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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Being a Teacher

I haven’t writen in a while and during the hiatus, I’ve taught 3 ½ weeks of English classes with a weeklong break in the middle. I teach boys on Saturday and Monday evenings and girls on Sunday and Tuesday evenings (and I don’t plan on ever getting used to this work week). Each class lasts 3 hours… a long time to keep 14 year olds focused. Each class has 20 students and each student has received a scholarship (funded by the US State Department) to be in the progam.

Everyone anticipated a difference in the ability of the boys and girls and this difference really does exist. The girls soar far ahead of the boys! I can speculate a few social causes for this difference but maybe that is beyond the scope of this particular blog post. For now, I will stick to my own experience:

Working with the girls is legitimately fun. I always leave with some pep in my step after making it through a whole lesson plan, successfully testing complex new games (crowd favorite = alibi), and actually getting giggles after stupid jokes. When I feel like entertaining myself, I give the girls a writing assignment. Once, I had them shout 10 interesting words or people and then create funny stories using 5 of those words. Spongebob, Harry Potter, and Tom Cruise were among the list. A surprising addition was “emo.” I didn’t think I heard correctly, so I asked them to describe the word. “You know, Teacher, in your country, there are some people who dress in all black…” Here is what one group came up with:

And here is another describing a picture I dug up of Doug (Funny… remember that show?) and his family (I thought these zany characters would be a good springboard for descripive words….):

I usually leave the boys’ classroom with a distinctly different feeling. I learned the boys’ names more quickly than the girls’ and I think one reason is that every minute (or maybe five if I’m lucky), I have the opportunity to shout a chatty person’s name, sometimes repeatedly. As any teacher should know, repetiton is good for memorization. The boys are not actually bad kids – just following their 14-year-old boy instincts, I think. Plus, a lack of English skills makes it understandably difficult to follow instructions from an English-speaking teacher. But behavior has gotten better with time and warnings. The main lesson I have learned is to count things and keep records. All I need to do is write a person’s name on the board with a “+1” and all of a sudden everyone wants to impress me to get his “+1.” For now, I think it’s better if I don’t tell them that the points don’t count for anything.

So all in all, I am really enjoying teaching, despite its expected challenges. On another positive note, the students have a one-week break at the end of January to study for exams, so I have a break too. Another Access instructor and I booked a trip to Cairo in Egypt! Can’t wait!

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