a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures
When I was in my 20s, I was definitely not the broody type and many many years away from that stage in my life (which is kinda now). Teaching little things was an adventure for me, as I had no reference to compare them to. Instead, I watched them in absolute wonder: they were so, well, little.
Teaching kids can be challenging for even an experienced teacher. With kids you are not only trying to help them learn, but you also need to look after their safety. It’s like being a lifeguard trying to teach one child to swim but at the same time making sure that 25 others are not drowning.
I mean this in a figurative as well as a literal sense. Children crave individual attention so while you may be mobbed by 20 individual, different questions or just random things they want to say to you, you always need to make sure that Johnny is not eating his crayon or Emma hasn’t taken off her dress again. (Except in Thailand it would be more like Bank and Miss Piggy, but that’s a whole nother story).
On the other hand children can be good at responding to commands – Stop! and Freeze! being my two favourites – and they are extremely easily entertained, both of which can be serious problems with older learners. There are many different types of teacher roles we need to adapt at different times; when we teach Young Learners (YLs) we are singers, musicians, dancers, artists, clowns. Even if you are not particularly talented in singing, making music, dancing, drawing, painting (I watch Britain’s Got Talent, I don’t dream of being on that stage), that is pretty much what you will be doing in your lessons.
It can be fun, it can be boring, it can be exhausting, but no matter how you’re feeling you’ll still need to bring some fun, colour and music into your lessons. This is how kids learn, so this is what we do.
The one thing that you are guaranteed in abundance when teaching kidlets, is love. I spent so much time with my kindergarteners – in class, during lunch and naptime, and after school – I’m pretty sure some of them thought I was their mother, which was kinda cool because I got all the love and the real mothers had to deal with bathtime.
I must say, I still find teaching kids challenging. I taught children in Thailand and China, so I have a good few years of experience with them, but they still make me nervous. Give me a class of 40 adult learners and I can probably predict the kinds of questions they will ask and the response I will get from them, but give me a class of 3 little kids and I’ll have no clue what to expect.
In the beginning it was really tough for me. I remember my very first lesson I was teaching the weather to a class of 25 5-year-olds – It is sunny! It is raining! ad nauseam…Armed with flashcards, a game and a song, I thought I couldn’t go wrong. They looked so sweet. I was a bit nervous because I was being observed by the Head Teacher, the other 2 new teachers and basically the whole school because the classroom had big glass sliding doors across the one side for everyone to watch, but other than that I thought I was prepared. To be prepared is half the battle!
The minute I stepped into the glassroom I was literally attacked by all 25 little monsters. They tugged on my arms, hung on my legs, jumped on my back, pulled my hair. They had obviously smelled the fear. I finally got them under control by falling on the floor and playing dead (that shocked them into silence) and the rest of the lesson went relatively smoothly, though probably a bit boringly, as I hadn’t quite embraced the “fun teacher” role yet.
A few weeks later, we were playing a game of Ladders (a running race game using vocabulary flashcards) when one little girl got so excited she vomited. That’s when I knew I had made it as a teacher of the kidlets. Best teacher ever.