24 August 2009

Doing the New Teacher Dance

Okay guys, let's crunch these numbers: while only 10 students showed up to Section A of my General English course last Wednesday, 25 showed up to Section B today.  While I had been given the impression I'd have about 30 students in last week's class, I was given the impression I'd have about 15 students in this morning's class.  When it rains it pours, right?

Some highlights from Section B's "write a 4 word sentence to describe yourself" intro activity:

"Like for buy anything"
" A fanatic football lovers"
"The friends making maniac!"
"Like pink and pig"
"I confuse about everything"

And there are 20 more where those came from.  The class went okay, but this was a rowdy, mischievous bunch and I felt shaky handling so many more (and louder) students, disoriented and caught off-guard.  We didn't have time to start the first lesson after our field trip to the desk to get everyone's lesson book dissolved into chaos, which means on the first day I'm already behind schedule and I'll have to figure out how to catch them up.  I still feel very new at this teaching thing.  Basically, I confuse about everything, too.  

On the flip side, I taught my first class in the language school this afternoon (the language school classes are separate from my General English classes, which are through the university) and my student count came to a grand total of -- drum roll, please -- 4.  So then I got nervous all over again, and for the opposite reason, as having only 4 students puts a lot of pressure on me, as the teacher, to have a firm grasp on what the heck I am doing.  Which, I've accepted by now, I basically don't.  I was reminded of the Queer Theater seminar I signed up for my last semester in college -- originally 8 students had enrolled (according to the registrar's website), but that number dropped to 3 by our first class meeting.  About two weeks into the semester, after we had started meeting in our professor's office sitting around a small square card table, I realized I wasn't going to be able to juggle this elective along with my thesis (especially if I was going to have to read each week's several hundred pages of reading carefully enough to be able to sustain a three-hour discussion on it with two other students) and so mournfully, but necessarily, dropped the class. And then there were two.  Later I found out that one of the two remaining girls also dropped, thereby leaving the one lone student, who happened to be writing her thesis on Angels in America, with basically an entire semester of free, thesis-specific private tutoring.  Sometimes these things just work out.

It worked out for me too, in the end, as my 4 language school students turned out to be a lively but polite group, with generally pretty advanced English skillz.  We read an article about a famous expedition to the South Pole, and after discussing it and doing some grammar/vocabulary activities focusing on the difference between nouns, adjectives and adverbs, we ended the class by playing a game I had made up and lamely titled, "Word Race."  Now there's some serious imagination at work. The game is less lame than its name, though, at least in my opinion (and yes, I do have a genetic predisposition to unconsciously fashion sentences with internal rhyme).  Basically, I had them close their eyes while I wrote 5 adjectives down on the board.  On my count of three, they opened their eyes and "raced" to convert the adjectives to nouns as fast as they could.  The "race" turned out to be my giving them about 3 minutes while they chewed on their pens and considered and re-considered their answers, and then calling on someone to brave the front of the room and share their results with the rest of us ... but still, I think they enjoyed it.  Enough to stay 5 minutes late and do it again with different words and the reverse conversion, at least.  In any case, it felt like a small victory after a long and somewhat discouraging Day Two -- one moment in which I made a teaching decision that seemed to click.  Even if I confuse about most things, maybe there's a couple things I know how to do right. I'll have to work on classroom management and game-titling, obviously, but hey -- baby steps.  I'll take what I can get.

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