I’m a little late on this post, because the last week has been hectic and exhausting to say the least.
You know how they always tell you that when giving a speech you should try to picture that everyone in the crowd is naked? Well, last week, during my first teaching lesson, it felt like just the opposite.
“Am I naked up here and I just don’t know it or something?” I thought to myself, as the mouths of a bunch of teens stared at me like nothing coming out of my mouth was making sense.
One of the girls, while I doing introductions, asked me, “Is this your first teaching experience?” I panicked. “Oh no,” I thought. “Is it that obvious?”
I calmly told her that yes, this was my first teaching experience, although I have a lot of different experiences with younger people.
“I should have lied,” I thought to myself after seeing her reaction. I had shown fear. I had shown weakness.
Getting all of your materials for the day organized, while also taking attendance of a bunch of kids whose names you don’t yet know (I could probably have a 50/50 shot of being correct if I guess the names Katka, Suzka or Sam), while filling out the ominous class book (and trying to find your page in a different language), …while also keeping the class busy is not the easiest balancing act.
The first class I taught, I misjudged time and I thought that class ended 10 minutes before it actually did, so when I had wrapped it up and told the students to work on the homework the rest of the time, I was confused about why they themselves looked confused. Then, when those 10 minutes were up and they left the classroom, I finally found the little sheet I wrote out with the period hours. Oops, too late.
Also, at the beginning of each class, the Slovak students are taught to stand up. During my first class I had forgotten this little tidbit, and I was rather confused about why, after just a couple of minutes, everyone was already standing up as if to leave.
Later in that day, I taught my two younger groups of students. Since they are young and “not yet jaded,” as I’ve heard some teachers say, they are always so excited when they come to class and they seem to want to take part more. In their “get-to-know-you” sheets that I had them fill out, many of them (in a new school for the first time with new classmates) wrote that they were worried about making new friends, not being able to understand their English professors (me) and not having any free time.
Their worries rang familiar in my head. Those were all the worries I had as a high school freshman (minus the language barrier one), and I felt sympathy for them. But most of all, I tried to assure them that after a few days, they would make friends and get to know their classmates in no time.
And with some of my first-year students, it actually was the case that they had absolutely no idea what was coming out of my mouth. So, I had to teach them some signs to do if I start talking too fast or if they don’t understand something. Hopefully they lose their shyness and start using them.
Currently, in my first-year classes, we are reading the Picture of Dorian Gray. I have been impressed with a lot of the students’ insight into the different themes of the book — good vs. evil, youth, mortality, innocence, friendship and transformation, to name a few.
In my third-year classes, we are learning about the topic of family. It is one of 25 topics that they have to know for their big, overall exam that they have to take at the end of their fifth year to graduate from the school. From what experienced teachers have told me, this test, called the Maturita exam, causes a lot of anxiety for these students. So, when I first spoke about the Maturita book my students would have to buy, they looked a little scared. Hopefully, over the next few weeks as I continue to adjust to teaching and get more comfortable, I will help ease their fears about the big, bad Maturita exam.
The main thought I took away with me after my first week teaching was that teachers are not respected nearly enough, especially in the states. And although my experience is of course different because I’m teaching English language learners and I don’t have an education degree, I am quite confident it is one of the most difficult jobs (or rather vocations) out there.
At the end of my first day teaching, I could have walked outside of the school, face planted in the grass, and fallen fast asleep right there.
Maybe I’ll try that sometime.