I’m one month into teaching.
All I have to say is hats off to middle school teachers. Teaching adolescents has been a demanding, but rewarding experience.
Every morning at 8am, I need to gather the energy to lead a class of teenagers. Not just teach them English…(that’s the easy part)…but make them engaged. Unlike teaching ESL to kids, teenagers are a tough crowd. Getting them to speak in a second language feels impossible on some days. Shyness, insecurity in front of their peers, drama, 17-year-old boys who couldn’t be bothered- all kinds of issues, personalities, and family backgrounds come into my classroom every day. My mind is constantly adapting to these various attention spans, attitudes, and English skills.
In Chile, I go through plan A, B, C, D, E, ( and F ) every day. It’s almost guaranteed that the first two plans are not going to go how they’re played out in my mind. Nope. Actually, when stuff does go exactly as planned, I start to feel skeptical- like the fates are messing with me. (This is Chile, isn’t it!?)
Classes have overall been going well. My students are pretty behaved compared to other schools. (My friend ended up kicking out his entire class a few weeks ago because they wouldn’t listen to him.)
As the weeks go on, I’ve learned that altering my lessons slightly for each group is the key to a smooth class. One particular class of 4 medios loves learning about world news, so I always try and bring in a video or current event to start the day. Last week I showed them the video of Obama’s speech saying gay couples should be allowed to marry. For the rest of the class, they worked on their dialogues for a video we’re making about Chile. The Red Hot Chili Peppers played in the background. (There are two boys in this class who rarely speak, but they knew every word to “Californication”, and sang along perfectly.)
After the bell rang, I was erasing the whiteboard and amidst the shuffle of students leaving, I heard one girl call me. “Meees….” I turned around and she smiled, “Your classes are fun.” You have no idea how much that sentence made my day. After a long week, it felt all worth it just to hear that.
And another sweet surprise: Last week, in my III medio class, one of my student’s asked me out of nowhere, “Meees….Do you know Berkeley?” Berkeley!? It was the last city I was expecting my students to ask me about. Apparently, she read a book by Isabelle Allende, and the characters were in Berkeley. Now she wants to go visit. That’s where I was living and working before moving to Chile. Some of my family still lives there, and it will always be my home. Hearing my student ask me about it made me smile.
I have so many stories to tell from my classes, but that post will be for another day. Right now it’s Friday, and I’m heading to Northern Patagonia in a few hours. Next up: volcanos and lakeside towns.