Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Eat. Play. Teach. Blog entry #7: Darwin's guide to co-teaching by Georgina Selander

Darwin’s Guide to Co-teaching by Georgina Selander

“Have you found a Korean boy yet?” 

“Umm no,” I mutter.

“What about me?”

I laugh awkwardly.

“I’m serious!” he replies.

This isn’t the first time this particular co-teacher has taken to hitting on me. In fact, the colleague in question is such a repeat offender that the weekly drive to work gives me the sweats. Take last week, for example:

“Have you seen Scent of a Woman?”

“Umm, I can’t remember…”

“I prefer the scent of youth…”

Seriously? Get yourself some cheap Aviators and a ‘stache and you’re on your way to being a cradle-snatcher. Congratulations. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a bit of friendly banter. But hell, the man in question is twice my age, married with children and clearly oblivious to the fact that his comments make me uncomfortable.

I wonder what his daughter must think, sitting in the back. Fortunately – considering her response to “how are you?” is “yes” – I’m fairly certain that she doesn’t grasp the gist of the conversation.

But this isn’t the only co-teaching incident to have set my teeth on edge. In the past three months, I’ve experienced a variety of blog-worthy teaching personalities:

The backseater
This teacher spends the lesson sitting at the back of the classroom, occasionally adding her disinterested two cents. She’s usually ten minutes late for the lesson and always the first to leave. The upside? You have more control over the lesson and students direct their attention to you. Downside? You’d also like to play Candy Crush in class.

The translator
This teacher deems it necessary to translate every word you utter. What does this mean? No one gives two shats about what you’re saying. They’re just waiting for the translation.

The moralist
This one tends to make you feel inadequate; correcting and appraising you in front of your students (ironically a big no-no in Korean culture, where saving face is king). The upswing? Ask me next month.

The martial
This teacher applies the logic of an army formation to teaching, ruling his classdom with military precision. He takes pleasure in disciplining students in front of their peers – sending them to the back while you are teaching or threatening them with a blunt object. You’d like to remind them that corporal punishment is illegal in your home country – but then again, you’re a little scared yourself…

The facilitator
Ah, at last. This co-teacher senses your needs – calling for order when attention spans run low or translating difficult words where charades or Google Translate has failed. You’d like to borrow her coral lipstick or ask if her brother is available for dates. But let’s not tilt the apple cart…

Of these, I’ve experienced shades of each. And although each personality brings unique opportunities and setbacks, I find that the relationships – like a good bottle of red – tends to improve with age (unless you are that lewd creepster – in which case you’ll never progress beyond a ‘cooking wine’). 

But this is not to say that I’m a perfect teacher. Just today, my grade ones were so intolerably noisy that at one point I had to whip out the dreaded “JAAA!” (a fiery Korean equivalent of ‘HEY YOU!”). I then had to remind myself not to let my students see me lose my cool, and so switched up the textbook-based lesson for some animated storytelling. 

Strangely enough, my co-teacher failed to show up for this lesson – which goes a long way to show that the mere presence of a Korean elder can affect classroom management. 

Equally, I was scolded last week for allowing my students to watch music videos at the end of class – something I occasionally allow in the last 3-5 minutes as reward for good work. ‘Fair enough’ you may be thinking – this has no relevance in the classroom. But if you are familiar with Korean boy bands, you’ll also want to get your fangirl on.

Speaking of which, Big Bang just came on my iTunes playlist… excuse me while I dance in the mirror with my hairbrush. 

**Side note: all of this in written in jest. I applaud any teacher with the balls to take on 30 adolescents. 화이팅!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

English teacher. Nice to meetcha. Blog post #2: The first dramatic peek into the classroom by Shannon Norman

The first dramatic peek into the classroom - by Shannon Norman

I think time moves faster than the speed of light. Well, I’m almost certain it does because how on earth have I already forgotten how my first day of teaching at The Knowledge Workshop panned out? Is it because time flies when you’re having fun, or is it because I have a really bad memory? I’m still teaching here, so it must’ve been fine. Only joking, of course it was fine! 

Oh Miss Confident, you say? Yeah, actually, you’re right. I am confident because I received the best training and therefore doubting my ability to do my job is pretty impossible. Yes, I was nervous. Yes, I spent over eight hours planning my lesson. Yes, I could’ve done better and yes, I am hard on myself, but that’s a very good thing. So, based on my experience, if you want to become a TEFL teacher you need to ensure that you’re well trained and have the necessary skills. Where do you get that? At a good school, and I’m grateful enough to have learned what I have because nothing is better than kickass TEFL training.

Shannon with her colleagues and students during TEFL/TESOL Practical week
So, to come back to my first day at TKW - it was rather interesting from what I can remember. In my mind I thought I was such a dork, but then all you have to do is stop, breathe and realise that your students look past what you think they can see and only really listen and watch you preach it! So chill out, life is “lekker” when you’re a TEFL teacher. 

Right, let’s chat about teaching English in South Africa. This has been one fantastic experience. It’s the only place on this planet that I’ve ever taught English, but it’s still been a bloody great ride. I thought, “Brilliant, I get to teach my students about South African culture and all these really cool things that I research,” but then I soon realised that my students were thinking something very similar. I guess it went something like, “We are going to destroy our teacher with everything that we know and make her crave our magnificent information. We are going to creep into her heart and soul and leave her begging for more good stuff.” And boy do I crave being in their presence and squeezing the knowledge out of them. I sound like such a creep, but my students are filled with so many stories and they’re all extremely intelligent – I just can’t help but show them off.  

I’ve had the privilege of teaching beautiful humans from DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Angola, Barcelona and Columbia. So basically, teaching English in South Africa has offered me diversity and new adventures, daily. It’s opened my eyes in the sense that I never thought that I would be crossing paths with so many different cultures. I'm constantly fascinated by the way in which these students communicate and express themselves in English; how you can have three different nationalities sitting around one table without it being a problem, and the language barrier becomes significantly smaller each day. It's just brilliant!

Shannon with students, Chancy, Elsa, Alfattah and Reetta in class.
Now I’m going to flip the page over and talk about something else. I’ll try to keep the creepiness out this time, I promise. We all have our own ways of coping with stressful situations, right? I was recently faced with one. As Murphy would have it, I fell sick the day I was supposed to start training one of my students for her TOEFL test (an English proficiency test). A million thoughts started running through my mind. Am I going to disappoint her, will I disappoint the school, how will we ever catch up? I stress easily – less these days – but I still manage to find time to stress. As a teacher, you have to make way for these sorts of things and just handle it the best you can. You have to work around issues that are unforeseen, but make the most of it at the same time. And what happened next was unforeseen. 

We had many public holidays during the second week of TOEFL training and school closes on public holidays. So when my student phoned in on the Tuesday of the third week of training and excused herself due to illness for two days I started feeling the pressure. It’s like the workload was telling me, “See you in hell, sweetheart.” But, this is where your coping mechanisms kick in and your role as the teacher needs to become a powerful one. You need to make sure that when teaching resumes, you take it by the horns and work like you’ve never worked before. Because it’s not like you’re in a traditional classroom where you have 30 students and where one student’s absenteeism doesn’t affect you. TKW focuses on smaller groups where each and every single student means more than words can describe. 

What I’m trying to get at is that you’re going to experience problems, and that whoever said that everything comes in the form of roses and Liquorice All Sorts is a lair. What you need to do is remain calm and give your students your all, regardless of the storm hanging over your head. 

Okay, I’m done acting like your mom and telling you what to do, just have fun out there and keep your eyes glued to the blog. I’ve got some interesting stories to share with you later on.