A sweaty moment

round objects (4)Have you ever had a lesson that was your worst lesson ever? This is a question Joanna Malefaki asked in one of her recent posts.

Well, I’ve definitely experienced quite a few fiascos throughout my teaching career, but there’s one that happened quite recently.

I think I have already said it here on my blog that I’m not someone who normally plans for hours. Nevertheless, I always need a couple of minutes before the lesson starts to sort out my ideas and gather the materials. Now and then, though, something unexpected happens and I’m robbed of the time slot that I need to be able to think my lesson through and to mentally prepare for what comes next.

Every day, I normally arrive at least 30 minutes before the first lesson starts and I quickly check what’s ahead of me. Last Monday, however, I was late, for reasons I’m going to analyze here, so I only managed to quickly grab the coursebooks before I clamorously rushed into the classroom. No preparation, no lesson notes, no idea what we did last time.

I should add that it was an exceptionally hot day; it was sweltering, even though it was only 8 in the morning. Thus, I entered the classroom red in face, sweat dripping all over my body. Yeah, the way I felt was as disgusting as the description of it. Anyway, when I finally sat down to take attendance, the only thing I could think of was the annoying perspiration; I was visualizing the huge drops moving slowly down my spine, my forehead, and my temples, some of them ready to fall down and splash on the class book lying on the table in front of me. I must have looked completely worn out and totally ridiculous.

I couldn’t concentrate on anything whatsoever. My mind was occupied by how terrible I looked and how embarrassing the situation was. As I desperately needed to cool down in order to pull myself together, I apologized and ran back to my office to rinse my hands and dry my forehead with a paper towel. However, this movement, in combination with my nervousness, made me sweat even more. Anyway, when I came back to the classroom, I sat down again and asked my students about their homework (I didn’t have a clue if I had assigned any in the previous lesson).

Luckily (for me), there was some homework to check. We slowly opened our workbooks and started going over the exercises. I normally try to exploit every coursebook exercise to the fullest – I add extra vocabulary items and collocations and ask additional questions. This time, I didn’t even stand up to put some of the useful language items on the board; I was afraid to turn my back to the class because I suspected that there might be wet stains on my cotton T-shirt. Sitting there in a stiff position, I wasn’t even paying attention to what the students were saying, and when somebody read an incorrect answer, I didn’t even notice.

While I was cooling down, the atmosphere in the classroom got equally chilly. The students looked bored and uninterested. I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t manage to activate them or warm them up at the beginning of the lesson. Even a single idea of the word ‘warm-up’ added a few more degrees to the temperature in the stuffy room.

To cut it short, it took me at least 15 precious minutes  before I finally recovered from my embarrassing condition and started to act normally. Needless to say, the lesson was a total failure and an absolute waste of time.

If I had had those thirty minutes before the first lesson, everything would have been different. I wouldn’t have been thrown off balance so easily. Had I checked out my notes from the previous lesson, I would have been able to make a rough lesson plan at least. Alternatively, at the beginning of the lesson, I could have asked the students to write a short report about their weekend, for example, so that I could chill out a bit and think about the next stages of the lesson.

The moral of the story: Never be late on a hot day!

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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7 Responses to A sweaty moment

  1. Joanna Malefaki says:

    Hi Hana!!
    Yeap, we have all been there!! I think that panic is the worst!!I have no words of wisdom of course cause I would probably be doing the same thing as you!!!!
    What can we do? Not all days are good ones!! Btw you have inspired today’s post!!
    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Thanks, Joanna. No words of wisdom needed. 🙂 It just happened and I learned from that experience. Anyway, I’m happy to hear I inspired your new post.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: 2 things…… | My Elt Rambles

  3. Dear Hana,
    I have been there. I hate not having enough planning time because I feel awful during the class and invariably think of things I should have done with my students if only I hadn’t been too busy with other stuff to plan the class. Here’s to the better days!
    Anne

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Hana,
    Although in Spain, where I work, being a couple of minutes late for your class might still mean you are the first one, I absolutely sympathise with the feeling of your mind going blank in the face of some unexpected events. In my case it has mostly been dealing with some very unreliable technology (including air conditioning which wouldn’t work, turning the classroom into a sauna). I guess defusing the tension in the classroom with a joke is one way to go, however, regrouping and getting back on the teaching track really IS challenging. It would actually be great to read a story of a terrible lesson taking an amazing turn, and ending up being a success!
    Gosia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Hi Gosia,
      Thanks for your words of support and compassion. Here in the Czech Republic, and specifically at the school where I work, we have a very strict policy on tardiness. If a student is one minute late, this violation of the school rules is immediately recorded into the class book. When this happens for the third time, an official letter is sent to the parents. So you can imagine how guilty I felt when I did something we normally punish students for. But the lack of any planning whatsoever was much more important than the fact that I had been late.
      Anyway, I really like your suggestion that it would be great to read a story of a terrible lesson taking an amazing turn. What a challenge for me as well as other bloggers!

      Like

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