I’ve just finished my second month of being a 3rd and 4th grade teacher (about 5 weeks of teaching totally by myself, unsupervised.) Naturally it has been a huge learning curve and I know I’ve still got a long way to go before I feel totally organised and confident (and like I’m actually good at it) but I’ve made some observations along the way. A lot of what I’ve learnt about teaching, and about kids, has come as quite unexpected. Even teacher friends and relatives couldn’t have prepared me for a lot of them.
Children cry. A lot: Maybe it’s just me…but every single day in my 3rd grade class, at least one child is crying. In 4th grade it’s not quite every day, but still very often. Children cry because of each other, because of the work, because of you, because they think they’re in trouble, because they are in trouble, because you asked them to do something and they don’t want to, because you followed through with a consequence, and most recently, because the wind was blowing.
Sometimes, you cry too: Yesterday was the first time I cried because of my students. Sometimes, you put a lot of effort into making a class enjoyable, or you spend a long time preparing activities, and the kids just don’t want to know. It’s stressful (and hormones don’t help.)
The most capable students can be the most frustrating: I thought it would be harder and more time consuming to work with kids who don’t quite get what’s being taught, but so far I’ve found that the students who want to go above and beyond demand a lot more time. They want to run their every idea by me before they write, even when I’m working with someone else at that particular moment. It’s hard to find a balance between encouraging the kids who are already ahead and bringing the ones who are behind up to speed.
You’re probably not “cool”: Relating back to the point about crying – sometimes you think you’re lesson plan is great, engaging, and full of really fun activities. My classes will love it! You think. Oh no. You’re wrong. It turns out your lesson is confusing and not. interesting. at. all. So you’d better hope you have a plan B.
Lesson planning takes a really long time: It’s a shame we need plan B, because plan A takes such a long time to formulate. I thought lesson planning would be as simple as noting down a few ideas in a notebook. I don’t know about other schools, but in mine, a lesson plan needs to be made in Excel (I don’t know how to use it), list the date, week, grade, theme, objectives, activities, materials, times…and uploaded to the internet. Including so much detail is actually really helpful, but it takes a very, very, very long time.
Kids are sweet and adorable: During my first or second week of training, one of my girls made me a card to express her excitement about having me as a teacher. I can’t handle that kind of cuteness. Another of my girls doesn’t speak any English at all, but every day she comes and hugs me and has a conversation with me. And one of my (very troublesome) boys told me, “if they ask about your boyfriend, it’s because they’re jealous.”
You have to be much more organised than I am: Keeping track of everyone and everything is very confusing. Entering grades for reading, writing, speaking, listening, homework, spelling tests, exams…on paper and on Excel (again, I have no idea how to use this damn programme) is important for monitoring students but it’s so complicated!
It’s worth it: Generally speaking, teaching EFL to primary kids is a pretty great job. It’s anything but boring, it’s varied and you’re always learning (well, so far.) “Breakthrough” moments, high scores on exams, even just happy faces in the classroom are all rewarding and make the hard work worth it.
Who would have thought that the actual teaching would be the easy part?