Teaching with no voice!

So after the whirlwind of Hawaii and escaping Shijiazhuang, far too quickly it was time for me to teach again. It’s been 4 weeks and I’ve fully settled back in, been reminded of the classes who need me to explain things more visually, and actually had a brief flurry of snow!

So for me and my regular grade 10 classes, a new lesson plan starts on Wednesday. This lesson I decided to focus on British idols: Sherlock Holmes, Queen Victoria and Doctor Who, something a little more interesting since I’ve been using the textbook for the first few weeks back. Wednesday’s are my busiest day, 4 grade 10 classes and one grade 11. However I woke up feeling a little under the weather. There’s a cold going around the foreign teachers and although it’s spring now and warm, the heating is still on and despite the humidifier in my room, it’s just so dry! As a result, the my voice just wasn’t happening. I had a strepsil for breakfast (diet is going badly!),but realised   I was in trouble when I walked into school, bumped into Sam, and croaked out a hello. Helpfully my first class is also my smartest, but also my biggest with 69 kids. After whispering hello the students realised straight away that something was wrong and leapt into action, reading notes on the board, using the brightest kids as translators, and giving me lots of smiles! At the end of this first class I was handed a cute note from a students telling me to drink more hot water – the classic Chinese remedy to everything!

As well as writing my instructions on the board, I also taught through gesture. Way back in training camp Michael Knapp told us it was useful to have a routine every lesson. I have my routine which I stick to and the students know. As well as using the same language each week, I also use the same gestures. This meant that on Wednesday I could use just the gestures, and especially in one very enthusiastic class who shouted out my instructions in English, and the students knew what I wanted them to do.

Every lesson I open with a chant reminding them to speak English. Lots of classes just shout it at me when I walk in the room now, so they know what to do! Next is a slide with questions on the previous lesson which they work through in groups. The word “groups” has a circling hand gesture associated with it, a flat palm towards the board means do everything, and rapping my knuckles against the board where I write “ENGLISH” means speak English!

For the lessons content, I used a mix of writing on the board (there are not enough gestures in the world to explain code breaking!) and my usual gestures: holding my ear and pointing at a sentence means I want them to say it out loud, putting my teeth on my lip means that they’re not pronouncing their ‘v’ properly, miming a pen and paper means write down, and so on. I was actually surprised at how quickly they caught on to just learning through my usual gestures and writing, although some classes needed reminding that I could still hear them even if I couldn’t speak!

My board at the end of class!

After successfully not fainting (by the afternoon no voice had turned into feeling faint), by the evening I had to teach my grade 11 special class which I usually love but was apprehensive thinking about teaching it with no voice. So much so that I’d tried to find Sarah to take time to the doctors so I could call in sick for it, but she wasn’t at school so i sucked it up and went to class. This class is shrinking, this lesson had 13 students in it, and I had to try and lead a discussion about culture. I ended up writing instructions to one of the students and having her read them to the others, I really felt ill by this point and just wanted to be in bed!

Even though my lovely mother called me at 6am, today has been a better day because I can speak! I can’t shout yet and had a little trouble with feeling faint and projecting my voice enough, but at the end of the day I’ve officially trained my students to understand not only my voice and weird accent, but also my flailing arms!

Bonus picture of my crowded class 3 where they have decided to sit in the aisles.


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