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Published: March 23rd 2010
I was very freaked out about teaching my first lesson (justifiably so as you will see). I was so freaked out that I was paralyzed. I was so paralyzed that I didn't create a lesson plan. I came into class this afternoon wailing to Leah that I was so lost and confused--and do you know what she said? She said it was normal. She said it was good, even, because I am well aware of what my weaknesses are and what problems might arise.
We've only taken two weeks of courses. That's not a lot to prepare a totally awkward newbie like me. They were intensive courses, and took up most of my waking hours--nine of them at least, and more if you count the homework and preparation. Our subject material covered everything I could have ever possibly wanted to know, but nothing, not even standing in front of your peers and pretending to teach them, can prepare you for actual teaching.
I have the habit of pretending my problems don't exist until they reach some sort of crisis stage at which point my thoughts scatter like cockroaches, and I run around in circles unable to move. Predictably, that's pretty much the way I approached teaching this evening.
How did it go? That's what you want to know.
I came in at the appointed hour and stood in front of the class, which consists of 5-10 year old orphans and neighborhood kids. Some know English better than others, and some are virtual babies who don't speak much English at all. I don't know which are which.
I also don't know names, personalities, scholastic background, or a whole host of other information that would facilitate my ability to teach. In the end, I wound up doing animals and colors. I wasn't allowed doing Q and A one-to-one, because some don't have that level of competency. I ran out of stuff to do halfway through the lesson. The Khmer teacher wouldn't let me dismiss them. The kids couldn't understand instructions, so I couldn't organize a game. There wasn't a lot the kids COULD, in fact, do, except recite colors and animals, and they can spell words on the board by rote. Gosh can these kids spell. You get a six a year old who can spell "national flag".
So I spent the last half of the lesson asking them to spell words on the dry-erase board. It was excruciating. Humiliating. Demoralizing. FAIL.
Worse, I have to teach alongside one of my classmates. I teach the younger kids for an hour, and then he teaches the older kids for an hour. Good, right? Almost. Except my partner can be rather controlling. After I complimented his teaching ability after class, he proceeded to tell me how to run mine. "You need to bring in different foods and teach them the words." "You want to divide the class in half and let the intermediates teach beginners." "You can only teach them very basic words. Don't worry about pronouns or verbs. They only need nouns."
I said, "Why are you telling me how to run my class?" which is the most you will ever see me stand up for myself. I might suck at this, but dammit, I want to think of my own lessons for the kids!
Now. I have two more weeks of this teaching business. I don't know what happens after that. I could go on to China and Jining and spend a year or a few months there (time which I will never get back), or I could stay in Cambodia. This involves a large consular headache and me wasting the $329 visa I bought to enter the Middle Kingdom. Ahh, I don't know what to do, but they want a decision by tomorrow. What would you do?
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