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Friday, 10 October 2014

Dealing with Embarrassing Moments while Teaching

embarestEmbarrassment is an interesting concept in English in English language. When people think about times in their lives when they have been embarrassed, they usually think of times when they have made mistakes, or their shortcomings have been pointed out.

People can also feel embarrassed when they receive too much praise. This means that embarrassment is not so much related to the action, but to the response by the people around you. Embarrassment is really connected to the amount of attention someone receives, whether positive or negative. If someone feels uncomfortable because they are receiving too much attention, this is the basis of embarrassment and all the negative feelings associated with it.

As a teacher, it is your job to make students feel comfortable in the class, and this can sometimes be a paradoxical situation. Students should be interested and engaged enough to have the confidence to speak up, practice the language and get involved with the class, which means the teacher needs to raise their energy levels. Yet, students also need to be calm and relaxed to allow time to analyze the language and take it all in. Sometimes, managing student energy levels can be difficult, and all students have their own individual styles.

The more a teacher stands in front of a class, the more he/she will be able to ‘feel’ the atmosphere if the class and know how to react. However, when a break-down inevitably occurs, it can be difficult for the teacher to know what to do. A lot of the time, it depends on the actual problem and the individual student.

Students arrive late to every lesson. It may not be the same student every time, but it is something that you have to come to expect from an EFL class. Some teachers deal with this by locking the door, or asking students questions when they arrive late. Mildly embarrassing a tardy student may help them realize that their behavior is not ideal, but will probably not lead to any real change in behavior. Unfortunately, there is not much a teacher can do, but explain to the student that coming late to class will result in a much slower improvement, and it will affect their grades. This is much more of an incentive than embarrassment.

Sometimes students get upset in class. All EFL teachers have experience with a student suddenly bursting into tears in the middle of a lesson. Sometimes the reason is obvious, other times it is not. When a student starts crying in class, it typically leads to everyone stopping what they are doing and putting a lot of attention on the crying student. If you have ever cried in public, you will know that attention is not always what you want. If this occurs, the teacher must quickly and calmly find out if there is something specific harming the student. Are they sick? Did another student say something rude or insensitive? The teacher must also get other students back on track. Having a simple activity up your sleeve can quickly turn attention away from the crying student. The teacher should go to the student, speak softly and see what they can do to help the student. Offer to let the student go out of the room, get a drink of water, and freshen up. If there is a specific problem that can’t be solved by allowing the student to calm down, you may need to ask your native language speaking colleagues for help. Remember that you don’t want to embarrass the student further, so this should be done calmly and gently. Any time a student becomes overwhelmed and cries in class, you should talk to your school director about it, as there may be an underlying situation that you are not aware of.

Also, when students make mistakes, it can be tempting to point them out, especially if they are humorous errors. However, remember that students may not understand why the error is funny and may feel like you are overly harsh. Treat student errors as just that, language mistakes, and an area of language that they can improve in the future. Allow them to see the funny side for themselves, but keep the lesson focused on the language target.

As a teacher, you may come across situations where you are the one who is embarrassed. In the classroom, this most commonly occurs when you make an error and students point it out. The positive side of this is it helps you want to improve. No one wants to feel embarrassed by their students, so it is important to do your best. Unfortunately, mistakes happen accidentally. The trick is to show students that you are aware of the error and correct it, without raising the tensions in the class. Keeping your cool when you make a mistake is the best example you can set for your students. The key is to keep moving forward and do your best not to break the atmosphere of the class.

Embarrassing moments happen and cannot always be avoided. How you deal with these situations in class can mean the difference between building a positive rapport with your students and putting them off-side. As the teacher, you are the one with the power to deal with embarrassing situations and turn them into positive experiences for the students.

What are the most embarrassing situations you have come across in your teaching experience and how did you deal with them? If you have any tips or advice, please feel free to leave it in the comments section below.

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