April 2006 – The perils of not wearing a watch

As a conversational English teacher, one of the most important things I brought into the classroom was my watch. It allowed me to pace my lesson properly and make sure that I had enough time to get ready for my next lesson.

Lessons at NOVA are 40 minutes long. In that time the teacher needs to cover:

  • Student intros
  • Warm up exercise
  • Intro to the lesson
  • Introduce new language
  • Drills / language practice
  • Activity (situation / role play)
  • Feedback and wrap up

After lessons teachers have 10 minutes to fill out the student evaluations, put away the files or hand them off to the next teacher, then get files for the next lesson. This time is also used to check for schedule changes or take bathroom breaks. There is a bell that rings to signal the start and end of the class time, but depending on the branch and the students it may be difficult to hear.

At Numazu NOVA, it’s nearly impossible to hear the end of class bell from the kids classrooms. The kids rooms also have no visibility to the other classrooms, so you can’t see when the other teachers are going back to the teacher’s room at the end of the lesson. This caused problems for a few people in my time as a teacher, but the funniest example happened to my friend Super Dave.

One day I was in the teachers room between lessons and noticed that Super Dave had not yet returned from his kids class. As the time ticked on we started to wonder if he had missed the bell, or if the classroom required extra cleanup. After a few more minutes I decided to go check on him.

The door to the kids classroom has a window; I looked through and saw him still teaching the class, completely oblivious to the time. I knocked on the glass to get his attention and pointed at my watch. He came over and saw that he was now 7 minutes over and only had 3 minutes until his next class. This prompted him to do what many of us would do:

He yelled “OH SHIT” very loudly.

In the middle of a kids class.

Super Dave immediately covered his mouth, just like a scene from a cartoon. I felt bad for him, but couldn’t help laughing at the situation. He rushed the kids out of the class and flew down the stairs to the teachers room where his wonderful coworkers had his next lesson material ready to go with about a minute to spare.

There are two important things to learn from this story: the first is to always wear a watch when teaching conversational English. The second is that if you say a bad word in a kids class, it’s guaranteed to be the one English word that the kids will remember.

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