2018/19 Reflection: musings on how my year went

This academic year has been unconventional for me because for the first time I didn’t start the school year in September, thanks to the arrival of my beautiful daughter Sofia at the beginning of September. When my maternity leave finished I found myself back in the classroom gasping to keep up with everything that was already rocketing along.

The most interesting group I taught this year, from a developmental perspective of course, was a group of very young but very enthusiastic CPE students.  This particular group have been “mine” for a number of years as I accompanied them through B2, C1 and now C2.  From a teaching perspective, the group were a gift, enthusiastically pouncing on any new language offered to them, only to reappear in the following lesson with said language firmly placed in their vocabulary and naturalised as though they had been using it for years.  Lessons were filled with their contributions from popular culture, asking me about song lyrics, film quotes and teen slang that quickly made me feel my age even more than I already do.

What this group really made me realise this year is how inappropriate the Cambridge system is for the abundance of teenagers who are reaching advanced levels younger and younger.  While my group were mature in their ideas and were able to discuss abstract topics without a problem, the nature of the exam simply doesn’t lend itself to younger students meaning lessons were dedicated to culture as well as language.

I also spent a considerable amount of time this year making new materials and inventing activities for this level as sadly there is a real lack of material available out there and what there is tends to be terribly dry. Something which is unfortunate when already you are starting with topics which are often tedious.  I still find it incredible that there are just two Official Cambridge Proficiency past exam paper books available to buy since the exam was updated in March 2013! That’s six years ago, I have students who have used all the practice exams and now have no way of doing further exam practice. Fingers crossed Cambridge bring out a new edition soon.

This year, more so than ever, the impact of our industry on the environment has been at the forefront of my lesson planning. It is too critical a situation to not sit up and do something and I have tried various techniques and ideas to try and produce more environmentally conscious lessons, which I will write about separately as they rightly deserve their own space.

My bugbear this year, which has actually developed into a fully fledged obsession is writing. Teaching writing, assessing writing, improving writing, I can’t stand to read yet another badly-planned, confused piece of writing so I have dedicated a lot of time to developing style, how to introduce complex grammar in a clean and fluid way and tips for upgrading your language.  Sadly, it is still the area where my students appear to do badly and my objective for the next school year is to overhaul how I teach writing to see if that can make a difference on my students.

My general feeling/whinge of the year is that I spoon feed my students too much, They have become lazy and expect me to present them with how to guides for all aspects of language and exam prep (probably because my overzealous control freak screams that this is what they need for effective revision). My students and I don’t know if this is a reflection on me as a teacher, the area where I teach or general students in 2019, are looking for shortcuts for everything and this means that they are not putting in the same level of effort that my students did ten years ago.  So again, another of my objectives for next year is for me to do less. Yes, I’m putting my feet up and letting the students do the leg work.  After all, I know English already and it’s not me who will be sitting their exam/ attending that job interview/ chatting up that traveller on a Thai beach.

How has your school year been? What would you have done differently if you could revisit it? What are your goals and objectives for the upcoming school year? Let me know in the comments box below.

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