Covid-19 ImpactJobSIAS

Common classroom problems… and how to fix them


If you’ve thought about being a teacher, then you’ve probably had the teacher night terrors. Those dreams seem so real when you think you’ve forgotten your entire lesson, or you don’t have enough planned out and there’s still thirty minutes left in class, or the projector breaks down and you have to teach the lesson using the blackboard. As a new teacher, I am constantly going through the “what if” scenarios in my head of the worst possible things that could happen in class. Some of the scenarios have actually happened to me, and others I’ve only heard about. I’m going to give you some “what if” situations and how to handle them correctly and confidently in your classroom!

Control panel for the teaching podium

Problem #1—The technology stops working. This is probably the most common issue that could arise and also the easiest to fix. Sometimes a teacher will buy the wrong type of cord to plug his computer into the projector. Other times the projector itself will fail, or the sound stops working, or maybe your computer dies. If there is an issue with the equipment or your computer, there are tech people on hand to assist you!

There is a phone number in every room on the teacher’s stand. The easiest solution is to ask one of the students to call the number. The student will understand that you’re having a problem, and a tech person is normally at your classroom in under five minutes. My first week of teaching, I unknowingly had the wrong cord for the projector. I had a student call the number, and the tech person actually gave me his computer to use! Because of circumstances such as this, I highly recommend putting everything vital (teaching PowerPoints, the gradebook) on a flash drive. I was able to plug my flash drive into the tech person’s computer and continue teaching. Also, make sure you always bring your computer charger in case it decides to die during your class.

Problem #2—You finished teaching, but there’s still time left over in class. This has happened to me a few times and will probably happen to everyone their first semester teaching. It can be difficult to gauge how much time an activity takes, especially as every class has a different speed at which they learn. If this happens, you can play some easy to explain, no prep time required, games. Games I’ve done are hangman (with English words they learned that class), the four-corner game, and charades. Another idea is to get them into groups and give them discussion questions to talk about related to the lesson. Or you could have the groups come up with a question about English/ English culture for you. My last idea is to review what your students have already learned. Give them a pop quiz on vocabulary or have them practice pronunciation terms again.

It’s a good idea to plan ahead for this situation. I always plan more activities than I think my students can get through. There have been multiple times where I ended up using my extra activities because some of my classes learn quicker than others.

Problem #3—You forgot something necessary for your lesson. I’ve had that sinking feeling when I realized I forgot to bring supplies for my game. Luckily, all the Oral English freshman teachers and sophomore teachers are on group chats together for this reason. People often ask if someone is available to go run and bring it to their classroom. At Sias, people help each other succeed. If you forgot your computer charger or your textbook, a teacher will be more than willing to give you theirs. 

Something I’ve learned is to be prepared to adjust games, projects, and lessons in general. If you forgot a piece of a game, have another version ready using the blackboard or the students’ phones. Sometimes a student will forget his textbook. I put screenshots of the textbook exercises on the PowerPoint, so all the students can participate, no matter what.

Problem #4—You ask a question, and the students just stare back at you. This scenario can be unsettling, especially for a new teacher. What are you supposed to do when the students aren’t participating and answering questions? Well, chances are that the students didn’t understand what you said. Give them a minute or two of silence to think. If they still don’t answer, write it on the board and say it using simpler vocabulary. If they STILL don’t answer, then maybe the students are too shy or uncomfortable. Lighten up the classroom atmosphere by getting to know your students, tell them jokes or a short story about your life, let them know it’s okay to make mistakes. Once your students feel accepted and relaxed, they’ll probably start yelling out the answer.

For this issue, the most important thing is to not get visibly frustrated with your students. They are learning a new language, so they are already stressed without you adding more pressure on them. The more open and friendly you are, even if it requires you to answer the questions for the first couple classes, the more likely they’ll start participating. 

I hope these “what if” problems and solutions make you feel more ready to step into that classroom! If you are a first-time teacher, try not to stress about everything that could go wrong in your classroom. The chances of something unexpected happening in your classroom is pretty high, but if you take a deep breath and face it head on, you’ll be fine! Do any of you teachers out there have some additional advice on how to handle problems in the classroom? 

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