To Teach or Not To Teach

One of my goals in moving here to teach English was to explore teaching as a possible career path. I have more thoughts and opinions on teaching, but I still have not made a final decision. Luckily, I still have 3 months left to figure it out!

I am enthusiastic about teaching one day, then disgusted and ready to quit my job instantly the next, depending on which group of monsters, I mean, students I have taught that day. 🙂 Here is one example of a bad day, which will provide evidence as to why I hate this job sometimes:

Two days ago, I was excited to give a new lesson I found online (all of my lessons I have found online, due to the pitiful “training” I was given in October, and only the advice of “pick a visual document and have them discuss it” from the teachers I work with) about creating an ideal society. What with all the turmoil in the world right now, France being no exception, I thought this would be a topic that would interest them. I started the lesson by asking them to put forth what they like and dislike about France. In case you weren’t aware, French people (generally) love to complain, and they are also proud of being French, so I thought this would generate a lot of discussion. In fact, it generated nothing but sullen glances, what they thought was subtle texting, and just…silence. Ok, so it’s not the most riveting topic in the world, I’m sorry that I’m not allowing you to discuss your dating lives, Jay-Z, or lipstick color trends, but it’s better than say, discussing insects or the history of balloons! It’s a relevant topic and it was completely open; they could have brought up the driving age, legalizing marijuana (which one kid half-heartedly threw out there after I insisted that someone say something), or plenty of other things that interest teenagers!

Finally I gave up and split them into groups to discuss and describe their ideal society. They had to answer ten questions such as “Will guns be allowed?” “What kind of government will it be?” “What is the official language?” etc. When they shared, two of the groups had decided on things like “It will be a fascist society” and “Of course, guns will be allowed” but what really pissed me off was the way they were cracking up while speaking, as if they were delivering lines. Basically, they were mocking the lesson, and weren’t taking it seriously at all. The other two groups had actually thought about the assignment and created their ideal societies, so I just thanked them for taking it seriously and ignored the others. I thought maybe I was overreacting, but when I mentioned it to their teacher in an email, she asked me for names so she can write a note home to their parents. Hopefully this will help prevent this sort of behavior in the future, as well as a new grading system I devised to reward them for contributing to discussions in class.

[I know this is a small example of what I would be dealing with as a full-time teacher, especially if I work with Teach For America, which is an option I am considering for next year. It might be a little easier without the language barrier, but at the same time more difficult due to the fact that I will have a few classes full time for the whole year. It was so frustrating to spend time preparing the lesson, be excited, come to class even though I had a sore throat, and then to have it thrown back in my face just because they didn’t feel like working.]

One student came up to me after class and told me he liked the lesson, and found the topic to be important, because his family is from out of the country and some French laws and customs make it difficult for them to maintain their relationship. This is why I feel so up-and-down all the time, because after wanting to strangle these kids, I get one little bit of good feedback that makes it all worth it! (I think. Almost.)

I have faced similar challenges as an au pair with Edgar and Gabrielle, but because I sometimes feel like a big sister or 2nd mother, their tantrums and bratty behavior is easy to overlook because I love them! But I don’t love all these high school students that I see once per week (times 250+). I resent them a lot of the time for taking me for granted and rendering me useless a lot of the time by not participating and utilizing my knowledge of English to help them in their education/future. Of course, this was just one class; there have been other days when the students have responded positively to my lesson, and I love teaching! I just wonder: How do teachers do it? Do they just send out motherly/fatherly loving vibes to all of their students and get better results? Possibly I am not cut out for teaching…or maybe just teaching in France…

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4 thoughts on “To Teach or Not To Teach

  1. They seem to need to have ” mommy” around to behave responsibly, ie their teacher, so they took the opportunity to show off to each other In my time in France, it would’ve been called “epater le bourgeois” or freak out the folks, as a loose translation. So unappealing and a waste of your time. But then you got the goodie at the end, with the student sharing something with you that he couldn’t say in the environment being controlled by the classroom clowns/bullies/idiots. No doubt there were another 5-10 kids in the class who had similar things to share. When you have your own classroom, it’s easier to control that behavior, cuz you can give out consequences, stop the idiots from taking over, or send them out. A wonderfully written blog entry, btw. a+. !!

  2. Oh the foolish idealism of youth. You will not reach all the kids all the time. If the lesson made a difference to one (or two) students then good for you.

    btw were they ‘mocking’ your lesson in French or English?

    Michael “The wise and aged one”

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