Doing Demos

I know lots of experienced teachers who feel downright insulted when asked to give demos to prospective employers.

Considering that demos are artificial in terms of the time frame, rapport, and preparation teachers have with the ‘students’ (sometimes they’re just staff!), why do so many employers use them to judge a teacher’s ability in the classroom, and how come teachers (even long-term experienced ones) generally feel “put on the spot”, and nervous when asked to do them?

I found this interesting thread on Demos on TESL-EJ and thought I’d share it with you. There are some interesting ideas for teachers and managers.

Demos are totally artificial by nature but without them employers just have your word and possibly references to determine your teaching ability and style and whether it suits their program. Some schools also use certain methods and prefer certain styles, whether truly effective or not. It can also just check that they’re not hiring someone who’s such a loser that they can’t even pull off a 5 minute demo. So I’m not against them across the board. However, I certainly won’t argue that they’re appropriate in all situations.

I did my first demo in 1998 in the beginning of my first stint of teaching in Taiwan. To be honest, at that time I had very little practice in the classroom and was completely unsure what I was going to say and do, nor did I have a clue what they were looking for from me. I was placed in a classroom with over 30 children, and the school principal and 3 teachers standing at the back of the room observing me. Needless to say I was green, unsure of myself, scared, and I didn’t get the job.

I’m in the States now, and I’ve been doing a lot of teaching the past few years. These days I occupy my time with private tutoring, or small groups, and on a volunteer basis. But I’ve found that doing “demos” is not only uncommon, here or there, but can be a great experience.

Since I have been teaching regularly for a good amount of time now I am very comfortable doing it in front of practically anyone, whether they are there to learn from me or to evaluate my teaching ability, skills, methods, etc., and I am not at all bothered by this process anymore. In fact, I see it as a chance for ME to interview my prospective students and future employer, to judge whether this school/class/group is one that I feel good about coming back to and spending my precious time with.

I discovered this way of thinking years ago when working in management, and use it almost daily now in my career of counseling. By doing these “demos” it gives both parties the chance to “feel out” the person at the other end and see if there is a match there, to help decide whether moving on to the next step seems a good investment- or not.

Consider this when asked to do your next demo. When you think of it as you interviewing them as your potential client/student(s), you will find that the nervousness quickly fades. Good luck!