A love of volunteering – Coaching Kids Football

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(855 Words)

Getting up early on Saturday after a week’s work may be a hard task for many, but when you have the enthusiasm for sport, namely under 8s football, this can be the least of a coach’s worries. Coaching kids’ football can be a most rewarding experience. This is how the story goes…. every Saturday at 8.00am the kids are ready to learn football skills, have fun and meet their friends; the coach has to encapsulate all these factors for them. The challenge of coaching these kids in their football team is fitting in a challenging step by step coaching plan within 90 minutes allocated including a period of warm up and skills training while preparing them for a 30-minute match (against another team) before the end of those 90 minutes.

The first step is the warm up where the muscles are warmed up and stretched a little. After rounding the kids up for an approximate start of 8.00am, it is time for the warm up exercise which also includes the thought of waking up their minds. The little ones can be still a little sleepy! Kids do not want training to be too serious and being 8.00am they are not they to be lectured to. The coach does not want them against him. So, for example, a great game for a warm up for coaching that always works involves the kids dribbling with the ball over a distance of 50 meters, then when the coach shouts a body part, while they are dribbling, the kids have to place that body part on the ball. This gets them familiar with the ball, but also opens their thinking to listen and perform a task. Usually the kid who is last to do the action gets a gentle kick on his bottom. It adds a little humour to proceedings. A careful check on the clock is needed as not starting dead on 8 am and this exercise running for 20 minutes or more can limit time; not forgetting the coach wants the main focus to be on learning more specifics on football.

Next is the chance for the kids to actually learn a few football skills, making sure before this that they might need a break for a drink. Naturally with the skills and warm up there has to be a transition from the last exercise where the process of coaching has to include a part that actually teaches them skills for future use. A major factor of football and coaching is passing so emphasis can be on this. For example, the coach gets the kids into pairs 3 metres apart, first demonstrating the task with a better player by using the inside of their foot to pass the ball. Next, the pairs of kids pass to each other. This can be done for 5 minutes. Then, the coach adds a bit more flavour to the exercise. They then, have to pass the ball through their friend’s legs from their 3 metres gap. Again, another 5 minutes is fine.  So, the kids are now a bit more familiar with passing. To follow this is to get the kids into groups of 3s and play ‘piggy in the middle’. Two kids pass between themselves and the other has to touch the ball. Another short period is used for this. Another check of the time should be done as time is running out before the match; so to finish off the skills section the ‘piggy in the middle’ game is played again with everyone. This brings the group together to have a fun ending to this section.

Finally, the real game starts after another drink break. The team now has to be picked for the match and tactics discussed. At this lower age of players, it is not fair to baffle them with football science, so it’s the coach’s job to encourage them to have fun and enjoy playing while still keeping in mind what they have learnt beforehand. Now, the game starts.  The coach needs to keep the kids’ minds active, younger kids can lose concentration and think that football is just about kicking the ball while looking at the ground. Minds do wander! Win or lose though the coach should make sure the kids tried. Once the first half is over, the coach directs the kids to their drink, then gets them back for a little positive pep talk, then leads them out for the second half. At the final whistle, both teams shake hands. Hopefully, the coach’s team walks away with a win but priority is that a great morning was had by all.

To conclude, all the warm up, skills and final match may seem a lot to do within 90 minutes but if a little preparation is done, there is never a problem. Enthusiasm for the game and the kids, plus a passion for teaching helps any coach along the way. Any new coach should learn that time spent working out a coaching plan banishes into the background by the satisfaction of a seeing the kids’ faces as they have fun training and having a match.


An Outsider’s Training Visit – Reflecting on the Approach and Experience

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(1428 Words)

For one week, our language centre was going to have a trainer visit to provide us, the teachers, with a chance to have this an outsider from the head office observe our teaching and be, himself, observed by us. This would allow the teachers to take a look at their teaching and hopefully benefit and develop ideas and new teaching methods as well as learn from this person’s teaching. Of course, as a professional teacher, it is always advantageous to take a step back and observes other teachers as well as ponder some of your teaching techniques. For me, the experience sounded a pleasant change and a chance to improve my teaching.   We were initially given some information regarding the visit. This explained that the process would ‘provide teachers with support to reflect on and develop their own teaching’ and ‘freshen up the branch atmosphere’. It sounded like a great new approach. I was also buoyed by the fact that this outside trainer would be providing the feedback. I say this because I completed a teaching course with him (he was a trainer) at the head office and found him to be a person who could evaluate your teaching and give constructive criticism without making you feel you failed in any way.

So, day one, I walked into the office and met with our centre manager and had a chat with him and said ‘hello’ to the outside observer/trainer. I explained to him that I would have to speak with him about my class which he would take over and teach for one lesson. This was fine. That day was fine he passed me in the office nothing was said. The next day, I said ‘hello’ again nothing much was said.  That day, he walked in and out of our teachers’ room without saying anything. The following day, I was on the computer, and I remember this trainer coming in the teacher’s room. I did not see him, and I remember he basically walked past me and sat on the computer next to me and never said anything. I got the feeling that he was being a bit absent. I thought to myself ‘oh, hello Neil’. It seemed a bit strange he had not actually said anything to me from day one or had not made any attempt. From this point on, I remember thinking that he was not being that familiar. It seemed he was not really trying to be friendly and make this ‘outsider’ experience pleasurable. If anything he was fitting the role as an ‘outsider, a hired in professional you could say. Generally, it was after these experiences that I noticed that this guy was in the manager’s office most of the time or on the computer never really coming into the office. For myself, I thought I knew the man and we were familiar with each other from the teaching course although I think, at that point, I was mistaken. I found him to be very cold and not willing to participate with our team of teachers or get involved. It was then that I had the feeling that he must think he is superior in some way, and we are only teachers; he does not want to associate with us. I was confused I had read the initial information about this professional development process given to us to read telling us about ‘empowering the teachers’. My experiences so far were not telling me this.

So, the trainer was now going to teach my class. The time came for him to teach my class, he went in and taught the class. Again, I was confused I had read that the outsider would ‘meet before class so that the visitor can explain the day’s lesson objectives and contextualise the lesson’. I was at my desk all the time before the lesson and nothing was said. I was in the dark.  My feelings during his lesson from all the happenings I had had, I must admit, I was not inspired to take a positive look at his lesson. For myself, I felt that he thought he was a bit above us teachers. So, it prevailed that when we had the feedback session I made a point of showing that he was not above us and his lesson had certain aspects where he had moments as not to be so perfect.

Once I had observed the outside observer/trainers teaching, it was now time for me to be observed. I thought I was being observed by this outsider although I realised later that it was actually the manager, although the trainer was in the room observing me and writing down notes which meant he was observing. The observation of me was on Sunday at 9.00am. I arrived at 8.20pm that day and spent 35 minutes getting ready to make sure I could do my best. Once all this preparation was done I sat down for two minutes just before I was to go into the classroom; then just before I was to go in the class, the manager came up to me and started to ask questions about what I was to do in the class. I felt as this was not the time to be discussing objectives and procedures. This was not planned and not an appropriate time I thought. My reaction to the manager’s questions was one of ‘give me a break’, I need a couple of minutes to relax and contemplate before a 3-hour class and you could have picked a better time.

The class I thought went fine. Of course, there were aspects that I would have changed but on the whole, I was satisfied. That Sunday afternoon, I had the feedback meeting regarding the lesson with the two observers. My experience of the whole week had not been as I had thought so by this time I was not relishing speaking with the outsider. The thing was, he was not going to do the feedback. It was the manager as he was learning from the trainer, and it was his chance to show what he had learnt from the trainer from other feedback sessions. The manager asked me to describe my experience of teaching while being observed for 1 hour. I said I thought I was okay and, of course, there were some aspects I may have changed but I think the manager wanted me to be more descriptive so we could generate a meaningful feedback session. I was not really in the mood for this, if I may say ‘interrogation’. I let the manager explain to me. This was the point that I found strange, the manager started using all this technical language like the outside trainer was putting words in his mouth. It felt very unusual for me as I knew the manager very well and have had a lot of conversation where we have discussed teaching in a meaningful way, where I think both us benefited. The problem was that this time it was the manager was saying the trainer’s words. It actually made me think that this was just the same as the teaching course I had done with the trainer a while back. I thought to myself this is just the teaching course again talking about ‘objectives’, ‘SWBATs’ and ‘challenges’. I must admit that I was not as open as I should I have been, and I may have come across as being a little obstructive although I had the feeling that this ‘outsider training’  could have had a new innovative approach that would inspire teachers not just regurgitate old methods from the teaching course.

There are many factors that I have talked about in this reflection, and I cannot say I am not at fault for being part of the process that went wrong. I do feel that some team bonding would have been beneficial, a chance for all the teachers and staff to be familiar with the trainer and for this outsider to feel relaxed with our whole teaching team. I also think if you are going to come into another working environment and do anything you have to create an atmosphere that whole staff feels relaxed, able to contribute and not feel they are not being dictated to. I also feel that if you are going to develop people/teachers by coming into their working environment you should use new ideas and new methodologies that show you put some thought into what you are doing and people can be motivated by your efforts to improve them.

Professional Development results can come in many ways

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A report of the dissemination you have carried out to inform colleagues/teachers (either in your own school, neighbouring school or LEA), or young people, governors, parents. This report will include what they have learned from the process of dissemination (approximately 1,000 words).

I was on a teaching course for two months and tried different ways to promote professional development. I would like in this report to give an account of the benefit of the distribution of my efforts. One major fact involved in these endeavors, I found is that some teachers are inexperienced to teaching/professional development. It meant I had to look deeper to see salient points that highlighted recognition of the work I had been completing. I must say I did this report against some barriers, that being the Asian way of teaching which entails the students just listening to the teacher in a very passive way. The students must believe every word that comes out of the teacher’s mouth as these young minds sit in quiet obedience. It can be hard to change people’s methods in a short time. It is true the students dare not ask leading questions to their teachers which I must admit mildly extended to me but perseverance for professional development is a must.

The initial awareness of my development came through surveying 50 student’s ideas as to what a good teacher should be like. I noticed that there were high scores for most of the questions even though some questions were polar opposites. You either had to think one question was right and the other wrong, not the same. I questioned the answers the students gave and proposed my uncertainty to my colleagues. It certainly made them think about how the students answer surveys and the feeling was that, do they really understand what they are doing when they answer questions? It was noticed that the majority of the students just fill in the form not knowing what they are doing while others copy. It held true with my colleagues because the students were given a questionnaire by our training centre at the end of each term where they had to give a points score for their teacher. My colleagues firmly believed and used my evidence when the manager came to say that the students can not give a true representation of a teacher’s lessons by a score card.

I would like to add that through my survey of 50 students which I had designed the questions; the scores, as mentioned, did not seem to add up. I decided to let the students come up with the questions. I reviewed and edited it completely. This led to better results and a better understanding from the students on how to complete the survey.

I can certainly say that I have changed perceptions of teaching and shown a few teachers how I think a positive thinking teacher should teach. For example, I was asked by one teacher to help her teaching her class strong adjectives. The teacher’s approach was to just give the students pronunciation practice. I did the lesson in a constructive approach leaving time to have the students produce spoken sentences. She mentioned to me that she thought the material I used was great. I took the opportunity to explain that the book had many words that were too much for the students.

I also spoke to her about the students copying. I wondered how they can learn. She said ‘oh, when the test comes they will fail’. Basically, it was the students’ problem, not hers. It was attitudes like this I came up against. This teacher had already mentioned a few times that the students were bad. This led me to think that it was their learning skills, not their ability that was holding them back. It was examples like these that made me even more determined to show these teachers how students should learn in class. This meant creating a learning environment when they have to think for themselves. I did have some feedback from one teacher who said that the students enjoyed learning with me and found my lessons interesting. I had a chance to explain to this teacher that if the lesson is interesting and thought-provoking the students will feel they are part of a learning process.

Moreover, I have been continually giving advice to other teachers. This I found irritating at times. For example, I decided to teach one lesson for a teacher for him to see teaching from a new angle. I used one of my lesson plans that I felt fitted in with a more relaxed approach as this teacher had been told he was putting too much effort into his teaching. I showed him that with the right approach he can get the students doing the work for him and he just has to facilitate them and coax them along during the lesson keeping them on a learning path. I then observed him the next day teaching my lesson. In the feedback session, he did not really give me a great response when I asked him about my lesson and how well his lesson went doing my demonstration class. I wondered why he was evasive, was it he was not used to professional development, was it he was scared to show his failing, or was it he felt I was I intruding? I actually thought at one point that I should slow down on the teaching conversations. I wondered how I could help him with his teaching. The fact was the following days after I felt he began to notice how I worked and the detail I put into teaching. I began to see examples of professional development coming through. I saw his new sheet for his lesson plan. It looked not too dissimilar to my lesson sheet I had done with him and some of my material which he had seen on my desk. I also realized he was asking more questions and enquiring what I thought he should do for this learning process. At least, the advice was slowly getting through.

Overall, you must expect professional development to be a bit alien to some and teachers not enthused over trying new methods. However, the benefits are certainly there.

(1007 Words)

Extended Reflection on TEFL Classroom Practice

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The TEFL lesson that was just taught I feel went satisfactory. There were many aspects in the lesson that were a positive learning experience for the students. I think I tried to keep the students’ attention all the way through the lesson. I think this aided the students learning because I didn’t give them a chance to start talking about any other non-English language-related subjects. During the ‘use’ stage of PPU teaching method, there was a lot of free talking, so I felt some accomplishment. The overall feeling, if an observer was to look at the whole lesson, is to say that the objectives were certainly on their way to being achieved. These objectives were for students to use adjectives to describe people’s feelings,  There are some points, I would like to pick up on in relation to students not fully achieving their goals as such I will include them in this essay to fully explain. I must say though that if I were a student in this class, I would have felt the lesson moved along at a pace that kept me attentive. With this attentiveness hopefully, the students would have attained that new information.

I think the ‘use’ stage, which involved the students telling an interesting story, was a significant part because this is the stage that showed me how well all the prior practice and ‘presentation stage’ went. Looking from the student’s perspective, they were ready to tell their story after hearing the teacher give an example of a model story, which made them more aware of what had to be done. I think as a student this would have given me the inspiration to think of an interesting story that had a beginning, climax, and end. The students knew what their task was and they went about it with the right attitude. Once they had their stories they stood up and told each other by going in pairs and telling their stories with the other students using the new vocabulary which I had taught, to help them along (conversation prompts). The students were up and talking and exchanging stories that would provoke feeling, which is what I wanted them to do. I think by giving them five minutes preceding the activity to write and think about their stories was a suitable idea because when I looked at some of their writing, some of the students were very slow to start. I think as a student you need this time and the teacher has to remember that it is fresh in his/her head plus the teacher has had time to think about the subject, the students have not. I think also that once the activity started, it was right to leave them to get on with the activity by themselves without really interfering with the students’ conversation. I periodically joined in with the pairs just to check they were okay which I found didn’t interfere with their talking that much. This exercise worked because I modeled the activity well before the students stood up. I modeled with two students giving my conversation prompts, which moved the conversation along. The conversation prompts were another good idea. The students certainly had some interesting stories to tell. There were a couple of points that hindered the process though these were firstly not making sure the students moved around and changed partners. Some students gathered together a little (more than two) which I didn’t really want. The process would have been better if I had kept them in their pairs and for them to tell each other their stories then move on. I think getting them to move, would have been helped by me clapping my hands and saying ‘okay, change partners’. Secondly, I should have told them to talk to only five people. This would have meant the process had an ending, a goal for the students to reach. This would have kept them focused I think. 

Another aspect of the lesson that I think went well was the ‘practice’ stage where I gave the students strips of paper with situations on them. This was for the students to use with a dialogue using the adjectives they had learnt, to say ‘How they felt’. I think this is a great way to get the students off their chairs thus changing the lesson with a different technique and giving them a chance to speak and use the specific language associated with the lesson. As a student, I would have been glad to start using the language and mingling instead of sat down listening to the teacher. The students were up off their seat hearing their replies. I think, as a practice this exercise was adequate as it was controlled and was kept within the boundaries of the language that was to be used. Also what helped was the students were given a model conversation to help them practice with. This was modeled with the ‘teacher–student’ to help them. The conversation gave the students a platform to start, thus as a ‘practice’ stage (which is where the teacher can check and monitor). I think, as an exercise, this was fine. The only part that hindered the process was that the students kept hold of the strips of paper and they were not given a chance to change. The students seemed a little bored because they were saying the same sentence over and over again. I think, as a student, I would have felt the exercise was a bit tedious. The students’ strips of paper (situations) should have been changed after each pairs’ conversation, this would have created more thought and got the students more engrossed in the exercise. Moreover, it would have prolonged the exercise because they would not have thought the process was dragging on. 

The part of the lesson I think didn’t go as planned was the worksheet. There was ‘situation’ on the worksheet and ‘how did you feel’ in two separate columns for each. For a situation, the students had to write an adjective in the designated gap under the heading ‘how did you feel’ to describe how he/she felt in that situation. And when there was an adjective the student had to think of a situation and write it in the designated gap under the heading ‘situation’ on the paper. I gave the students the worksheet and then modeled it. I think once the students had this worksheet they started to complete it. They were used to being given worksheets so I suppose they knew the drill. The fact was that some of them thought it was a matching exercise, which it wasn’t; this made me realize I had got things wrong. By now they were confused and some were trying to write which I didn’t want. I think as a student once I got this paper I would have wanted to finish it in my own way, regardless of what the teacher was saying. I think this shows you what students do. Students can be sidetracked and lose their concentration thus their attention wanders away from the real point of the exercise. This experience tells me that a teacher should give clear instruction first before giving out a worksheet and reiterate it by having the students tell the teacher what he/she had just said. Concept questions I think could have helped.

Another aspect that did not go as well as I would have liked was the challenging of students and the giving of information. I felt as though I wrote some sentences on the boards that were not worth doing also I was repeating the sentences as though I thought the students needed the practice. From the students’ perspective if I had heard the teacher the first time he/she spoke the sentence I would be a bit puzzled as to why the teacher would want to put it on the board and repeat it. The students I think might have lost a little interest when it came to doing other stages in the class because the teacher was teaching stuff they already knew. I think that for the level the students were in, this process was demeaning their level of English and taking up valuable time. Such that by giving them basic sentences the students might have lost interest and felt as though they were not learning. I think as a student the basic process of learning is to feel as though the lesson is testing my abilities. I think they should have been brought out their comfort zone, which is challenging them with the material they do not know.

A final thought on aspects that did not go well was my use of language. Sometimes I don’t speak fluently and break up my sentences, which are not complete, and grammatical. This I think makes the language a little strange. I think from the perspective of a student who is learning a new language, is that they could find it hard to follow the teacher’s sentences. The sentences are broken up and leave the student a bit confused. I think there could be a few factors that explain my language. Firstly I have been teaching lower-level students, some twelve years old, where you have to be slow for them to understand you, maybe this played a part. Also, I think, maybe it is where I think if I speak slower and pronounce the word with more stress they will understand. The good thing though, and I have been told in feedback, is that I recognize the problem and I will try to rectify it in the next lesson. I think with clear instructions, which are kept to a minimum. To a minimum, I mean less teacher talk time where unnecessary language is used will help to make for a clear voice that sounds normal. 

Regarding SWBAT’s during the lesson, I think they were achieved. If I look at the final ‘use’ stage I had the students describing their stories, which is what I wanted. This was an objective of mine. I am not sure that I achieved an overall goal of getting the students to achieve their objectives, which would have been to learn far more new material and new vocabulary. I think as a SWBAT of getting them talking about the subject of feelings, the students did generate some quality stories which they told very well. Their ideas for the stories were funny and interesting, although I cannot really say they were challenged. I had SWBAT’s for each stage but I think should make them a little harder and made sure they understood each one until I moved on. The challenging part would have been less writing of basic sentences on the board. The more adjectives I could have written on the board would have gauged the students’ strengths and weaknesses. The reaction would have told me how difficult they were. Thus if I had heard these new words in the ‘use stage I would have felt I was achieving and this would have told me that the students achieved their objective. I think this ‘use’ stage of the class, which was one of my SWBAT’s, informed my beliefs because it was a measure of how the students understood the lesson, although I think that students can still fall into the trap of using grammar and vocabulary they already know. I think maybe if you can have students demonstrate in front of the class and make them use the new grammar and vocabulary this will give you a fair measure of how well they have learnt during the class. I think overall every SWBAT was challenged but I could have made the lessons (SWBAT’s) a little more difficult as to challenge the students and also made sure at each stage I checked that I reached the SWBAT.

There are many goals I can now set myself from the reflection I have just done. I will plan a better lesson; firstly a more challenging lesson that has more questions coming from the students, such that I can measure their learning by the questions they ask and the amount of student interaction. I feel as though the objectives should be properly met at each stage and should be checked by me before I go on. Also, my voice will be clearer and I have to realize that I should speak as if talking to another English-speaking person (less the idioms and slang speech). I think the more relaxed and less worried you are going into the class the lesson will flow. I will make sure that the students feel that they have achieved in the class and that they have something to talk about once leaving the class.