What’s in a teacher’s bag?

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This blog is a response to the following tweet from journalist Helen Ward of the Times Education Supplement.

Have been tasked with finding out what’s inside teachers’ bags. And we want photographic proof! This for publication. helen.ward@Tes.co.uk

Where I teach

I work as a freelance English language teacher. Today I taught at The Mosses Centre in Bury, a community centre which hosts a regular drop-in centre for adult refugees and asylum seekers. It is a pleasure to teach them because they are very keen to learn.

In the bag

Recipe books
Though it may look like it, I’m not cookery teacher. Today the students revised food vocabulary that they’d learnt in a previous English language lesson. I chose vegetarian cookbooks as I know some of my students are vegetarian. The books are in a plastic bag because it was raining today and I walk to the community centre.

Pencils
It’s natural to feel apprehensive about learning a new language. I provide pencils as well as pens, because mistakes can be corrected if they’re in pencil. I put pencils and pens in the middle of the table, it’s up to the students which they choose.

Students’ work
It’s also up to my students whether they take their work home. Some of them are homeless so they have nowhere to keep pieces of paper.

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A3 whiteboard, whiteboard pens and dish sponges
In this job, I teach a small group of learners and we sit round a table in the middle of an open plan room. It’s basically a bar but we’re using it as a classroom. The A3 whiteboard is useful for writing key words and sentence fragments for them to use. It is small enough that I can hand it to a student for them to add words.

Why not just have students writing on paper? Successful language learning is about being willing to make mistakes and whiteboards make it easy for students to correct their errors, much more so than writing on paper, so it builds their confidence faster. They commit it to paper when it’s correct.

Dish sponges make good portable whiteboard rubbers. The pens I am using also have small whiteboard rubbers built-in to the lids, which I like.

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Not in the bag

I often carry a netbook for playing audio clips to the students, when I have planned a listening exercise. I will also carry either a pair of PC loudspeakers or two sets of headphones for playing the audio. I didn’t need these today.

The bag

This A3 sized bag is usually big enough for day’s teaching. I have another one the same size if I need more. I started using one of these on my teacher training course, where my classmates gently teased me, saying it looked like I was staying overnight.

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