This week has been my first week of “proper” teaching (last week was really just orientation), and, over the past two days, I have realised that the teachers at my school seem to fall into two distinct categories…
Type 1. The “I have no idea what you’re doing here” teacher
This type of teacher is by far the most common. They know that I am there as a language assistant, but they don’t seem to have any conception of what my job actually entails (although they have been told by both me and the co-ordinator MULTIPLE times that I am there to work with them in the classroom, and assist with speaking and listening activities).
As they don’t know what I’m doing, and they haven’t bothered to plan the lesson, this means that they have to try and think of something for me to do on the spot. And, typically, this involves me being given 3 or 4 unfortunate students, and being told to take them outside to “speak in English” about “whatever (you) want.” There’s no plan. No materials. Nothing. And this lasts for 45 minutes.
Needless to say, it is a disaster. Because the kids aren’t familiar with me, they don’t listen to what I’m saying, and talk in Spanish, rather than English. As I have no materials, it’s really hard to think of relevant activities. And because I’ve never taught, I have no idea what level the children are at. Can a 6 year old read, for example? I don’t know!
Type 2. The “You’re here as a teacher, so you can teach” teacher
This type of teacher is much less common, but is also hard to deal with. Rather than having no idea what to do with me, the “You’re here as a teacher, so you can teach” teacher expects me to do their job. Perfectly. Without any preparation time. While they sit at the back of the room, relaxing.
Today, I had three such classes. In the first, I had to talk to Year 6 students about the concept of self-respect. In the next class, I had to teach Year 5 students grammatical structures for expressing likes and dislikes. And, in the most ridiculous class of all, I found myself trying to teach a group of 5 year olds that you eat lunch in the dining room, whilst one of the little boys kept tugging on my arm, telling me that he had something in his eye, and asking me to help him wash it out.
It was absolute hell.
There’s one teacher at the school who seems to understand what I’m meant to be doing. He lets me read all the materials, introduces the subject to the students, and then invites me to lead the class discussion, while he sits there and helps.
I love working with him.
But he’s a substitute, so he’s only there when one of the other (dreadful) teachers is away.
All I can say is, if the students learn ANY English this year, I’m going to be happy. And surprised…