Expat

Adventures in EFL teaching (mistakes were made)

The following day the class was unnaturally quiet – or exhausted. I couldn’t tell but it was a welcome drink compared to the loud din we had been previously swimming in.

I’d like to attribute it to my amazing lesson plan, and god-like teaching skills but I think everyone was just tired. The students were great, but I felt my lesson was not. I tried new things and they went ok-ay. If this was my first circus performance I’d probably be still depressed over the whole damn thing, but since I’ve got a few years under my 80 baht belt I didn’t think about it again until I started writing this post.

I told myself that these students can’t be sitting down for very long but that’s exactly what they ended up doing. It’s kind of shattering constantly thinking of new ways to get them moving. Sometimes I don’t feel creative and sometimes I don’t have the energy, and that’s okay too. I’ve had students complain about getting up too much and doing stuff too.

This past week, I feel, was the class and I figuring each other out. I mentioned 3 new students. It turns out Miss Korea went back to wearing shorty shorts and accepting the fact that she gets a lot of attention from both the boys and girls. She has a tendency to give me the “deer in headlights” look but I think it’s because she’s listening to Thai and English all the time and is probably spacing out.

My other new student is a sweet boy – let’s call him T. He’s that student who always smiles at me and makes me feel loved, really. Every teacher needs a student like him. The other boys haven’t swayed him with their boisterous ways and he doesn’t seem keen on fitting in, so he just stands tall on his own. It’s lovely to see a 13 year old with such quiet confidence (or maybe it’s unawareness? innocence?).

And then there is – N. She’s an odd one. I can’t tell if she has some sort of learning disability or is just seriously awkward. She has a tendency to tuck her head into her shoulder and say, “Stop, please.” And hold her hand up. It’s her way of collecting herself. The problem is the rest of the students find her funny because she’s different.

One of my girls (M) had a FIT when she was paired with N for a reading. Unfortunately I was so caught off guard by her thrashing about (yes, they are characters), that I didn’t know what to do. So for the rest of the week I made extra sure she wouldn’t be acting the fool again.

It’s tough. In the States, having the teacher stand up for you can be embarrassing and make things worse. What would it be like here? I decided to give M the stare down. I gave her hard looks and stood over her. I’m very comfortable standing in front of the students who are acting up, or blocking conversations that shouldn’t be happening between the students.

Kids will get tired of your voice, if you overuse it. Body language works too and I definitely learned that working with 5-7 year olds.

By the end of the week I noticed M getting calmer, and N seems to be fitting in with this gang of misfits. Thank Buddha.

My boss, aka the sheriff asked how the class was going. I told him, they were fine. I was sitting in his office because it was time for my evaluation. He gave me important feedback, but it was his observation that occurred outside of the classroom that really struck me.

He said, in so many words, “You’re too hard on yourself.”

I thought I had moved past that rookie tendency, but apparently not. I was taught as a Waldorf teacher to constantly strive, to not be contented with your teaching. If you think you are a good teacher then you are not kind of thing. So I tell myself I’m not a good teacher which just sounds loony tunes to folks who think praise is healthy and normal.

So I’m taking this moment to appreciate myself for enjoying another week with my favorite class. And to finally say, I’m a good teacher.

God, that was hard.

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