Today was my first time really in front of the kids actually teaching. I stood in front of the class, sat at the teacher’s desk and did the whole teaching thing. It felt so uncomfortable to the point of being unbearable for the first few classes.
After a week of observation, with a little involvement here and there, I was expecting that maybe I would observe with a little more hands-on interaction today. But Ree, the teacher I am replacing, told me today I would teach the class. On the outside I smiled and got up from the chair I had been comfortably sitting in off to the side for the past week. On the inside, I was like “Please no! I’m not ready! Just give me 3 more weeks or months! I can’t do this!”
One of the problems with becoming the new teacher is throwing everything off. I can do exactly what Ree does. And yet it will be totally different because I use different words and say things differently then she would and in an ESL environment the students are accustomed to how the old teacher says things. So for the first class while it was going okay, I could tell the students were definitely thrown off a bit. Right when I was thinking of just quitting then and there, Mrs. Kim, the school director, walked in and called for me.
Words cannot express how happy I was that she was saving me from what felt too impossible and overwhelming to handle. She wanted me to fill out some parts of the alien card registration application. I wrote slowly and tripled checked every single thing to postpone going back to that classroom. But I could only do so for so long and then I headed back to the class and resumed my prison sentence.
Somehow I managed to push through all the classes. And although it was really hard and felt like the worst kind of torture ever, I really think it was probably a good experience that I needed to have.
Earlier today and last week I was thinking how I hated being in a mixed role and how bad that it is. Yes I am the teacher, but in many ways I am still a student. I am still learning the system, learning the school, learning how to teach! There is so much I don’t know that I am sorta clueless like a student. But at the same time also the leader. It’s weird and I don’t like it. But today I realized it’s okay. It’s okay to stop what I’m doing and ask Ree a question. It’s okay if the students see that hey I actually have no clue what I’m doing. It’s okay if Ree tells me how she usually does things. And it’s okay if before, during and after every class I am asking 5 million questions and making sure I am doing things right. I’m learning. And I at least have the most important thing that qualifies me to teach: I am a native English speaker. And knowing that makes me feel like maybe this situation is not quite like the blind leading the blind after all.
So not knowing the system or the routine or how things are done is not a reflection of my ability to teach or my intelligence. I mean of course that is true, but you know emotions and feelings cloud that logic sometimes.
And you know I have to say while it is super scary and hard and I hate this learning phase, it is a nice feeling when I see that I’m leading the class down the right path. It’s nice when a student pokes his head into the classroom and says hi to me. It’s nice when the students answer my questions and understand what I’m saying. There are so many scary feelings, but the nice feelings don’t make them seem so bad.