north.’

    ‘Moved from Peru to Oman – couldn’t afford to stay in Peru and my visa was expiring, needed to save up some money to move back to Peru at a later date to get married, so took a job in Oman.’


    The bizarre world of the TEFL expat

    Reading these ideas was very enlightening for me, as I came here, got a job and never intended to move on. I’ve often thought that English teachers don’t really fit into the category of expats, as not only do most of us move abroad at the beginning stage of our career, we also in many cases get our first jobs after arriving in a company. Think for a minute; would a banker or a person working for a multinational company decide to up and move to another country without knowing that a secure job was at the end of the move? It seems that we are living in the bizarre expat universe, where the regular rules of expatriatism simply do not apply: we look at the country first and then the job. Consider these statements:

    ‘In my case I’ve always focused job searches on the place I wanted to go next. The country was the draw and took an acceptable to good job in the country of choice.’


    ‘I am not recommending this, but every single move I made, I made without having the job first. I went to the country, then looked for the job.’


    So, maybe we’re naturally a bunch who leans towards a more adventurous lifestyle than the average person. Maybe some of us have learned the hard way about how employment agencies and recruiters are able to manipulate the situation with young TEFLerz looking for that dream job abroad:

    ‘Most of my overseas experience has been in Mexico, and, except in one instance, I always found the job once I was here. The one time I was recruited for (and accepted) a teaching position here while I was still in the States turned out to be a big mistake that I still don’t want to talk (or think) about! I’ve also worked in England and Spain (on two different occasions), and in both cases, I found work once I’d arrived, not before.’


    Perhaps we still eventually develop the mindset of the traditional expat: we start out on the foreign adventure earlier than the director of the multinational company who finally gets the foreign posting in his mid-forties, but we do eventually learn that sealing the job is the priority. For some of us, this comes through the commitments of marriage and family:

    ‘I’ve done it both ways – gone where I wanted to go and where the jobs were good. I think was happier when I prioritized the country over the job, but my bank account was happier when I prioritized the job over the country.’


    ‘I got the job first, then moved.’


    ‘I look for the job first and then see if the country and living conditions would fit. Having a family really complicates where you work. I took my current job for the job, not because it was in Japan.’


    Personally, I like to think we could just be a collective of lost souls searching for our place in the wider scheme of things:

    ‘I decided I like it here (Japan) and never left.’


    Thanks to all that responded to these enquiries. Please feel free to tell me your reasons by commenting on this post.

    Related Blogs

    First day of class – a student perspective

    After finding out what those of us (traditionally) at the front of the classroom think about day one, the logical next step was to ask the other lot how they feel.

    I have two classes at present, with ten contact hours with one and four with the other. I will be asking them many questions about their experiences over the course of the coming year, so I started them off with an easy set of questions. As I mentioned earlier, I’m teaching beginner level students, although I am pleasantly surprised by what they’ve been able to do thus far, so much so that I was able to abandon my plan to conduct the questionnaires in their first language.

    When conducting such research with students, I like to bear two things in mind: how can I use this ‘writing opportunity‘ to loop back into the course and allow them to practice language we’ve recently covered and how can? Consequently, I was looking to write questions that would elicit responses written using the grammar we’d covered so far.

    1st day pic 1

    The above answers were on a sliding scale, from 1 to 5, ranging from nervous (1) to confident (5). So, what could account for the lack of nerves? I remember how I felt when starting university and felt a little surprised about the outcome of this question. What could account for such figures? Bravado? Euphoria? Trying to give the answer that the teacher is looking for? Both these are ostensibly realistic reasons, although I had taken steps to avoid such replies. If you’re thinking of conducting a mini research project with your class like this one, be careful not to lead your respondents down an alley. What do I mean? Well, if I’d asked ‘why do you feel nervous?’ or ‘what are two things that make you feel positive’, I’m assuming that they feel that particular emotion. How would you answer the question ‘why do you feel nervous’ if you don’t feel nervous?

    In order to derive more meaning from these figures, I asked them why? Below are some replies representative of all given.

    Why did you feel like this? Explain.

    ‘In my first day and feel fear and very excited. And my first day became very good day.’

    ‘Because I met new friends and I saw new places.’

    ‘Because everything’s OK.’

    ‘I don’t know its reason but maybe, university is a new occasion.’

    ‘Because it’s first day and new school.’

    ‘I like this atmosphere.’

    ‘I fell good and I’m so happy because this university is very successful. After I come to school, I meet new friends and good teachers. I don’t have any problem in here. Thank you.’

    ‘Because everything are good. I don’t have any problem.’

    ‘I feel very good for be in this university. It’s too good. But I have a problem the university so far from the city center.’

    ‘Because I like my teachers and my friends like campus.’

    ‘Because our teacher are very positive so I was feel relax.’

    ‘Because I think my English be good.’

    According to the results of a placement test my students had been assigned to the beginner level. Therefore, I was stretching the boundaries a little here, although a question that required a response in the simple past would give me a little more indication of their true level. The above examples acted as a diagnostic and hinted at a number of areas I could work on in class. Some clearly had knowledge of the present and past tenses; others were even formulating reasonable length sentences. These were encouraging signs: my continued research could be conducted in English and my students were false beginners and we so were not starting from relative scratch as I had feared. Furthermore, I have been able to use these responses as an error correction exercise in class; nothing better than a student generated worksheet.

    Now I have some idea of how they are feeling and why, it’s time to ask about the class.

    Generally, are you happy with your class?

    This question received a 100% positive response. I think it will be interesting to ask this question again in a few weeks’ time. Because this was the first piece of research, I went through the questions with the students before getting them to reply. As with the previous note of caution about leading your respondents down one-way streets, it is also important not to be so general that your data is meaningless. I wanted to know not just about a general feeling of happiness based on the extremes of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. While the above question would have quickly enabled me to identify one or two unhappy people very quickly had there been any, I wanted more information on certain aspects of classes. Hence…

    1st day pic 2

    The questions were left short so that the students wouldn’t get lost when trying to read and understand them but I also went over each of the points to make sure they understood. Again, it might be interesting to ask this question again in a few weeks’ time.

    1st day pic 3

    I could have included this question with the previous, but wanted to use a different scale other than positive and negative. Also, this doesn’t really fit into the classroom dynamics umbrella that had characterized the previous question. The responses correlate with what I’d assumed from their written responses thus far, i.e. they’ve at least been presented with the language they’re currently studying before.

    The following question was an attempt to bring the previous two together. Below are some replies representative of all given.

    You can change one thing about class. What is it?

    ‘I think, everything is good in class.’

    ‘Not necessary, everything’s ok and I like all of them.’

    ‘I don’t like our class travels!! Every lesson we change our class if I can change one thing.’

    ‘My class is good. My class’s students are hardworking.’

    ‘Classroom’s place.’

    ‘Everything is OK. It’s needn’t change anything.’

    ‘I don’t want to change one thing about my class.’

    ‘I can’t change one thing about class. I am happy.’

    ‘I can’t change anything.’

    ‘Nothing but the studies start so early 8.40 is too early. I wanna sleep.’

    ‘Lessons start time is very early. If I can, I want change it.’

    No students mentioned the level of English as being a problem. The two main issues that arose were the time of classes (the first class of the morning begins at 8:40) and the location of the lessons (students switch classes after every two lessons). These figures correlate with the previous responses. Sadly, there is nothing that can be done to resolve these issues, but at least I have the opportunity to recognize how they feel and explain the reasons why these things must remain as they are.

    Do you live on campus?

    Yes 91.3% (21)
    No 8.7% (2)

    Upon reflection, this question seems a bit out of place in this piece of research. It does lead into the next question but I now feel I could have asked it elsewhere. It has given me a few ideas about future research with the class, though.

    On to the final question: Again, here are some replies representative of all given.

    How is your new life at university? Tell me how you feel.

    ‘Very different to high school and I don’t familiar this freedom but I will adapt this freedom. I will work hard my lesson and I do whatever I can.’

    ‘I feel great. My new friends are good. I like them. Campus, sports center, foods, lessons, dorms… everything’s great.’

    ‘It’s good. But meals are very expensive and they aren’t good.’

    ‘Absolutely it is a perfect. I am feeling happy.’

    ‘It’s good. I love it.’

    ‘I love my new life.’

    ‘It’s very beautiful. I saw and learned everywhere. I met a lot of new friends. I believe it will be good more. Thank you for reading.’

    ‘I think it’s so good. I’m comfortable and free in there.’

    ‘It is good. I like campus and university. I feel happy.’

    ‘I like my classmates, teachers, roommate and campus. I want to learn English and our teacher teach it… I’m very happy, I like there.’

    ‘It’s very good. I’m love here.’

    ‘My life is very good at university.’

    ‘It is good. Everything is ok. Campus life is very enjoyable. Our teacher are very positive and good. Classmates are very positive for me.’

    ‘I fell good. I like this university because everythink inside.’

    ‘I feel very, very good. I don’t come back Adana.’

    Asking these questions made me reflect on the period when I first began university and all the things I had to cope with (click here if you need a reminder). Starting university often means leaving the family construct for the first time and, consequently, can be one of the greatest upheavals we can ever experience. This is particularly true in turkey, where the family is still a strong institution.

    Arriving at university can bring freedom, independence and a level of responsibility that was previously unthinkable for many. As language teachers, we need to remember that these young people are facing many new challenges and that being in our classroom is just one of these. Actively seek to find out how your students are dealing with this traumatic time and don’t be afraid

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      How long is your commute to and from work?

      For English teachers living abroad as much as anyone else in the working world, your commute to and from the job can take up a significant part of your day. Consequently, it should be an important consideration when looking for a job. I’m delighted to be working where I am now, but one of the most daunting prospects before I started was the journey out of the city to the university which was, at the time, in the middle of nowhere (it is ever more being consumed into the industrial expanses of a rapidly developing Istanbul).

      Fortunately, my employers lay on a bus for me which picks me up one minute’s walk from my front doorstep in the morning and drops me off there again in the evening, without any cost. Despite, or perhaps in light of, my good fortune, I thought I’d try to find out how other teachers around the world get to and from work and to what extent it affects their lives. I posed these questions on the ELT World forum.

      How long does it take you to get to and form work?

      What do you do during the journey and is this a productive use of the time?

      Is transport provided for you or do you have to pay up out of your own pocket?

      The following replies have been given by teachers working in a variety of situations in many different countries all around the world. While reading, please take the time to consider which sound more appealing to you.

      1. How long does it take you to get to and form work?

      Some of us have made the decision to live practically next door to where we work:

      ’30 seconds if I go directly. 2-10 minutes if I go via the corner store.’
      Justin Trullinger

      ‘My commute is about 15 minutes by subway, total costs of 15 US cents each way.’
      Guy Courchesne

      ‘Six minutes, door to door.’

      ’12 minutes door to door by bike; at least 30 if I’m forced to go by car.’

      ‘My office is a pleasant (depending on the weather) 10-minute walk or a five-minute drive, dodging students, double-parked cars, etc. to my classroom.’

      ‘I drive about 15 minutes to work down some nice, country roads in Japan. It would take over an hour by public transport.’

      ‘My classes in Alicante [are] a 15 minute drive, followed by another 10 minutes looking for a parking space. ‘

      ’10 minutes by car one-way. 15 minutes by bike or bus.’

      Just as I was starting to get upset and think that I was the only one making a huge commute of a morning…

      ‘My commute is 15 to 45 minutes depending on traffic, unexpected street closings and the water level in the river.’

      ‘Metro and microbus for a bit over an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. I’m from NJ, so I don’t consider that long. Plus, I’d rather live in the center of Mexico City than the south, where my job is.’

      Ah… that sounds more like it. For my part, I live in a nice part of the city and am happy to deal with the journey, especially as I’m able to use it as a productive part of my day. This idea of being able to use your commute time effectively brought me to my next question.

      2. What do you do during the journey and is this a productive use of the time?

      No matter how long or short your journey, I’d say that there is always something you can take out of it, be it merely getting a bit of exercise or perhaps taking the chance to get a bit of reading done. Here people exemplify how a journey to work can be put to good use.

      ‘When I drive, I spend the time talking to my wife, who returns the car home. Could be chat about our kid or related matters, dinner plans, or anything else social in our lives. When I ride the bike, I just ride; Gotta be safe. When I take the bus, I try to read some journal article or two. If coworkers are on the bus, we chat about work or home.’

      ‘I always read on the trip.’
      Guy Courchesne

      ‘Usually I listen to podcasts or music on my ipod in the car. After long commutes in Vancouver, this is so pleasant.’

      ‘Exercise! Well, it’s short and mild, but you could say productive, I guess.’

      ‘While the roads may not be too busy, there are plenty of lunatics around… you have to be at your defensive-driving best to avoid getting squashed… or you could end up being shunted sideways into the middle of a roundabout, it’s happened before.’
      Sheikh Inal Ovar

      ‘I enjoy the train journey though, for the opportunity it affords me to draw up over-ambitious lesson plans, misunderstand key language points and make prosaic notes for background essays.’

      Look at what time you spend traveling and think about what you could do during that time. This could be an opportunity to do work related tasks or maybe it could become an active part of your leisure time. Just as important as how long you spend traveling is how you travel. As I stated, my commute takes up a fairly sizable chunk of my day but this isn’t time wasted as I’m able to travel from door to door in comfort and get some work done too. An important consideration is how easy it will be to get to and from work, even if it might not take too long.

      3. Is transport provided for you or do you have to pay up out of your own pocket?

      ‘The university bought my bike for me. I’m lucky to live in the Netherlands, where bike ownership is considered a fundamental human right like education and health care.’

      ‘Paid for by me. There is a campus bus I can use, but I just find using public transportation more convenient.’

      ‘We do get a transportation allowance, at least those of us who live off campus do. I listen to the crappy English expat radio station on the way. For longer drives, I plug in my ipod, but I don’t bother when it’s such a short drive.’

      ‘For those who don’t live close, transport to and from work is not provided, but any necessary travel during the day is paid for (for example, to and from a class in an office). This is pretty standard in Ecuador.’
      Justin Trullinger

      ‘Work pays me about $40/month for transportation which covers about 3/4 of a tank of gas, but better than a kick in the teeth. Gas is $1.40/litre where I live in Japan, so about $55/tank.’

      ‘I’m freelance, so no travel expenses are paid.’

      ‘I pay for everything, although I think there is a small allowance in my salary for the commute by car. I don’t use the bus often, but if I did, my school would pay for it.’

      In certain circumstances, paying your own way will be worth it for the convenience it brings. It’s important to weigh up all the factors; time, convenience and the comfort to get something done on the journey. Consider this example:

      ‘I strongly recommend that newbies in Ecuador find a job BEFORE finding an apartment- living reasonably close to where you work is a serious quality of life issue. Even if your employer pays for, or provides, transportation, Quito is a city that can take serious time to get around. Keeping the commute short can really improve your life.’
      Justin Trullinger

      While keeping the commute short might be significant, I would argue that more important is not allowing the time spent traveling to and from work to negatively affect your day.

      Related Blogs

        Remembering students’ names

        For the longest time, remembering names was a huge problem for me. In my first classes, way back when I started teaching, I was still struggling after several weeks and it got quite embarrassing in the end. If you also suffer, you have to find strategies that work for you, as I eventually did.

        The view from the trenches

        1. So many students, so many names

        Initially you might find remembering student names a real problem, especially if you’ve just arrived in a country in which names are unfamiliar to you. Can you always tell your Halil from your Halit? More importantly, are you expected to? Here are some responses I received from those of view in the classrooms who posted on this thread at ELT World forum.

        ‘I’ve currently got 186 in total. Not a chance!’

        ‘I have around 1100 students in 22 classes. No way I can remember names. Can’t see myself printing all those name cards, either.’

        ‘I have about 380 students, and I have been never very good with remembering names. Yes, using the person’s name helps to remember it, but it also helps if you have more regular contact with the same people as well. People I see once a week in larger groups, not much of a chance.’

        2. So many students, so few names

        Another problem you may come across is what I like to call the ‘so many students, so few names’ dilemma. Learning the name won’t be the problem here, but differentiating one Dave from another might be.

        ‘I have one easy class. Of eight students, the four women are all called Fatimah. The four guys are, respectively, Ali, Mohammed, Ali-Abdul, and Mohammed. Can anyone beat 8 students, 3 names?’

        Yes, apparently.

        ‘In Qatar I once had a class of 26. 19 of them had the first name Mohammed.’

        3. Practicalities

        How practical is your method of remembering names? Can you really take photos or make name-tags for all? Consider this…

        ‘As to taking pics, sorry, I’m not much of a camera guy. That’s a lot of extra photos to be lugging around. I know some teachers have students bring their photos as an assignment, but I’m not sure I want to make seating charts that are that large or to make student files for so many students. I don’t have that much extra free time.’

        4. My mind is playing tricks on me

        We can be our own worst enemies too. Only last year I had a student whose name was lazy Roger Waters, because he was very lazy and looked incredibly like the former Pink Floyd bassist. Funnily enough, this didn’t help me remember his real name. I’m not alone…

        ‘My worst problem is I often assign a name before knowing the real name. If a student looks like someone I know named Mehmet, it will take ages to get Mehmet out of my head. Or I’ll see a student for the first time and think “Walter Matthau” or “Shiny Hair” or whatever, which makes it easy to recognize a student but hard to remember the name.’

        5. Advice on how to do it

        My advice is to find something that works for you. I’m a lot better at remembering names than I used to be because I employ the technique described below:

        ‘My dad was a corporate trainer, he had new students every two weeks, and sometimes the following year some of the students would take another of his courses. He was great with names. His trick was to use the person’s name repeatedly in your first conversation. It feels weird at first but works.
        Hi John, nice to meet you.
        Where are you from John?
        John, can you sit over here next to Sue?
        Sue, can you help me hand out these papers?
        Thank you, Sue.’


        Here are some other suggestions:

        ‘Name plates with pictures. You collect them after every class.

        Name tags (not on cords because the tags can flip over).

        Seating chart with pictures. Nice way to start the class by taking a digital photo of everyone.’


        ‘I think it helps if you can make quick associations with their names to their features or what they’re wearing. I think that’s how I do it. It’s like their names pop out when I see their faces.’

        ‘In classes of 25 or fewer, space permitting, I put them in a circle. I choose one student to say his/her name, then go around the circle where each student has to say all the names that came before, plus his or her own name. At the end I go around the circle and say all their names, twice if I really screw it up the first time.’

        For me, the following quote sums up why this is an important issue;

        ‘When I was a student, I’d feel really bad if my name was the one forgotten by a teacher who remembered other names, so I try to plan around my being crap at names.’

        If you’re teaching a relatively small group of people regularly for any length of time, get to know their names. If, like me, this is something you’re just not good at, here are some good ways to help you plan around it from Lindsay Clandfield’s excellent 6 things blog.

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          First day of class – a teacher perspective

          This was the first week of class at university. Throughout the course of the following year I will be asking lots of questions of my students. For this reason, I’d hoped to be teaching intermediate level students, who would be able to respond to me in English. I am, however, working with beginner level students, who will, at least initially, be giving me feedback in their native tongue of Turkish, with me translating. More work for me, but that’s how things work out sometimes. On to the student perspective later, first, I what do we teachers think about day one?

          I’m interested in how people go about dealing with the first day of a new class, both students and teachers. I posed the following to teachers on the ELT World TEFL discussion forum:

          1) Do you still (if you ever did) get nervous?2) How do you approach the first day, in terms of making new students feel welcome?

          3) Do you have a range of special activities that you wheel out for such occasions?

          I’m happy that there have already been some responses to these questions. A poster by the name of Glenski was quite keen to help me out, wanting to offer advice if I could specify more clearly my background. My error: I had to clarify that I was actually interested in what others do on first days, rather than looking for ideas for my own class. I’ve been doing this job for ten years, and for better or worse have a number of activities that work for me in my context. Other poster’s also suggested I be more specific in describing my context; something to consider for the future when trying to engage others on discussion forums.

          Well then, briefly as it doesn’t make for compelling reading, about my teaching situation. My classes have a 24-hour week, 24 50-minute classes spread between three teachers, at least one of which is a native English speaker. the class that I will be gathering the bulk of my research responses from will have 10 contact hours with me per week over a sixteen-week semester. In addition, each student has regularly scheduled one-to-one tutorials with one of their instructors: nine students will be tutored by me.

          This was the first week of class, hence the catchy title of the post. I didn’t teach them on Monday, consequently missing the first day of school. I do however, have a range of activities I’ve used over the years, along with a list of tasks that I have to perform on the opening day. For me, like many people in our profession, this can be an exciting time. My first year as a teacher saw me a bag of nerves on the opening day, indeed, I remained very nervous about meeting my new class for many years. It’s only in the last couple of years that this ‘apprehension’ has subsided: I prefer to think of this as being a benefit of experience rather than anything sign of crustiness.

          The view from the trenches

          I feel that over the course of this project it will be important to get the view from the trenches; find out what those of us in the classroom actually do when dealing with particular situations. For the issue of dealing with the first day of classes, I asked three questions and garnered the following from among the responses.

          1) Do you still (if you ever did) get nervous?

          This seems to be down to the individual, some still feeling some anxiety, or perhaps excitement is a better word, even after many years of teaching:

          ‘I am never nervous teaching my first class, maybe I should be. I have been doing it for 15 years and the same university for over 7. Maybe my first class of my first day of work, I’d be a bit nervous, but the students would be the last ones to know about it.’

          ‘I am always a little nervous. I have been teaching for 20 years.’

          ‘I cannot imagine feeling nervous in front of a new class. This is what I do.’

          ‘The reason I feel nervous is the unknown, so if I have to do a demo lesson for example, I would never know if I would have 10 people, or 50. I didn’t even know how many copies to make. I also wouldn’t know what their level was, so I felt nervous about my materials. But once I walked into the room and began, I stopped feeling nervous.’

          2) How do you approach the first day, in terms of making new students feel welcome?

          Setting an appropriate tone appears to be number one on the list. This might not necessarily mean touchy-feely comforting; more like making sure that the students know where they are and what is expected of them.

          ‘[I] simply treat mine as adult / professional colleagues. In this university context, either being ‘above’ the students, or trying to ‘bond’ with them is unproductive.’

          If they feel like they don’t need to be in the class, make sure they know why they do need it.

          ‘I used to teach an advanced class of adult “returnees”; so-called in Japan because they had spent long periods of time outside Japan, usually in an English-speaking country. They had TOEFL scores of above 600 and usually they thought they did not need the class. So in my first lesson, my aim was to shake up their over confidence – the exact opposite of usual classes.’

          Set the ground rules and make them aware of the consequences. Being overly strict or describing punishments is not cynicism: it is, ultimately, fair on the students that they know this from the start:

          ‘I usually tell my students because if they miss a certain number of classes it is an automatic fail. I tell them when they reach their last absent class so they know not to bother coming back if they miss another class… One less student to grade.’

          ‘As most of my classes are either uni or high school, I’m generally a little over strict with them so they don’t take the piss later on. I also remind them not to ask me how many absences they have towards the end of the semester as, strangely enough, it will be exactly the same as the number of times they have been absent. If they cannot count, it is not my fault.’

          3) Do you have a range of special activities that you wheel out for such occasions?

          You will probably find that the first day of class is very quiet, as friendships and the overall classroom dynamic are, obviously, yet to form.

          ‘I might do a 15 minute one then I usually get straight into it, take advantage of the ‘strangely quiet and attentive’ period.’

          Giving the relevant information and making preparations based on the course are a vital first day routine that I cannot recommend enough. Don’t take it for granted that, for example, the university or local book store will carry enough copies of your course book. What do they need to do to pass the course? Tell them. Do you have enough handouts? Does the computer projector work in the room? The following advice, to which I’m bestowing the title ‘The Glenski first day doctrine’, pretty much sums up how I go about getting ready for day one:

          ‘In my university classes, I of course prepare the students with my contact info, a reason they should be taking the course, and often a feedback survey to assess their needs and expectations and experiences related to the course.

          I prepare myself just by being organized with enough stuff to fill the time (not kill it), knowing my PowerPoint show works in that room, and having all the right handouts in sufficient numbers.

          When you’ve gone into classes where you didn’t know how many to expect, there’s bound to be some trepidation. I’ve had auditoriums allotted to me, which may seem daunting, but at least one knows a large number might show up, so one prepares accordingly. The shocker comes if a handful show up, or if you are in a small room and there is standing room only. But, that’s nothing you can really prepare for, other than to figure out what past class populations have been and make sign-up sheets if necessary.

          Is your textbook in the bookstore? Find that out, too.

          Does the room have chalk or marker pens and erasers? How do the controls work on the screen, lights, speakers, etc.?

          All these things are preparations that essentially make the class go smoothly, and that’s why you feel comfortable. Do your best to expect the unexpected and don’t flip out if you can’t expect everything.

          Finally, as the class fills up, be sure to get there early enough to set up your stuff and chat casually with a few students. Opening your mouth then helps take off any final edge, I have found.’

          My thanks to all those I’ve quoted here. I hope this helps anyone reading this to ease their way through the first day of classes.

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