In the past I only taught the freshmen in my high school. I never had the opportunity to see the change (if any) in my student's English ability in the next year. There was no way for me to know if my class made any impact on them. However, this year things are different. This year I teach all the freshmen classes of course, but also teach the sophomores; half the classes in first semester and the other half in the second.
This has been an eye opening experience because I can now see the difference in the students maturity, confidence and English ability. Also, since I've already known and taught the sophomores for one year, the classroom atmosphere is very comfortable and familiar. This makes for an excellent classroom quality of life. I look forward to my classes with my sophomores because they are outgoing and fun to teach.
Also, the sophomore classes are the perfect situation for me to try new lesson plans and teaching strategies. Every teacher knows that the first time you use a new lesson plan it is always a little unorganized. You aren't sure how your Ss will react, if the timing is right, and if it will be too difficult or too easy. When you add immature and unfamiliar Ss to the situation it makes things that much worse. The sophomores have already seen all my lessons from last year so I have to make something new for them every week. However,I don't worry about my lesson flopping because I know that they will do their best to help me have a good class.
It's still hard to be sure how much my Ss have learned from me, but from them I've learned that teacher and student familiarity goes a long way toward creating a good quality of classroom life. It seems that when you have that, the teaching and the learning happens naturally.