19 August 2009

The Most Wanted Job in the World?

It was my first day of school today.  It began much like all the other first days of school in my life: I woke up at 6AM sharp totally disoriented by the sound of my alarm after one long summer, quickly remembered why my alarm was going off and rolled out of bed, jumped in the mandi and mildly freaked out as the first bucket of cold water hit my skin (okay, maybe that part wasn't like all my other first days of school), dressed myself in the outfit I'd laid out the night before, messed with my hair for 2 minutes longer than was necessary, shoveled a banana into my mouth, grabbed my backpack, and was out the door.  Pretty much standard as mornings before the first day of school go -- except this time, I was the teacher.

I got to school at 6:45, with 15 minutes to spare before class in which I found the key to my classroom, turned on the air conditioning, wrote "Mbak Fiona" on the board and went on a hunt for some plain printer paper, which I was thankfully able to track down many hand gestures and three colleagues later (the English-speaking student staff who normally triage my incomprehensible requests weren't in the office yet, but luckily Bu Bening came to my rescue).  I had been led to believe I would have around 30 students in this class, give or take, so by 7:10 when only ten of them had shown up I was getting a little confused.  I had planned the first half of my lesson around the understanding that roughly three times this many students would be introducing themselves, and therefore had budgeted that section of my two and half hour class accordingly.  In my mind the word "Recalculating..." blinked on and off, just like it does on the GPS screen in my mom's Honda Odyssey when you make a wrong turn.  I guess this is called "thinking on your feet."

No biggie, I got this.  As my mind continued to recalculate in the background, I introduced myself, welcomed the students to my class, and explained the icebreaker get-to-know-you activity I'd planned for them (as well as for the 20 of their peers who apparently couldn't make it).  The activity, which I'd gotten out of PiA's "Lessons that Work" book (thanks, PiA), involved each student coming up with a 4-word phrase to describe themselves or some aspect of their personality they wanted people to know about.  My example was "All over the world," since "I like to travel, and I come from the United States but I lived for a little while in Spain and now I live in Indonesia."  Obviously a stretch, but who's counting?  I passed out my hard-won printer paper and waited for the gems to roll in.  I admit I was secretly hoping for the truly bizarre and hilarious 4-word phrases "Lessons That Work" had promised me, but most of the students actually followed the assignment almost too well, coming up with solid, standard responses such as "I always feel happy" and "Music is my life."  It must have been my lame example -- I probably should have written something like, "Once had buzzed head" or "Masks obsessive-compulsion well." Despite my bad example-giving skills, however, a few of the students did venture in less-chartered waters, with phrases such as "Like to add friends" (has the "Add Friend" function on Facebook stealthily co-opted the English verb "to make friends with?" Uh oh ...) and "Queen of the World" (well YOU aren't cutting any corners, now are you).  

At the conclusion of this activity, I found I was running -- oh, let's see, only about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  (Recalculating...)  Luckily for me, this was the point in the lesson plan where we took a break for the students to go purchase their workbooks from the front desk.  Going over the class rules and syllabus took about as much time as I'd thought it would, so we started the first lesson right on time, half an hour early.  The first lesson in the book I am teaching this class out of was called "The Most Wanted Jobs in the World," and began with a short article about Peter Lind, a "Flavor Development Specialist" at Ben & Jerry's, complete with a black-and-white photo of a man holding about 4 heaping ice cream cones.  I had the students read the article out loud and then we discussed the job of Flavor Development Specialist, which, as you might guess, is apparently one of the world's most wanted. Interestingly, my students all seemed to think this was a terrible job, since tasting ice cream all day would just make you "have cold" and "get fat."  It seems ironic that the job of ice-cream tasting would be scorned by a group of college freshmen who come from a city where you can buy grilled buttered bread stuffed with cheese and chocolate on the street and every other food item is fried, but hey. Who's counting?

The vocabulary review exercise that followed this discussion ended up taking much longer than I had planned on, so in the end we came out even.  Perfect.  I was a little bit worried that this exercise was boring for them, but they seemed lively enough -- and if the book wants them to know the meaning of the words "sensitive taste buds" and "commercial quantities," then I guess I should try to go along with it.  I'll just have to figure out how to inject these lessons with a little bit more personality -- "Song of the Day," maybe?  Or "Slang of the Day?"  Like, "Dude, your job is totally bomb!"?  We'll have to see.  I wrapped up the class with a warm-up for their first assignment (come again, I'm giving ASSIGNMENTS?) which was to brainstorm a list of some jobs they would really like to have, so that when it comes time for them to write me 1 to 2 paragraphs answering the question "What is your dream job and why?" they'll be ready.  In our brainstorm, most of the repeating themes revolved around the jobs of CEO, secretary, and superstar.  Go figure.  Oh yeah, and one of my students threw in "Teacher."  Was she for serious?  Who knows.  It's a little early for me to weigh in, but I'd say the chances aren't looking half bad.


  1. Your experience sounds exactly like what my student teachers tell, right down to the three most wanted jobs!!BTW,I'd vote for song of the day. How else are they going to get all of those nuanced expressions and rhythms and rhymes?

  2. So did the other 20 show up the next day?