Today was long and difficult. We had to lead two classes. I got off easy since my second period was an activity period, but I couldn't decide at what point it was reasonably noisy for an activity and at what point it was too wild. I think accidentally gave out a red card to a kid who tried to say sheep but I thought it was "shut up". I feel really awful now knowing that I gave an unwarranted card out. Ugh. I want to be a better teacher, I want to hear better and not make mistakes like that again. We wound up playing hangman. Again. Like everyday except the first day I taught and my first period earlier today. My sense of time for these activities and for learning is pretty off. At least I haven't just walked out of the classroom when I had no slides left. I take that responsibility pretty seriously. And I'm being observed tomorrow. It wasn't supposed to be that way and I wasn't supposed to know, but due to some scheduling issues I am one of the last to be observed. My final class is tomorrow and I'm sure I have confused them a lot, though I hope they learned something. Whether that be "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade", "It's all a mystery to me", a fun new game involving action instead of words, ways to begin and end a letter in English, I just hope that they find it useful someday. Here's to a good last day of practicum, stepping into the classroom with a smile and becoming an incredible teacher and manager by the end of the year.
So I made it through my final day of practicum. It could have been better, but it wasn't the worst day I had either. The first day was really rough. The projector stopped working so I had a little improv to do. It worked. I even got one of the boys in the back to read me his story about aliens and not finding good Chinese food. It was really exciting to see that though I should have done a little more to make sure everyone was working on the assignment and that the assignment was understood. Some students seemed lost until I told them "Once upon a time" was a good way to start a story. Not going to lie, they were all adorable. They stressed me out and brought me out to feeling like I really wanted to reach all of them because I know they are good kids. It made me so happy to see people volunteering who were not the girls in the front. I know they are all smart and capable so I always feel frustrated when I can't reach all of them. I realize that's a tall order when I'm leading large classes 16 times a week but all the same I want to know and I want my students to know that they can do it.
It was actually really funny when the projector wasn't working and our field director stepped in to help. All the girls in the front row got really excited about being close to him.
Basically, I got a crash course in how difficult and rewarding this next year will be. I doubted myself before, but my goal for everyday will be to reach everyone. I only had my students for a week but I really liked them. Even the "difficult" students are really good kids and often just didn't understand what was going on because I asked them to do something very difficult. They were really adorable and really were doing their best to improve their English. It's just that sometimes they were afraid to make mistakes or were intimidated. I used to be the really quiet kid in class so I can understand. Hopefully my own middle and high school experiences can help me with my students since I know how perfectionism can freeze someone who wants to do everything well and be the absolute best all the time. I will miss my students sorely but I am looking forward to working with my students in Zhuzhou soon!
Well, after yesterday's disaster I did much better today though I still feel I have a lot to improve upon. I'm struggling to involve everyone and to not go through material so fast. I ended too early again today and played hangman with my students using the words we covered in my lesson about mysteries. However, I found out that this made things too easy for them since they counted out how many letters there were and just guessed the word based on that. They didn't even guess letters and just went straight for the throat. Wanting to involve as many as possible, I decided to institute a few rules: I will only take guesses involving letters until we have half the word figured out and instead of volunteering I drew names from the name bag. I even got one of my really shy students to give me a few letters today. I'm so afraid that I'm just picking on him all class because I really want him to be involved but getting him to respond is hard. It's less scary when you're with a partner or a group so I'm planning on doing more small group activities to ensure he works with me. I'm still struggling with the final culminating activity I want at the end of class, but I think I have it down for tomorrow.
I haven't been observed by the field directors yet so I'm nervous for when that happens, though there isn't much I can do by that point except what I planned for class so I guess I can't be too nervous. I felt awful after yesterday, but can you imagine if I didn't have this experience right now before walking into a much bigger classroom? And for 16 times a week? Instead of feeling terrible about confusing 26 ESL students I'd really feel bad about misleading and confusing 600 students! I feel like I'm learning to incorporate more and more everyday as I make my mistakes and try to adjust myself for what feels like a wide range of English skills for one class. I only have them until Friday, so I guess I shouldn't take it too hard but I still want to do well and ensure my students are learning. Only having them for a week is not an excuse.
So we've just completed our first day of practicum. In some ways, it's nice to have it over with. In other ways, I'm really depressed with how poorly I presented myself and managed the classroom. Yes, this period is about learning what it is like to be a teacher in a real classroom environment and I know that I shouldn't get too down about it. But I can't shake the feeling that I've made every mistake we went over during training. And I have this cough now too that I've been trying to get rid of. I get really warm and then it fades and I feel fine again. I can't help wondering if I'm at all qualified to be here. I want to do this, and I want to do this well. That's why it hurts so much when I felt so ill-prepared and I realized that I ran through my lesson plan much too fast. Everyone's saying it's OK, it's still hard to forgive myself for inadequately addressing the differences in speaking proficiency, for finding a way to make shy students more comfortable, for being clearly nervous and at times coming off as hostile (I guess I rolled my eyes a few times but I didn't notice...). I'm just angry with myself and it's going to take some work to bring myself into my next lesson plan in a much better mood and more appropriately paced. Maybe it just wasn't fair to expect so much of myself on the first day. Maybe I should have rehearsed more. It could be worse I guess. After all, this is practicum so it is a time to be practicing before being released into our actual classrooms and to take in feedback and things we should address before leaving. No real rest period until Friday evening. I feel bad that I haven't gone out to KTV with everyone or bar hopping much but I didn't want to stay out all night or cut too much into time I could spend on my lessons. Maybe I have been overthinking some of my classroom objectives and assessments.
I decided to take this on because I felt that with my background and experiences (having been a foreign language student so many times over and going from language being a subject I did well to a tool that broadened my world and allowed me access to so many new friends and resources) I could take something I enjoyed and was interested in and help someone else. I've also wanted to see China for a long time. However, I also want to know that I have done my job and done it well. Looking at my confused students today really dealt me a blow and though I will go through with this because I have made this commitment, I've begun doubting myself. I just can't let that doubt show through tomorrow when I do this again...
It has been a busy week since I last posted. As I mentioned before, orientation has been intensive but I am really happy to have that support, guidance, and network with me as I find my footing around here. I have started having more moments when people turn to me and start speaking rapid Mandarin so that I can translate for others and one moment where a confused boy said I wasn't American but I haven't been bitter about any of them. I guess my time at Franklin served me well in many ways. At least I won't have to worry about weird men yelling "Hey China!" out here.
Anyway, to get to the more positive side of this past week (since my experience thus far has been nearly all positive) I got the opportunity to visit Kaifu Temple (開福寺). I'm not wholly sure what kind of temple it was, there were 3 Buddhas you could ask blessings from and towards the back it seemed like a row of 7 or 8 gods of luck. At least, the elderly man holding a peach was very familiar. All the detail is incredible, and it has to be the first temple I've walked into with colorful electric lights inside. Unfortunately, I don't have many good pictures of the inside of the temple as people were there praying, chanting, and going through a number of rituals around me. I didn't feel wholly comfortable with the idea of walking into a group of people and taking photos of their religious spaces when they were using them.
It was certainly a different side of China than what I had seen walking around YOME, YiZhong, and Martyr's Park. There were many stands for telling fortunes, selling incense, and a lot of people begging in front of the gates. One of the volunteers gave money to one of the beggars in front of the temple and we all got swarmed as a result which was a little overwhelming at first though they left when we made it clear we were moving on.
After our visit we had to come in for lesson plan debriefs, but it was nice to have a day that was more free than any since we've arrived. We're starting practicum on Tuesday and I'm nervous to actually be in front of the classroom and to see how well my lesson plans will work, but as I said before I'm glad that the field director and assistant field director have done such a good job of pushing us on towards working in an actual classroom before releasing us. Now that I'm more used to the process and we've spent so much time going over discipline and enforcing a good learning environment I'm much more confident and aware of the things I can do as an authority figure. I did take a little time to ask for a good academic year so I suppose even my free time is going into my job.
Some of the advice we received during our first week was to write down a China moment of the day. I haven't wholly figured out what makes a moment a China moment, but I can say that today was the first time I witnessed a man drive past on his motorbike with all these live chickens and geese clucking and honking from the back where they were hanging upside down. I can also say that today when I gestured toward a family and told them they had beautiful children, one of the mothers ran her thumb over my arm and felt out all the hairs since my arm wasn't completely covered. I'm nearly two weeks into this and I feel like I've taken in so little even though I've done well at finding my way thus far.
I'm a 3rd year WorldTeach volunteer.