Friday, July 23, 2010

Am I really teaching English?

This week has been crazy and it’s not even over yet! Every day language, home to stuff my face in exactly ten minutes before I must run to the bus stop and go to model school.

Model school has been one of my biggest fears. I absolutely hate to be critiqued, it makes me so uncomfortable. So to teach a lesson to a bunch of 9-12 year olds for the first time, as a superior watches on and then tells you everything you did wrong was nerve wrecking. First of all, we were told nothing about our students other than their ages. We had no idea how much English they knew or what we should teach. Another issue is that in the Armenia we do team teaching, which means you teach with a partner. Teaching with another person is always really difficult; you both have different ideas of what will work and what you want to teach. Also you have to figure out the dynamics of working together. Who will teach what part of the lesson, where you will stand, and how not to speak over one another. To say the first lesson was completely trial and error is a major understatement.
As I said in my last blog, Joseph and I went in prepared to teach an autobiographic Taylor Swift song. We wanted to have our theme be biographies. We really worked hard on choosing a song and writing a meaningful and interesting lesson plan. So when we got to our class, we rushed to make our visual aids and set up the class. We anxiously awaited our students, couldn’t wait to meet them. I was nervous but confident in our plan.
As Joseph and I stand at the chalk board discussing our plan in walk our ten students, age 9-12. “Barev Dez”(Hello) they say. Hi I say back. Please take a seat. “Inch?” They say. I look at them in horror. Inch means what. Them asking me what means they do not speak English, like at all… How are you I say. “Goood” one replies, the rest look at me with blank stares. Oh My God, I am thinking. What are we going to do. I look at Joseph and we both laugh nervously before rushing into the hall for a conference. Basically we are screwed.
You can’t really plan a new lesson in the five minutes we had, so we went ahead as planned. Our lesson was way over our student’s heads, and that is putting it mildly. Nevertheless we got through the lesson, the kids loved me, I loved them, had only one disciplinary problem which I took care of immediately by moving the student away from his friends, and we got pretty good reviews for our style and technique, even though our plan was all wrong.
That night Joseph and I quickly re-wrote the rest of the week, and decided to teach the kids foods, likes and dislikes. Our next two days were as smooth as could be. The kids were angles, so sweet and smart and eager to learn. I loved them!
Then comes Thursday, a class change and a new lesson theme. Joseph and I had observed our new class the day before and had seen that they were easy to lose control of. There were two boys who talked and talked and caused others to lose focus. So going into this new class I already knew I would need to change some seats around. The question was should I wait until they became a problem, so they didn’t think I was snap judging them unfairly, or should I prevent the problem from the start. I choose the latter. The kid David was wrestling with the other boy before class began so I walked up to him, took his stuff and told him to come with me. He followed until he saw I was switching his seats. At this point he threw a fit! Started begging me not to move him, telling me he wouldn’t move and finally asking me why (all in Armenian). I told him that he would either sit in the seat I told him to, or he would leave. He kept shaking his head at me and saying no. All of his classmates got involved saying they promised he would be good and I still said no. So then he took to insulting the girl that I was moving him next to, saying he hated her and she was gross. Then once again saying why, so finally I pulled the adult card and used the good ole BECAUSE I SAID SO!. Omg the look on his face! So funny, I wanted to laugh, but I was practicing my being firm. The kid began to argue with me again, and then Joseph walks up and in Armenian says sit down or get out now, so loud that even I was afraid. The kid left….
Ahh, it is really funny to look back on, but boy did it jilt me. I was afraid all of his friends would make our lesson horrible just to be brats. But in truth we gave the best lesson we have yet and the students really loved it. We taught them description adjectives. At the end we handed out cut outs of movie stars from my people magazine and had them describe them. They really did love it and worked so hard on their descriptions. This was the first lesson plan I made by myself and we were told it was one of the best of all of model school, so I couldn’t be happier. I guess I may be a good English teacher after all, even though my English skills are pretty weak, being creative and loving kids is my niche and I am ok with that.

One more week left and we become real volunteers and move to site! Partly I can’t wait but I am so sad to leave all of my friends especially my besties and spread out across the country


  1. Did the child come back the next day? See all those things you said you wouldn't do when you were growing up, like say "because I said so", and the minute your a grown up and in pinch out that phrase comes! How funny is that? Of course your a great teacher, you love kids and that's a great start. I'm very proud of you! Next time you tell the child no, walk away from him, so he doesn't think that no means maybe. Good for you for being firm and sticking to it. Give your host family a hug for me, I know your going to miss them when you leave. I also need your new address if you want any more care packages. Love you, mom

  2. English 101

    “Because I said so” is one of the top ten adult go-to phases. But an even better phase is “I hear what you are saying and nonetheless I still need you to do it.” But I don’t want to do it. “I hear that you don’t want to but nonetheless I need you to do it.” But I don’t like it. “I hear you don’t like it but nonetheless I need you to do it.”

    Validate, command and then rinse and repeat.

    Practice makes perfect

    Hey Dad I want to go to my friend’s --- I hear that you would like to go to your friend’s but nonetheless I need you to clean your room

    Hey dad can I drink your vodka? --- I hear that you would like to drink my vodka but nonetheless I need you to clean your room.

    But dad I don’t like cleaning my room, I just want to go to my friend’s house and drink your vodka --- I hear what you are saying but nonetheless I need you to clean your room.

    Now you try.

    Alyssa, I need to sit in the chair by my friends --- I hear what you are saying but none the less I need you to sit by the window.

    But Alyssa, I don’t like the window --- nonetheless I need you to sit by the window

    But the other kid that sits by the window stinks --- I hear what you are saying but I still need you to sit by the window.

    But I don’t want ---- smack

  3. I am not surprised that you are a hard ass when you teach. The world should shutter with you doling out discipline. Armenia won't know what hit it! Love you big Love!