Not So Scared Anymore
I’m finally ready to tell you everything about my experience as a local public school teacher. I believe in November I was struggling with many things and school teaching practice was one of them. At the time, I had too many emotions and thoughts to be able to structure them in the right way, however, I had been taking some messy notes and ruminating (SPOTTED!) about the events the whole time. So, as I am more clear-headed now, I’m able to share the notes with the audience. First of all, I want to say that never in a million years had I expected this outcome. Let me explain. When I entered the university in 2018 and they told me that there was going to be some teaching within the program I was shocked, I was too stunned to speak, because all I wanted was to learn languages, I had never pictured myself as a teacher before nor did I think I was capable of ever doing it. How was I ever going to be a teacher? What could I possibly teach people? Basically, I never considered myself worthy. Also, maybe I was too afraid of the responsibility that comes with it because you never know how your words will influence other people. I feel like that’s the beauty and the curse of teaching. But now I’m realizing that in order to actually become better this mentality needs to go for good.
To summarize what I’ve been trying to say, I feared November 2021 as if it had been my scariest nightmare, my own horror movie where I was the main character that does get killed in the end, but to my surprise, I became the final girl. You can tell me all of this is a little dramatic but this is exactly what I felt. I thought that my school teaching practice would ensue (SPOTTED!) my becoming an emotional wreck, no exaggeration. This is what I had expected with all seriousness.
And now let’s talk about how it actually went.
Attending classes. This part of the teaching practice, for some reason, felt more stressful than the actual teaching part. There were some very talented and gifted teachers at the school, and I was glad to have had the chance to be present in their classroom. They used different approaches, engaging materials and clearly cared for their students’ success. The days in which I visited these teachers’ classes were extremely nice days, I felt like I was a school student too. However, not everything was so warm and sunny. I could see how some teachers of the school were being eaten alive by stress, burn-out and depression. They were simply exhausted which caused their impatience and grumpiness. Teaching English was like a routine to them and that genuinely upset me. It was hard to realize that. Every time I was leaving after such class, I felt the urge to ask the teacher a simple “Are you okay?” which I did. She told me she was tired. So, I truly hope one day all of them will find again the thing they’ve become a teacher for that they’ve lost on the way and, most importantly, get some physical and mental rest. Despite that, I’d say it was very educative to see so many teachers with their own approaches and methods. They were all so respectful and treated me as if I had been their colleague which made me feel like I belonged (though it seemed strange in the beginning). I’m super grateful for this experience and I’m sure I’ve learned a lot because I got to see the reality of public-school English classes and how they’re actually conducted. What is it that I’ve learned? Well, that methodology is not always the solution, sometimes you can do just fine without it though it’s obviously vital. That there are different children that need different approaches (duh). That sometimes students just don’t do what you ask them because they only dabble (SPOTTED?) in language learning when in reality it is not a priority to them and that’s fine as long as they stay respectful about it. And finally, that learners won’t eat you alive for making a mistake because they understand that you’re a human too, so it’s not that scary. With this in mind I came to teach my first class.
Teaching classes. English. We had to teach English to second grade and fourth grade and also Spanish to ninth grade. As a person who’d never had proper English classes until I entered the university, I was zealous to change the narrative. Okay, not “change” because that would be impossible to do in the span of a month but at least make it turn in the right direction, even a little bit, and make the students take actual interest in the language.
Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t stressed about English classes at all because I was confident that I could do it, period, and that those were people just like me only a little younger. Even though their school is one more for scientific subjects, I was pleasantly surprised to have noticed that some students were eager to learn languages and showed genuine interest in what I was saying. Basically, the students were nicely understanding and had been helping me along the way.
My first class, well, I wouldn’t lie if I said I was pretty stiff and shy (because I’m generally quite a shy person), which made the students lose their attention quickly making my job harder than it already was. Basically, I was jumping from my plan in different directions, so it was kind of difficult to follow the structure. I didn’t enjoy that class, it made me feel like a failure.
However, that was the first and last class where I felt shy because the real deal started with the second class. That was when I tried to do my best preparing the plan and following it so that we managed to do all the necessary work. One thing I’d noticed about myself was that I was extremely good with time. I operated with it like a surgeon because we had only 40 minutes for everything. It felt natural that I knew when to stop doing one assignment and start working on another, even when things got complicated, and the kids were actually keeping up. I mean, I constantly asked them if they’d finished the work while checking my watch. If it took us more time to do this, we had to cut that etc. Maybe on a subconscious level I longed for a class to be over or it was beginner’s luck — whatever it was, time was one thing I felt like I’d been doing right.
On a bad note, I felt like teaching people basic beginner level English made my own English go down. So, obviously, I tried to maintain it by reading many books and just staying on the Internet even though, victim of an unfortunate chain of events, in November I had the urge to disconnect from it completely. To say it plainly, I tried to live in English as much as possible. Moreover, I had two main struggles. Firstly, coming up with all the creative activities was extremely challenging, I had to almost physically fight myself to not just simply follow the textbook. In my opinion it’s very easy to explain: I’d never ever taught a language before so I didn’t know all the materials and games and exercises I could use and also I was just lazy. However, there was a weight on my shoulders that had been forcing me to get up and drop all that indolence (SPOTTED!): the awareness that there were people that depended on me, their knowledge depended on me (I know I’d been their teacher for just two weeks, but I still believe I’d impacted their language level just a little bit).
And one more point to add: I truly missed the university too. Well, maybe not the classes and the stress but being around people my age and individuals that genuinely care about languages just as much as I do. I’m glad to be back, I like being a student more than I do teacher.
Spanish. I cannot go without talking about Spanish. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times again: I was disappointed. No, I was heartbroken. You see, Spanish is very dear to me and I take everything related to it close to heart, so when I learned that they’d introduced it only for the ninth graders’ diplomas I was crestfallen. Why do they need that in their diplomas anyway? Where are they going with that? Overall, I had been so hyped about teaching Spanish and all my hopes were crushed in a second. Nevertheless, I did get a chance to conduct some classes with the teacher present in the classroom. To make a long story short, the first class I was nervous and messy, and the second class went better but I was also nervous and messy. Luckily, the Spanish teacher had been perspicacious (SPOTTED!) enough to cheer me up. If it hadn’t been for her constant support I probably would have fallen apart, she even congratulated me after the first one saying that I’d finally had my first Spanish class. For some reason, preparing for these lessons wasn’t as tough. It really felt like a fresh breath after spending time in a stuffy room. And the kids were so wonderful, too. We would even joke a little together as if we’d known each other for a while. I feel like I could have done better but generally, it was time well spent.
Well, these are my impressions. I still can’t believe it’s over. I left that school as if it had been just another day to me, like I was about to come back next week. But it’s really over (hopefully my teacher career isn’t though). I think the main lesson I’ve learned is that being a teacher is hard and also that if you truly invest yourself, your energy into something it will definitely pay off in the long run. On my last day I gave my second graders some stickers (shamelessly stole the idea from Stacey) as a farewell gift and I also put some of them on my phone case too so that they remind me of these days, this experience, and most importantly remind me of the fact that I’m capable of doing anything I want no matter how impossible it seems to be. And yes, I may have struggled through it but in the end, it was all worth it. I don’t think there is need to say that I believe my time in this local public school was a positive experience and I feel like a new person. Truly, when I came back to university this Tuesday it felt like we’d been gone for years, not just a month. That’s crazy!
Coming back to my Freshmen year it makes me wonder: if one thing about my perspective on teaching and my abilities had been different then, would anything had been different during my school practice? The answer is most likely, yes. But still, I needed that fear, that contempt, anxiety and resentment for my growth as a person, as a teacher and as a learner. That’s my path and I’m thankful for it.
So, it’s finally December now and it’s time to hit study mode to the fullest and finish all the things I need and start something else that will be helpful in the future. I hope that everyone also gets a chance to do what they want to do and everyone is safe and healthy. December is going to be good to us, I promise.
SPOTTED! Count: 5
Thank you for your time,