“Sunny California,” they call it. Twenty-four years, and it’s never given me a real autumn. So imagine my delight as the world around me begins magically turning to hues of gold! The wind begins to bite at my fingertips, and while I feel a chill building, I cannot help but smile warmly at the school children passing by, singing “Hello” in their different pitches like an out-of-tune choir. Several weeks into the school year and I find myself understanding the world around me differently. And so, as the season changes, I too fall in real life.
I’m falling in love with Georgia all over again, with the unrealness of its natural beauties and the eagerness of its youth, and the hope for progress that everyone eagerly expresses. The arrival of this new season seems to have brought with it a reinvigorated fervor to learn. I am eager to teach, the students are eager to participate, parents are excited for the added support in English, and my local colleagues are expressing open-mindedness and excitement about my contributions.
Admittedly, I began my first semester as an English teacher in Georgia mostly clueless about what I was doing and what I was walking into. It was all a bit of a shock to the system as I became familiar with the different teaching techniques of my coteachers, the condition of the school rooms, and the perceived inability to communicate. Unsure of what I could contribute and of how my suggestions would be received, I sheepishly began by observing. Luckily, my coteachers and the students also seemed to share a sense of excitement for newness and they began encouraging me to share my thoughts and ideas.
While incorporating new approaches and techniques in the classroom isn’t always smooth, and is often intimidating, in our case, it has often proved beneficial. Minor changes like implementing ‘attention getters’ to quiet the classroom have proven quite popular among teachers and students alike: for the older kids, we clap out a pattern, and immediately, the students must return the clap; for the younger kids, we simply shout ‘hands in the air!’ and the students must throw both hands up in silence. The games I play with them have caught on as well: ‘hangman’ for practicing spelling of new vocabulary, and ’21 Questions’ for speaking practice, among others. It’s certainly gratifying to see the freshness in everyone’s take on time in the classroom.
While these are only minor changes, I am confident that the freshness of Fall and eagerness of the students will keep us all excited to continue trying to improve.