Week one is in the books, and I’m pretty happy about that. It was exhausting!
At orientation, we had classes on all sorts of topics, and one Korean middle school teacher led the secondary curriculum class. She talked about how awful her middle school boys were and how she was so happy to be out of that school. At one point during her lecture I looked at Matt and asked, “why is she telling us this? She’s terrifying me.” I announced after that class that I would gladly take any level assigned to me, but please, oh please don’t let it be middle school.
I’m now teaching at an all-boys middle school. I taught eight middle school classes this week and eight high school classes. However, starting next week I’ll have 19 middle school classes and four high school classes. From what I can gather from Facebook, it’s pretty rare to be teaching that many classes your first week, but it’s also been stressed that every situation and every school here is different.
I think there’s going to be a sharp learning curve. My first few classes went well, and I was feeling OK. Then on Thursday, chaos ensued. In my grade 1 class (7th grade in the U.S.) one student made another student bleed. My co-teacher and I didn’t see anything happen, but I saw a student bleeding from his forehead and after the Korean co-teacher took him to the nurse, she told me that they had been teasing each other and one threw a pencil at the other. I asked whether they or one of them should get detention and she said, “I’m not sure.”
Then for my next class, I had prepared a lesson based on the textbook that included an introductory PowerPoint and a listening excercise from the CD-rom. I showed it to the teacher that I thought I was teaching with in the morning to see if the plan sounded OK, and she said, “Well I don’t really know the students’ level yet, so we’ll see how it goes.” I thought that made sense and was set to give it a try.
Seven minutes before class was scheduled (I’m serious here. Seven minutes.) My main co-teacher says, “Alli, I’m so sorry but I was confused. You are teaching with me this class, and I already taught them that whole section yesterday. So can you do something else?” So I thought about it (panicked inside) and then figured it would be fine. I could still do my introductory PowerPoint, then would just quickly review her lesson from the day before and then finish with a game that Matt had emailed me that also was run on PowerPoint. But, as you can probably guess, nothing would go smooth for me that day, and lo and behold, the classroom didn’t have a computer or smartboard like all the other classrooms I’d been using. This classroom had a chalkboard. No one thought to tell me that when I told them I would be using PowerPoint in my lesson.
If there’s anything more terrifying than 35 middle-school boys staring at you on your first day teaching them, when EVERYTHING you had planned is out the window, and add in that they can’t understand the majority of what you are saying, I dare you to tell me what it is.
The good news? I survived. They survived. A few of them may have even learned something. I thought on my feet and managed to get through the class. And the other days were fine. Many classes went well. Some students are very cute and attentive and happy to try to speak and help their friends. I just hope I have more of the good days and less of these chaotic days going forward.