Managing Equipment and Teaching Aids Flexibility in overseas instruction is


Flexibility in overseas instruction is important not solely in classroom ESL teaching, but also in managing the unknowns of equipment variables. So wait and see what surprises your classroom has in the way of Equipment and Teaching Aids before you actually expect to have them for use on a regular basis. The institution's hard copy might say (as mine did) the following.

'All the classrooms are equipped with air-conditioning, computers, CD players and projectors. If the teacher has problems in handling the equipment, please consult the TA.'

The first surprise occurred on my first day. The day I began teaching the temperature was over 100 degrees and guess what, my classroom did not have air-conditioning. What had the school said about air-conditioning' On my first day I adapted by teaching at a snail´s pace and by the end of the week, the weather had cooled off. Later I learned that none of the teachers had air-conditioning in their classrooms. Management lesson one is have adaptable expectations because by the time you are there in the classroom you have to deal with it on site no matter what the situation.

The second surprise was the computerized projector system. A screen specially meant to project images from the computer was broken and could not be retracted. It hung over the chalkboard and so while there was tons of chalk I could not use the full chalkboard for the entire tour. Fortunately, I am very computer literate and I was able to use the word program to project lesson plans. Latter I began using the exposed narrow surfaces of the chalkboard to write things impromptu in my classes. Management lesson two is be as computer literate as you are able before going overseas and you will be more capable and self reliant in the classroom.

Surprise number three was the CD player they had promised was part of the computer tower and was not portable; it was part of a word program that generated images on the screen. This was different then what I had imaged it would be so I had to learn to make this work for me in the classroom, by using a combination of aids. When I played music, only images projected onto the screen so instead of using the projector I used handouts so students could see the words while listening to the music. A few times, I typed the lyrics into the word program and students could then look at them on the screen, but this was time consuming so I only did it a few times. If I had known before leaving the US that, the system was situated this way I would have saved the lyrics on a memory stick from the www instead of printing several copies from home. But I didn't know this so I had to lean how to use software which is lesson number three; be a lifetime learner.

It was good however that I did make some hard copies of the lyrics because while the school had 'said' they had photocopiers they were only available to make copies once a week and then the TA made the copies. I therefore had to be prepared to give her instructions every time I wanted copies. Lesson number four: Do some preplanning because it can make a different in student classroom interest. I was never without copies I needed for each portion of the lesson which required lyrics to music.

Another surprise came when I used a CD dialogue that came with the text that sounded muffled. If it sounded muffled to me what must it sound like to the students I wondered. I did not have to ask my students because I could see that they were having problems answering the accompanying questions. Therefore, instead of only playing the CD, I read the dialogues in clear English, then the students listened to the CD and then they read the dialogues from the teacher's addition of their textbook. By the time they had heard three different voices reading the dialogue, they were in top shape to comprehend the material. Lesson number five is find a way to tackle a bad situation such as a muffled CD, which goes with the text, and make classroom instruction even better for the students by using other available resources.

With a little ingenuity, the overseas teacher can manage any equipment or teaching aid surprises that comes about. Wait and see, but be prepared.