Alongside my thesis, I teach English and debating to high school students, aged all the way from 11 to 17 years old. It's a real pleasure of mine, and I'm lucky to have a part-time job which I enjoy so much and which allows me to write for big portions of the day. Over the years, the most important lesson I have learned is that as a teacher, you need to be incredibly flexible with every new class: no student (or group of students) is alike.
Recently, I've started teaching groups of new students aged 13-14, who presented me with an entirely new set of cultural and teaching differences. For one thing, the group is comprised of both boys and girls together, which is a difference, but moreover, the students are really reluctant to hear feedback about themselves in public: they want to know how to improve, but become deeply embarrassed to talk about their strengths and weaknesses in front of each other.
Enter my newest invention! I made up these individual pocket books for each student in which I write feedback on slips of paper for the students to read in their own time. That way, I can feel as though I am saving them the embarrassment they seem to feel, but also communicating with them about their progress.
Since this group is particularly competitive, I added a small table where I can put different stickers for their behaviour: yellow for effort, green for improvement, blue for excellence and red for bad behaviour (signified by a grumpy face on the card!)Every few weeks or so, I will count up the good stickers and award small prize bags like these - they seem obsessed with both chewing gum and stationery - to the students who are either doing really well or trying really hard, or both. It seems to have worked so far: the students are happy, motivated and keen to contribute and concentrate, and I think they are really learning well.