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. 

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