Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Joanna's #firsttimetaching

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Hey, I know this took me ages and I apologise for that.  I just wanted it to reflect the EXACT feelings I had all those years ago (which let me tell you took me a while to remember!)  and not just write some generic crap which sounds good, you know?  Anyway, please let me know what you think and more importantly if I got the gist of what you wanted this to be about.
Thanks again Theodora.  J


I remember feeling extremely nervous and afraid as I walked into my first adult class 20 years ago.  I remember thinking that I was nuts to think I was prepared for this.  I had no clue what I was walking into because I had no formal training.  Actually, I had NO training whatsoever, formal or basic.  So, I think my feelings of trepidation were well justified.
My employer told me that it was a piece of cake.   I had the books and the entire school’s library at my disposal.  There was one problem though; I had to KNOW what I was doing.  I was walking into a classroom filled with adults who were expecting me to guide them towards their goal. Feeling a great deal of pressure would be an understatement.

As I look back, it was also the misguided assumption I had of how I was “supposed” to project myself. I remember thinking that I wanted to be a “cool” teacher like Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds.  I mean who wouldn’t want to be like Michelle Pfeiffer?
However, it takes more than throwing candy bars at your students, and talking about everything under the sun to create a feeling of unity/ progress in the classroom.  These students were adults who were paying a hefty fee to learn English because each and every one of them was there for a serious reason and not to be best buddies with their teacher.  My mistake. 

That said, I wasn’t completely in the dark, I got familiar with the books and knew what my goal was for the year so I tried to prepare as best I could, yet I still felt that I was missing the main piece of the puzzle.  I felt that whatever I did just didn’t quite meet my class’s expectations.  My lack of formal training always made me feel that I had to work harder to prove myself.   That’s the way I saw it.  I know that it’s only natural to feel nervous when you first start out, but my feelings were magnified because of it.  And let me tell you, feelings of inadequacy don’t do much to boost your confidence. 

That has been rectified.  I did not continue teaching for a couple of years, but took courses in teaching to prepare myself and be better qualified the next time I walked into a classroom.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that having the books and going by the books wasn’t enough to make me a good teacher.  For me, it was mandatory to have some type of basic / formal knowledge in teaching.  Just because I’m a native speaker didn’t mean I was qualified to teach. 

In retrospect my first classroom experience wasn’t the catastrophe I’m making it out to be, but I know that if I had had some type of training, I would have felt much more confident about my abilities.

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