I have seven days of teaching under my belt. While Monday had ended a little rough causing a tiny concern for my capabilities as an educator, the rest of the week flew by and ended just peachy – with a shiny little cherry on top.
The work I do now is very different from the work I have done in the past. I am slowly realizing that perhaps this is the real answer as to why I applied to and ultimately accepted the position – accepted the challenge.
Sometimes I feel like there are still so many careers I want to test drive. How to choose just one?
How hard or easy is it to transition and adapt to a completely different career, nonetheless in a different country? Well I’m learning each and every day about just that. People do it all of the time and it’s in human nature to adapt, and so I am adapting…. and I love it. Although now that I think about it I like the word familiarizing or harmonizing much better. Adapting can imply short term or momentary and my time here will play a part in my character forever. Just like San Francisco, Pullman, and Zillah do.
“Teacha, teachaaa, lkajdflkjaherliahsdlfk” Um, what? Yes, I’ve traveled a small amount in my life and facing different languages is nothing new or surprising. But when you’re standing in front of forty 3rd graders or twenty-seven 11th graders it becomes a little more intimidating. It’s like when you were in college and you went to take the final exam. All of a sudden your mind goes completely blank, you panic slightly, and then you think ‘what do I do now?’ I am not a great artist or an actress by any means but when trying to communicate across language barriers those are the two options you have. Oh, and LOTS of smiling. A lot of apologetic looking smiling.
Let’s do some quick math…
5 3rd grade classes x 40 each = 200 students
4 5th grade classes x 40 each = 160 students
3 7th grade classes x 35 each = 105 students
2 9th grade classes x 40 each = 80 students
1 11th grade class = 27 students
572 unique students.
Oh, and I just agreed to ‘try’ teaching 6 1st grade classes. Add another 240 students to the mix, yes?
That’s twice as many students as the high school I attended.
It’s a lot of students, a lot of different ages, and a lot of different levels of English. That means a lot of different lesson plans. Mentally preparing before each class and trying to remember what we did the previous week is a task in itself. Then comes the actual teaching, or I should say inspiring? Right, fellow teachers?
So why was Monday difficult? Because the day ended with 5th graders. 5th graders who want the day to be finished and are more interested in their fellow classmates than their teacher. 5th graders who are crazy, little, screaming monkeys running around, knocking over desks, and using their rulers as weapons and barely recognize the words “sit down” and “quiet.” Huh. We only made it through the roll call list that day. I did have them provide me with their nickname and spell it using the English alphabet – so minor learning was accomplished I think. Nonetheless the 50 minutes passed and then it was time to focus on Tuesday’s classes.
Like I said, the rest of the week went pretty smoothly. You learn what things to just let be and begin to accept that the classroom will NEVER be entirely quiet (except my 11th graders – they have respect gosh darn it!) It’s in these moments you can fully embrace and understand the Thai culture and their favorite saying “mai ben rai” (read: hakuna matata, no worries, it’s okkkkkk, no problem.) I can feel myself entering the inner circle of Thai people each time this phrase goes through my head. Really. I have to be at least .001% Thai by now.
My week starts by ending the day with 5th graders so it’s only fitting that I would also end my week, aka last class of the day Friday, with 5th graders. Cooooool. As much as I was looking forward to Friday, I was also dreading it. Class began, and then after the first 15 minutes of craziness, something amazing happened! The little cherry on top, that bright little light bulb that popped into my head.
I challenged them to be quiet for 10 minutes – and they fell for it!
I held up “10” with my fingers and pointed to my watch. I wrote a count down on the board and for each minute they stayed quiet I crossed off a number. Where this little morsel of wisdom came from I’m still not sure, but it was genius. I decided to take this opportune moment of quietness and sneak in my lesson plan – when I called on the little darlings to answer a question they even whispered it to me… awe, ok I like them now. Said my inner, caring, somewhat triumphant, self. It was in this moment that I felt I could be a real teacher. At least for the next four months. You’ll probably need to ask me again in March.
Though I’ve only worn the title of ‘Teachaaa’ for seven days, I can feel myself starting to believe it. I mean, really we’re all teachers in some form or another whether we recognize it or not. Those of us who do acknowledge it know that choosing how, what, and why, to teach is the actual tricky part.
P.S. Due to the semi-chaos of my first week of teaching, photo opportunities of the children were limited. Fear not, there will be many, many pictures of the little angels during the coming months.
P.S.S. The school colors are Blue and Pink. WSU’s original school colors. Coincidence? I think not…… Go Cougs!