Thursday, April 5, 2012

Becoming a real teacher

It's been a tough week, both mentally and emotionally. But as I write this, I also cannot believe that it is time for another weekend - not that I would ever complain about such things :)

I realized this week that children really CAN sense weakness...and man have they pounced on mine. I came into this teaching thing thinking that I knew what I was doing when it came to discipline and not really thinking much more about it. I stood to be corrected. Monday afternoon saw me standing in front of my 5th and 6th grade after school class who were completely out of control. One boy was 'chair surfing', and the fact that his English name is Ocean can only make me laugh. But I became so completely overwhelmed by the fact that these kids just do not respect or understand me, the combination of which literally drove me to tears.

After making them put their heads on their desks and enjoying 5 minutes of heavenly silence, I sent them out and tried to compose my thoughts. What do I do? They cannot understand me and unfortunately I'm 'too nice' which means they take advantage. It was while I had tears in my eyes and a third grader asked me why my eyes are sweating..."Are you hot?" that I decided I needed to really think about the kind of teacher I want to be. I think my biggest mistake thus far was walking into the classroom thinking that if I smile and make fun lessons, the kids will respond to me and we'll just have this beautiful happy relationship. It's not all butterflies and rainbows and coupled with the communication problem, Mr Nice guy usually loses. I'm lucky that I have the support of the other foreign teachers, and after a good vent and advice session, which included the idea of me raging in the next class and just throwing desks and chairs everywhere (can you just picture this??), I felt a lot more empowered. I can earn their respect; I can make them see that I DO have power and will not be walked over (this is my pep talk, given to myself each morning...don't judge). And so I now have yellow and red cards which I will use like a soccer ref; a warning first, and red means punishment. And I'm going to punish them.

I think I felt like I needed to put this on my blog, not just as it's therapeutic for me, but also to let other teachers out there know that it's never too late to change tactics. I'm hopeful that after implementing the "no more Mr Nice Guy" play, the kids will respect me more and we'll be able to get a lot more done. I'm tired of being mentally and emotionally exhausted after every rowdy class. And don't get me wrong, they aren't all like that and in general I do have okay classes. But I feel that as teachers, we really do need to give the time and effort to thinking about how we will teach and be seen by the kids. It's natural to be nervous and eager to be liked, as I was, but there comes a point when enough is enough. And I've reached that point. I love my kids, and I think it's only fair to both parties that I have a strict set of rules and expectations which they know and understand, to help regulate a relationship which is strained due to the communication barrier.

I never want to lose my cool in front of my kids; never want to end up throwing a desk at someone or having to constantly scream and shout. It's not healthy or fun for anyone. So I'm changing tactics, I'm in search of a new balance. And I'm excited.

So this weekend I'm going to go to Seoul, shop till my heart's content, have a few drinks with friends and walk in on Monday ready to tackle these little people and show them who's boss. I look forward to sharing my progress with you all!

I forget it's Easter back home and all you lucky bastards get today off. I've worked...but my beer will taste that much sweeter later ;) Happy Easter weekend beautiful people, be safe.

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