On Teaching: First Feelings

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One of my 16 classes. Students are practicing their dialogue with their partner.

Sept 5th – 20th:

How I first felt about teaching: Overwhelmed. I knew I would have a lot of students (I heard possibly even 1000 kids/week) but it didn’t seem that daunting until I actually started teaching. There’s so many things I want to do with and for my kids (i.e. buy them notebooks, get crafty, reward them, etc.) but it’s impossible when you have over 800 students per week for each lesson. A) I’d be broke and B) I don’t have the time. It’s not like the States where you have your same 30 or so kids. I only have my students 1x/week so I want to utilize the 40-minutes of class that I have with them and make it worthwhile.

Classroom Management is very challenging. By the end of this year, I hope to be a pro at classroom management. I don’t think I’ll ever have to do something like this again on a regular basis but if I do, I’ll be ready. In these first couple of weeks, I feel like I spend a good chunk of time disciplining students to be quiet, listen, encourage them to speak, checking for understanding, repeating, and explaining simple directions/questions in English and etc. The language barrier doesn’t help either. I’m sure this will get better as the year progresses but for now, it’s a big learning curve for me.

So many names! I always thought I was good at remembering names….and then I came to China. Not knowing all my students’ names makes it difficult for me to classroom manage, discipline students, call on students to speak, and etc. I can’t read their Chinese names/I struggle pronouncing their pinyin names and half of my students don’t have english names. It may seem like a small thing but it does make teaching more challenging. For now, I’ll pick on a random student and point to them to stand up and speak (I’ve always got my eye on the students who’re misbehaving or never speaking). I never want a student to “lose face” (be publicly embarrassed) but I do want to challenge every student to speak up, even the very quiet ones.

My goal as an oral English teacher is for my students to feel comfortable, confident and be encouraged in speaking English. They don’t all have to be “excited” to speak English (let’s be real, not everyone’s gifted or interested in learning languages) but I do want every one of my students to participate in class/activities. I want them to know their voice and opinion matters to me. I want them to be creative in how they speak, their vocabulary, and in class projects (creativity is really hard for Chinese students who’re so used to rote memorization). I want them to bring their own personalities, interests, and voice into my classroom. On a personal level, I also want to build relationships with as many students as I can in and out of the classroom, to get to know them and be a good teacher, their mentor, and hopefully also their friend.

My hope and prayer for my students is also that they know how special and worthy they are. They have SO much pressure and work so hard than someone their age should (they start school at 6am and end at 10pm every day). I want them to be able to think for themselves, to be creative and to have fun in my class. That’s a balance I’m struggling to find (how to make my lessons fun/engaging but also educational) since I know my class is not graded (hence some students not caring) and they know I’m a foreigner so I’m not as “strict” as some Chinese teachers. I want them to feel so welcomed in my class and even though there’s so many of them, I do care for each of their wellbeing.

Y’all, I may be shooting for the stars here but that was my heart even before this year began and it’s what I will hold onto as a reminder when things get rough, when I want to pull out all my hair, when they annoy the heck out of me, when I get frustrated and exhausted, and when I start doubting and wondering why am I here?

So hold me to it. Challenge me. Encourage me. And pray for me.

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