It’s like we are starting all over again. It’s a new school year, a new semester, and the same old books that we already made plans for last semester. So things are going pretty easy this time around for Whit and me, now old hats at this whole teaching game.
Things I’ve learned with one semester of teaching now firmly cinched under the belt:
1. Do not yell. It only makes your voice hurt. Plus Mom says you never are supposed to yell. They will not respond to this. No matter that no one is paying attention; Johnny is picking his nose again; Lucy is under the table; and that moody sixth grade girl just flipped someone off.
2. Thank God for the times (now fewer and fewer) when I do lose control of the class and the proper teachers–the Deborah-Nashes, Bevery-Powers, Emily-Witts and Rebecca-Altizers of the World–are not present and therefore will never know about my Cinderella-turned-Die-Hard-With-A-Vengeance English lesson. Yes, the one that happened today when 8-year-old Gene was running around the classroom, wielding an imaginery machine gun and chasing Harry, who was just moments ago acting out Gus the Mouse in Cinderella and practicing new vocabulary like “Cinderelley! Pick up my spoon!”
3. Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Now that I know none of my Korean co-teachers know English very well, I can pretty much teach whatever I want. I mean. Seriously. Who is going to question me? (Yesterday, I had a few kids chanting “O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma!” Don’t make that face. It was related to the discussion. Sort of.)
4. Kids have the truest perception of things sometimes. And they are the purest peephole into Korean culture.The usual questions I get from new students: “You mean you are married? And you DON’T have a baby? But why?!?” This week, I asked them to come up with words that they think of when they think of America. And here are a few, in the order they were said:
1. Harvard (in every class, this was first. Again, a straight look into Korean culture and their huge emphasis on education)
2. David Beckham. (He’s not from America, I tell them. “But Teacher! He plays for LA Galaxy! I concede.)
3. Michael Jackson.
4. Michael Jordan
5. Brittney Spears.
6. BUSHEY!!! (I don’t correct them for I think this is really hilariously funny for some reason.)
7. Obama. (Hence the Obama chant, started by the boys in class. See told you it was related.)
9. North Korea.
I don’t know about you. But I learned a lot from this American brainstorming exercise.
5. Just because you have a plan, don’t plan on using it. Because I have so little experience in teaching, I do a lot of planning, which Whit loves to goad me for since he is the ultimate non-plussed non-planner. But I need it. It’s my comfort blanket. But 7 times out of 10, I don’t use the plan. The kids are too wild. Or too quiet. Or at too low of a level. Or at too high of a level. Or I leave my plans in the last classroom. But the beauty of teaching is that you never know where class will take you. It’s kind of like writing. You have an idea. You start with that. Sometimes it fails. But sometimes you end up with something that is much, much better.
6. And the most important thing I have learned is that just because I am the teacher, that certainly doesn’t mean I know it all. You see. Without those oh-so-polite jagged red lines Microsoft places under each wronged word, I am not such a perfect speller. Somebody needs to invent a whiteboard with spellcheck. Seriously. I spelled “Kangaroo” like “Kangeroo” for about three months before I read it somewhere else and thought, OOPS. But seriously. Next time you see a Korean spelling kangaroo the wrong way you can just blame it on me. And Microsoft. And I probably shouldn’t tell on myself with this one. But during a maps class a kid asked me the capital of Canada. Canada, I asked? Hmmm. I blabbered on about Canada having provinces and each having a capital so there were many many capitals in Canada. But really. I just didn’t know. Come to find out (after some Googling), it’s Ottawa. Sure, act like you knew that. If that makes you feel better.