Wuxi Final Staff Meeting, May 2018
On May 24, 2018, Wuxi teachers met for the last monthly meeting of the term. Apart from the usual topics, including daily life, teaching and peerto-peer classroom observations, the teachers discussed a possible new teaching format for JESIE Open Days, which could eventually be incorporated to our regular classes.This new format would differ from a typical ESL lesson in which students learn vocabulary and sentences and rather focus on a topic taught in English, such as the biography of a famous figure or the origin of an event like the marathon. Each teacher will design such a lesson and test it in their classrooms before the semester ends.The meeting ended with the teacher talk sessions. Tom shared his thoughts on participation in the classroom and what tricks he uses to get as many students involved as possible and what patterns teachers often fall into when it comes to choosing students to answer questions or participate in games. The most important thing to do in order to achieve a high participation level is to keep the students' interests in mind.Davean and Theard spoke about time management, something we all have issues with from time to time. One of the ideas brought up was to plan how much time you will need for each activity, write it on the lesson plan, and keep a timer during the lesson so you can later see where there needs to be adjustments. Another important thing to remember is that your instructions need to be clear, otherwise students will not be able to do what is requested, and that will inevitably result in precious minutes being wasted.
Nanjing May Staff Meeting 2018
The final staff meeting of the school year was on June 1, on a steamy spring day that forewarned the start of the June rainy season in Nanjing. We met at 1:30, to accommodate the final housekeeping that needed to be done. It was a wise decision, seeing as the meeting lasted two and a half hours.
Even though the staff meeting started briskly, quickly moving through the first three topics on the agenda, the Teacher Talk session was swapped with house-keeping issues to the last spot on the agenda, more time was spent on the end-of-year feedback, 2018 Summer Orientation suggestions, and the lesson plan assignment. Due to this being the last staff meeting of the school year, a lot needed to be covered for end of the term and the end of the contract period, particularly because some of the information received was unclear. Dio and Grace did a great job clearing everything up, and then we moved on to the highlight of the staff meeting.
Teachers had another Open Day development task assigned, due June 8, the Lesson Plan Assignment for Storytelling/Lecture Lessons. This required a lot of explanation, and was confusing to some teachers because they assumed they needed to follow a specific template and provide a certain format. The key thing to remember is that these Open Day lessons are meant to not be scaffolded like regular ESL lessons, but provide a fun lecture-style lesson that depends entirely on what the teacher finds interesting (but appropriate) for Grades 5 and 6.
To assist teachers, Val and Matt demonstrated, quickly, their lessons on Da Vinci, the Battle of Marathon, and the Solar System/Voyager probes. These were extremely interesting, but took some time to go through.
The Teacher Talk Session for this staff meeting went more quickly in comparison, and covered two topics: "How to Make Everyone in the Classroom Talk and Pay Attention" and "Effective Time Management in the Classroom Environment". The four speakers were Jocelyn, John, Amber and Christopher.
The main points of Jocelyn and John's talk were that you must use a wide variety of ways to involve students, but be sensitive to cultural and personal quirks of the students. Amber shared some very practical ways to incorporate time management strategies into lesson planning and classroom preparation.
Christopher provided a very amusing look at lessons he learned about effective classroom management. He had something of a split personality as he both suggested that you needed to plan out for the long-term and think carefully about what your lesson goals are, versus the idea that time management in the classroom is a flexible thing and there are times you should go with the moment.
The meeting ended with some teachers going off to start the visa renewal process and others following Val to the office to pass along their teaching materials for the archive. Good luck to everyone in the new teaching year!