So I’ve been teaching for a month now – first official paycheck and everything – and it’s definitely taught me a thing or two about life. I’m pleased that I wasn’t ever really a complete and utter terror at school, and that I was one of those kids that actually did my homework despite not really wanting to.
Seriously, when people say that some jobs are easier than others, if they lump teaching into that I’m not going to be happy.
I teach elementary and middle school students (so from age 7 to about 14?) and they’ve taught me one or two things so far..
1 – every day, and every class is different.
it doesn’t matter if the kids have super high energy usually, sometimes they just crash. Or they’re having an off day and it just sets off the whole tone you’re used to. Adapting to think on your feet to get them at least a little bit out of whatever funk their in is exhausting sometimes.
2 – you can never, ever, be over prepared for class
if anyone ever tells you any different, nah mate. Kids know when you’re fumbling for answers (unless you’re purposefully trying to get a laugh out of them, see 1 & 4), and it’s not a good look. Preparation is the key to success, and success means a class that’s on track and on time and doing work. Mostly.
3 – you have to pick your battles
in teaching languages, there are going to be times when your students come out with a really good idea, but it barely makes sense. Like. At all. It’s a good rule of thumb to let them finish their train of thought before you jump into corrections (don’t interrupt flow! Just don’t! From my own experiences learning Korean, when teachers jump into correct it seriously knocks your confidence in speaking) and even then, it’s choosing what to correct. Pick your battles so you don’t overwhelm them with info.
4 – teachertainment is totally a thing
haaaaaaaa. When you’re the adultiest adult in the class (help. help me. I don’t feel like I’m old enough for this some days), you’re the figure of authority; the person who disciplines them when they misbehave… and drags answers out by any means possible.
Even if that means acting out dying in the most overly exaggerated way possible, or playing an impromptu game of charades. Sometimes it’s just necessary to act the clown, the instigator, the part that they need at that moment to engage them, help them get to the word that they need to associate with the action. It’s so hard sometimes. I’m still learning how to do this easily. It’s a leave all dignity at the door kind of thing.
5 – a thick skin is essential
kids are mean. Even when you’ve worked out when they’re joking, or when they’re not, or are trying to get a laugh out of you, some of the things they say… wow. I love how brutally honest kids can be, because it can really help with aspects of class, but sometimes it’s as direct as an arrow to the heart. Especially when you work in a private school in Korea (hagwon). Your job is to get the kids to like you, and when you hear that they don’t… fkin ouch ok.
6 – hand sanitiser is also essential
depending on the age of your students. The younger they are, the more you’re going to need to give your immune system all the help it can get. Kids are brutally honest, but they’re also gross. It’s a good idea to have tissues (both dry and wet) on hand too. You just never know.
7 – take your weekends
planning for class is super important, but it’s also super important to take time for yourself. The number of times I’ve hit the end of the day on Friday and wanted to never see the face of anyone under the age of 18, even in this first month, has been too damn high. It’s good to find something that you can do to chill out – so far I have the gym, trips into Seoul, and bingeing Shadowhunters with the co-teacher B.
(Seriously I’m addicted that show is really good ok.)
8 – take the job seriously
this generally really should go without saying, but an awful lot of expat teachers don’t take their job seriously at all. I guess a lot of that comes from the fact that most positions are advertised as ‘graduate’ positions, a great way to earn money and travel, or pay back your student debt. It gets people to apply, but then some of those who successfully secure a contract sort of forget they’re teaching children. That’s kind of a really massive responsibility, and these children need to learn. Sure, take time for yourself, but make sure that you treat the job as a job and not a way to stay in the country.
9 – It’s frustrating
not just in a class sense, when you’re trying to dumb things down as much as you can to help the students understand, but also in a wow this takes up a lot of my time way. Like any full time job, it takes time. My hours are really great, but it still means that I’m having to budget my time and move things around so that I can get everything done before I bury myself in a blanket burrito.
10 – it’s actually quite fun
i’ve actually really enjoyed my first month teaching. It’s been hard, but once you hit your stride (though I’m still trying to steady mine) you actually start to enjoy it. The kids are hilarious, and it’s been great so far getting to know them as people. Sometimes it’s tough, and there are days when I kind of really just want to cry, but I’m just starting out and I’ve had way more good days than bad in the last few weeks, which is really nice. Hopefully I still feel the same way in 6 months time!
What are some things that you’ve learned, or did learn, in your first full time job? I’d love to know if any of them are the same as mine! Also, if you’re teaching abroad, do you agree with these? Let me know if I missed any!