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!