This School Year, I Will Eat Fewer Students

Posted on September 18, 2012 by

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I always find it entertaining when New Years rolls around and people ask you, “so what are your New Years resolutions?” I always give the most limp-wristed response I can come up with at that moment; “this year, I will try and put less jam on badgers.”

But I was thinking, about starting a new school year. When I was at school, I would always love the beginning of a school year because everything was new, the stationery was sparkling, there was no graffitti on my pencil bag and my books were beautiful blank canvases, waiting to bloom with colourful headings and my best hand-writing. (Yes, yes, I was a geek-child.) I always gave myself a stern talking to, about how this year I was going to keep all my books neat and how I was going to get all the best marks I could and that I would make everyone proud. – My new school year resolutions.

As a teacher, I think it is okay for me to give myself this stern talking-to as well. So here you go, climb inside my head, and pull up a wooden bench (the most affordable seats available)  and enjoy: “The talk with myself about being resolute”.

Dearest You, Who is Me, Who is Teacher:

Teaching is quite an important job. You have a lot of stuff to do. So here’s a list of things you will do better this year:

1. PLAN PLAN PLAN!: Sometimes its so easy to think that you can just wing-it. That, just because you are an English-speaker you are able to just give lessons. You owe it to those kids, to provide them with the best lesson you are able to plan. Speaking English does not equate to being able to teach it. Remember this: work is called work for a reason.

2. PLAY NICE TIGER!: If you are tired, remember it is not your students fault. They were not the one’s who told you to watch just one more episode of your favourite series when it was 1am and you should have been sleeping. They were not the ones who chose your career path. They were also not the ones who decided to work several jobs at once. Ergo you have no right to take your frustration or exhaustion out on them.

3. SUGGESTIONS – I SUGGEST YOU DO: Remember that one time you had that good idea, and you talked yourself out of suggesting it to your co-teacher because you thought she wouldn’t go for it. Stop doing that. It’s really annoying. If you think the class would benefit from dressing up in panda suits and dancing the waltz by the traffic circle, make the suggestion. The worst they could say is no. Which they would I am sure to that suggestion, but there are other more appropriate things you could suggest, that they might like – like a mini food festival or making paper masks that look like panda faces.

4. GRAB YOUR CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT BY THE HORNS AND DO-SI-DO: Yes you have heard these words before. But have you really managed your class, is your way of managing your class to think “it’s okay, my co-teacher will do it.” If you think that the students should be sitting in groups of four or in the form of a giant sea turtle talk to your co-teacher; explain why you think it should be this way and convince them its a great idea. If you think a student is out of line, approach the issue don’t wait for the co-teacher to do it, she has many other things to do. Don’t just step back and allow her to do everything. There is a reason they are called co-teachers, not supreme commanders of the universe.

5. LOOK AT YOUR KIDS, REALLY LOOK AT THEM: How many times have you gotten angry with a student for not doing his homework, or for sleeping in class, or for having no pencils. Have you bothered to notice he never eats lunch when all the other kids are eating? Did you see the puffy circles under his eyes? Do you notice that her clothing is threadbare? Pencils and school are of little consequence when you are cold, tired or hungry and the kids do not wear signs telling you they are these things, you have to look at them, study them and most of all try and understand them.

6. DO SOMETHING MORE: You always seem to have something else to do when the kids want you to come and watch them dancing in the halls. I tell you what, just for a change, put down your textbook/mobile/lunch/attitude, and go outside and watch them dance, hek, dance with them. You’re here for their benefit after all what good are you if you are sitting in the staff room all the time? If you are feeling superly adventurous, why don’t you try and start some kind of club or group?

7. AVOID BURN OUT: You do too much, it’s true. You’re always tired, it’s true. Sometimes you will have to say no. That’s okay. Don’t be lazy, but you do know your own limits. If you are coming home and crying yourself to sleep every night, or just not sleeping at all, you are probably overdoing it. Learn to say no and learn to tell people to leave you alone (in a nice way).

8: SING MORE: It’s okay to look like a clown in class sometimes. Singing makes you happy, it makes your kids happy and it makes the world go around. It’s true. Singing is a narrow word for what I want this resolution to include. If you find that wearing a scarf on your head and pretending you are a princess helps you teach English, who is to say don’t do it. If making jokes makes them yearn to learn more English do it. Do not be defeated by boundaries you did not create. Don’t bring a live chicken to class and make it dance, there are of course limits, but they may not be the same limits you have now.

9. DEVELOP THE INNER DEMIURGE: Isn’t that a nice word? It means creative essentially. This ties in with my telling you to sing more. Access your inner-child, you will find that allowing yourself to be seen as creative, you will give others the permission and freedom to be creative themselves. Pretend the classroom is a boat surrounded by angry, feisty sharks, pretend to be an angry feisty shark, these minds need molding and they are not going to mold themselves.

10.  MAKE IT A PASSION: You might have come here thinking that it was a cool way to travel and see the world, that’s fine, but you owe it to these students to be amazing at what you do. The best way to be amazing at what you do is to love it. Find a way to love this job, these kids, this subject. Read books on ice-breakers, try and figure out grammar, indulge and delight in learning new words and using them and teaching them. Ignite your student’s passions by fanning your own.

I think that is enough for you to chew on for this year. I wish you good luck and great success.

Yours sincerely,

Your Brain

If you have had a similar chat with your mind, you will know it is quite daunting when you realise what it has come up with. I encourage you not to let these resolutions slither down the drain like the one’s you make at New Years. It’s easier said than done, but with a little persistence, I think resolution can become habit.

I wish you all the best with the school year, I hope it is happy, full of fun and great displays of English prowess.