Regardez, s’il vous plaît!

Today marked the last day of the first week of practicum. I am quite utterly exhausted and, as my SAs so wisely put it, probably more stressed than I realized.

Photo credit to kreezzalee @ Flickr via Creative Commons

The good news is that I still don’t realize the stress (besides the typical symptoms of some lack of sleep!) so let’s just move on to blogging, shall we?

Today I taught again and again I received similar criticism relative to yesterday’s lesson. Wait. Don’t be afraid of pauses. Let silence build. At least I’m consistent, I guess. But only now (like, right now, as I’m typing this blog entry) am I realizing that today I experienced firsthand why we as teachers need to give students space to think.

Of course, this revelation occurred while I was sitting in a French 10 class. All great revelations are connected to the French somehow.

Photo credit to James Cridland @ Flickr via Creative Commons

I’m joking.

I did take French up to grade 12 but thought I had lost most of it after my undergraduate and I was pleasantly surprised to learn this afternoon that my comprehension is not as moot as I thought it was. The entire class was conducted in French (except when the teacher had to clarify terms or instructions at a greater length) and happily, je comprenais la majorité de la classe! The revelation comes though as I realize that because instruction came through a language I was not used to in my everyday life I needed at least thirty seconds longer than usual to register what was being said (and longer if le prof spoke at greater length). The class did have some silences where students were formulating responses in their mind, just as I had to pause for a moment before responding in broken French (and finally resorting to English) to answer some of the questions.

Photo credit to CollegeDegrees360 @ Flickr via Creative Commons

And now (like, right now, as I’m typing!) I am realizing that this experience is similar to students’ experiences in the academic classroom. We as teachers take for granted the academic language we use with ease but for many students this language comes second to the casual vernacular they employ in their everyday lives. In fact, students must be given time to process because they are effectively traveling between their first register and the academic “second language.” Furthermore if I think of teacher-talk as a language other than the English most students are used to in my classrooms, I begin to understand just how essential quiet time is for student comprehension of material.

All in all the week has been something rare and wonderful. Observing the translations from theory to practice that are found within a physical classroom (especially in regards to this last revelation for the week) is both valuable and momentous; already my teaching practice is changing and developing once more. My experience at my practicum school thus far holds many of the characteristics I think a good relationship has: stable, reassuring and comfortable, with no giddy highs (music was the exception) or moody lows. Over the weekend I’ll be working on lesson plans and to be sure I realize my inadequacy to be a truly great teacher more and more, but my SAs, my FA and my classmates have all been very encouraging and I am looking forward to the second week.

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