Thursday, October 02, 2008

Teacher's Diary: day five

It's Saturday, and Saturday means two things: one, my favourite team will slide further down the Coca Cola Championship and two, it's private school day.

Yes, on Saturdays I work at a private language school. The most expensive one on the "shopping mall" market in fact. I was offered the post of Head Teacher at this school about eight months ago. I accepted the job and then changed my mind, causing problems for some staff there that I liked and admired very much. Since then, I've done my best to do whatever I can to help without complaint. Whatever they ask me to do (on Saturdays), I do. I don't mind, I'd just be out spending money otherwise and extra cash is always welcome.

My first class is hardly a break from the strains of teaching teenagers: it's a small group of eight and seven year olds. The usual pattern for this class is that in period one, the students will arrive throughout the fifty minute class and we will do some speaking. In period two, we will do some activities from the workbook to keep them calm and in the final period, we will play some games.

One girl turns up late and in tears. It transpires another boy ran up behind her and pulled her skirt. She spends the rest of the class interrogating the boys in the room who all profess innocence and I believe them. As I try to resolve this, another girl decides that today, the fun should start early and decides to beginning hitting me with her metal pencil case. This is regular occurrence from this student and she certainly enjoys inflicting damage, I sometimes wonder if she has been paid off by an ex-girlfriend or something. After I have persuaded her to disarm, we return to the topic. Today I'm teaching the kids about disabilities.

"So students, if I cannot see, I am blind, If I cannot hear, I am deaf. But if I cannot walk, what am I....?" is my question.

One student jumps up out of his seat and is bursting with pride as he belts out his answer...."A FISH!" he yells at the top of his voice.

We continue on. The first two periods go well and the third is typically rowdy. At this age, children have natural concentration spans and the lessons go beyond that time. The trick is to save something fun for the final period and find a way to reward them for speaking English during that time.

The afternoon class is very similar. A group of ten children. The only difference is that this class has a hyper confident girl named JJ. JJ is an only child who has been taught English since she was born. She can speak English better than any of her friends and she knows it, and frequently remind her friends of it. JJ will often talk over me in class and demand that I do certain things at certain times.

The best response I have found is to give her extra responsibility. I periodically remind JJ in private that she is my "super student" and that if she speaks English, the other children will copy her and she can help me so much by setting a good example to the others. This ploy typically works well for some time before it wears off towards the end of a class. Today, I call JJ over for our regular chat:

"JJ Are you going to be a good girl today?"

"Teacher I want play Bingo!"

"Later JJ, but are you going to be good today?"

"I love mum and dad a lot but I love teacher little bit" (I guess this is her way of telling me mum and dad have already warned her today, but they aren't here to warn her now! This kid is smart!)

"OK but if you are good today and help the teacher, we can play bingo in period three, OK?"

"OK But I can I do one thing now?"

"OK JJ, what is it?"

"Give me a chewing gum"

She saw the pack of gum in my shirt pocket!

The class survives without any casualties and I'm done for the day except my final, adult class.

My adult class are brilliant. If you could design your own class, you wouldn't go very different from what I have here: two university students and two working adults. All excellent at English, all with great attitudes and all seem to trust me, which makes it easier when introducing new ideas or tasks.

I have to consciously stop myself from teaching too much grammar: it's good for me because after a day of crowd control, I want to get into something semi-academic, but it's not what the students want from me, they want to study pronunciation and vocabulary. Today's class includes the classic "balloon debate", the scenario is several characters are on board an overloaded hot air balloon, the students must debate who is to be thrown out. They vote for the politician (naturally) and the priest.

And so my day is done. Working a six day week is a little tiring but I'm so lucky to do a job that I nearly always enjoy and is not physically demanding. I ave my areas for improve marked down: these days, I should perhaps spend less time working and more time preparing lessons and thinking up new concepts and ideas. Apart from that, things are going well. I'm looking forward to my holidays though.

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