For the past few years I have been a tutor and am therefore more or less used to having a stranger (my intern) in my classroom. It is always unsettling at first but you soon forget a grown-up is sitting at the back, making notes of what you are doing. Even if this person might be critical of what is going on he/she is here to learn and you feel protected by the authority of experience.
Things are completely different when the visitor is a colleague and has been teaching for longer than you have. Things are even more daunting when she comes from a country where practically everyone is fluent in English while some of our students can barely put two words together. This is precisely what happened to me last week.
When we go to Sweden with our language exchange, we are always welcomed by other colleagues who like to have a native in their classrooms so that they students can ask us questions and practice their French on us. Of course when the Swedes visit, we reciprocate and they come to our classes too. Not to speak Swedish but to see what school is like in France.
Being the worrier that I am, I had planned literally weeks in advance what I was going to be doing with the two classes concerned. There is no point in watching French students do grammatical exercises or correct a test. If you have guests, you don’t want them to get bored.
One group was going to prepare a role play – in an IT room – while the other was expected to understand how the book cover of a crime novel functions. I had planned both lessons carefully and prepared the necessary material (handouts, photocopies, pictures, etc). I felt the students would be fine:the first class is weak but vey nice while the other one is of made up of mixed-ability students with some really good ones.
Unfortunately a week before a colleague sent a note saying that three of my best students in that class would not be present as they had a German exam. There was nothing I could do I tried not to think about it.
In the end it all went well. The weaker students were their charming selves and even asked my colleague for help when I was busy with a group. As for the others they did their best, behaved themselves and a silent (but brilliant) girl was more active than she had ever been.
When the lesson was over, my colleague commented on how “very pedagogical” it had been, which sounded to my ears like the ultimate compliment.