So today was the first day of the 2015 school year. I’m still teaching 3 Standard 3 classes, but this years brings with it the new experience of being able to teach a so-called “A” class. That was an experience I was looking forward to. Because they’re considered the most academically competent children among their peers in the school, I was expecting a certain degree of English proficiency from them. I was looking forward to not having to think about translating words and phrases for full lesson lengths anymore.
I was also intrigued by how it would feel to teach a class from the very beginning of the schooling year. Up until now, I had only taken over other people’s classes, so that was another new experience in school that I was anticipating.
Getting to enter the “A” class just now, I realised how misplaced my expectations were. Sure, the children understood me for the most part, but when I required them to speak (it was a listening & speaking activity), most of them couldn’t speak in complete sentences, with a few not even bothering to speak in English at all. And even when they did speak in full English sentences, some even got the pronouns wrong, calling Zarif that you find at the beginning of the textbook a “she”. This isn’t to say that the students are bad or anything, but it certainly made me rethink my approach to the class and at what level I should pitch my lessons to the students.
As for the second thing I was looking forward to, the feel is somewhat the same from previous experiences of entering classes for the first time. The students are still in their shy-shy phase, seemingly very well behaved, good listeners, on-task for the most part. But even I know by now that this is just a honeymoon phase. Once the year really kicks in, then the real challenges start emerging. When the students start exploring what they can and cannot do while the teacher is in class, what they can and cannot get away with, when conflicts between classmates start to form and escalate, that’s where the real teaching is at.
For now, I can only try my best to let the students understand what I expect from them, and be very specific about it. I don’t like being serious a lot, which is why I like goofing about in class, but if the situation calls for it, being firm is something that has to be done and I need to convey to the students well enough so that they understand what I’m saying and why I’m saying it.
I guess at the end of the day it’s about being able to adapt. Good teachers are good at adapting to the situation at hand. Of course they come in with a lesson plan at hand, but when the circumstances call for it, they need to think on their feet and improvise with what they have to deliver what they need to and ensure that the students come away from that class having learned something.
I’m in that business now, and I can admit that it’s not easy. In fact, it’s far from easy. But nobody said it would be. And at the end of the day, it is definitely worth it.