1. You make a mistake. What to do? Admit it. Correct it.
2. A student makes a humorous mistake. What to do? Keep your teacher’s face on: calm and professional. It’s not always easy. I once had a student refer to what I thought was the male member in the context of things we don’t need anymore and throw out (a lesson on phrasal verbs). It turned out he meant to say “paints” – I didn’t hear the /t/ and I distinctly heard two syllables. I was both confused and amused. After I calmly helped him clarify, he realized his own mistake and saw the humor. I think the two important things are to make the correction and make sure that any humor isn’t directed at the student, but rather at the situation.
3. You don’t know the answer to a student’s question. What to do? Find out the answer and get back to the student. You can also invite other students to offer their opinions.
4. You forgot a student’s name. What to do? Apologize with a smile and ask what the student’s name is. You might jokingly berate yourself and explain that you sometimes forget the names of your own family members.
5. You lose your train of thought during a presentation. What to do? Stay calm. Look at the notes already written on the board, glance at your lesson plan for guidance, and try to refocus. You could suggest a brief pause before moving on and have a volunteer summarize the points already made. This not only buys you time, but it may also jar your memory. Another option is to move on to the next exercise. The students’ performance will likely remind you what additional points you need to address.
6. A student makes an offensive remark either to you or another student. What to do? Make it clear that such comments are not welcome and that respect must be shown at all times. Emphasize that showing respect for others’ opinions doesn’t have to be equivalent with agreement. This is particularly important in cases of gender, religion, and culture. Every student has the right to learn in a peaceful environment. You might also do as my one colleague does: He turns the moment into a language lesson, saying, “Hey, does everyone know how to handle an offensive comment? Here are some appropriate responses…”