…is not something you just walk into,” a senior teacher advised me. That might be true, I thought, but I’m tough. And, if I taught kids, I’d get an afternoon class which increases the likelihood of finishing “early” which, in the context of many language schools, means at 5pm.
My class consisted of thirteen students, aged eleven to thirteen. I spoke with Ron, their previous teacher, and he assured me they were great.
Our first class was beautiful. We played a guessing game with pictures of my family, including a picture of my younger brother, who the female students thought was cute. We practiced each other’s names and threw a ball around. We had boardraces which, as with any game that involves running, were a smashing success. I led them to believe I spoke their language much better than I did, to discourage swearing or other questionable topics. And then we started learning from the book.
The book, however, was not fun or even interesting. Whispering to each other in their own language was more engaging, as was drawing and just generally not doing any work. Ron had played a British parlor game with them called “Mafia”, which they explained to me and I couldn’t understand. I asked Ron, and he explained to me but yet again, I missed the point. We played it anyway, and I found I could exploit it for no more than ten minutes a day. That left eighty minutes for other endeavors.
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One day I gave them an activity which involved tiny slips of papers. It was fun and competitive, which was great. When I turned my back to write on the whiteboard, they threw about a hundred scraps of paper onto the floor and stuck a few into the fan, which was not great. And there was no way to get the papers out of the fan.
Then Parents’ Day came, when parents came to sit in on the class. I was not looking forward to it at all, in fact, it represented something of a nightmare where the parents would see me for the sham I was, trying to teach their kids and failing. Luckily, they seemed to realize the challenges their offspring presented to teachers, and two actually apologized to me for various infractions.
The best part though, was when we turned on the fan to cool the overcrowded room. Click, click, click went all the little scraps of paper my students had put in it. The parents were confused at the noise, but my students and I looked at each other and smiled as if we had a clever inside joke. For that moment, we were a united group.
Then the end of the term came, I passed off the little demons to another teacher and vowed never to teach kids again.