Monday, September 3, 2012

How Do I Get To......?

The rooms I teach in have only a white board or black board and a dusty old TV in the corner.  I have no overhead projector, no computer projector, not even a screen to use if I had either of the former.  The rooms are so full of students that to gain their attention and to have them hear me, I have to use a microphone.  Most often the mike doesn't work because so many teachers have pulled at the wires.  I know, because I pulled one out the other day, breaking the plug.  I like to walk around the room as I teach and that has caused me to trip on occasion on the wire, as well.  I bought a box that lets me connect my computer to the TV that has allowed me to use videos on occasion, but the screen is so small, the students in the rear can't see subtitles.  I know because I stood in back while showing something.

Each day, I go to class with my backpack filled with my laptop, copies of songs and other necessary items.  I have also taken to carrying a separate bag with my props for my stories and any papers I may have graded.  Sometimes, I may also have a guitar in hand.  There are no breaks between classes and on some days, I have to get across the campus with all that in tow and with the heat and humidity, I can arrive in class covered in sweat, muscles sore from my burden.  Thus when I enter a class, I am not always in the finest of spirits.  I find myself getting frustrated with the lack of support the teachers get and that can carry over to how I feel when I enter the classroom.

But then a small miracle happens.  As soon as I enter the room, the lead student yells, "everyone stand up!" which they do.  "Good morning, teacher," they say in unison.
"Good morning, class.  How are you today?"  I went several weeks before I realized that was the response they were looking for.  I would look out into the room and see all the young smiling faces at me, the girls in their red skirts and ponytails and boys in the blue shorts.  The freshmen girls all have two ribbons in their hair, one on each side of their head.  The sophomore girls have a single ribbon, red, at the back of their head.  As I walk to class in the morning, I see girls and sometimes boys, braiding other girls' hair, getting them ready for the day.  Each time I am addressed by my class, all my frustration melts away and I feel fantastic.
"We are fine and you?" they respond.  I tell them how happy I am to see them and then ask them to sit down which they do.  After that the class may or may not go as I plan, but I am beginning to not worry about that so much.

I have been looking for ways to teach conversation.  The more research I did online and in books, the more frustrated I got.  Much of the material I have seen focuses mostly on grammar which is great if they want to write clearly, but it can get in the way of conversation.  One suggestion was to write conversation starters on pieces of paper and pass them out to teams of students.  Thais like working in teams, so I thought that might work.  I was able to get a few quick answers, but overall, the idea bombed.

Games are often suggested, too.  The trouble with me, though, is that I am not much of a game player.  I saw a video of a teacher using idioms as an exercise, so I gave that a try.  I mentioned my animal idiom presentation but then I wanted to hear from them.  I asked them to give me directions to the cafeteria.  No matter which class I asked, I got nothing but blank stares.  I then wrote both the question and the answer on the board.  I had them write it down and read it back to me.  We finally walked out the class and followed the directions to see if they were accurate.  They were.  This week they have to tell me how to get to their house.

I have much to learn about being an effective teacher.  Each week, each day, is a challenge for me as I figure out how each class will react to whatever I am teaching.  For the first time in many years, though, I believe I am where I belong.  And it was nice to be called a fox, too.

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