5 months in, I’ve finally settled into the daily life of teaching. Now that routines have been set and the initial clouds of misconception has settled, it’s time to reflect on whether this is a positive experience or not. There appears to be significant advantages as well as competing disadvantages which separate those who keep working for years to those who throw in the towel after a week.
Some of these points will be more specific to teaching English, however I believe some are also for being a general teacher regardless of what level.
It IS Rewarding
Preachy and cheesy, yet true. Let’s not forget, this was never a career choice or a passion, this was always intended as a job to maintaining my travels. However, as jobs go, I can’t think of a great number that gives the same level of satisfaction at the end of a day.
I personally think that education is important, and the earliest influences are obviously your teachers. I’m now in that position of responsibility, where I have a direct effect on these kid’s education. It might seem like a lot of pressure; these kids learning is directly related to your teaching skills. The reward comes when you see that these kids have learned what you’ve taught, all because of you.
It’s All About Routine
Admittedly, at the first the sheer amount you have to teach these kids and your lack of experience is daunting, particularly if you’ve never done it before. At first you have no real technique or go-to activities to teach them. You’re thrown right into the deep end, where you’ll sink or swim.
Like any job its simply about gaining a bit of experience then everything becomes a simple routine. You begin to learn about your students; how they work best, how to get through to them and what keeps their attention. You’ll start to find you teach the same things regularly so begin to perfect your method and routine of explanation, no matter how difficult the concept.
The Kids Know the Work
This is one huge advantage to the English teacher, as the kids should already know about what you’re teaching, all you’re doing is teaching the word in another language. For example, the kids will already know what fruits are, same as colours and animals, just not in English. The only barrier you’re trying to cross is teaching a new language for words they already know. This is a hell of a lot easier than trying to explain the entire concept of what seasons are.
It’s Not a 9-5
Its not your typical school hours I don’t imagine, for one thing I only begin at 9am three days a week. Being as it isn’t a typical school, alternatively an after-school program, most teaching takes place after normal working hours.
Although the shifts may appear long, you spend less than half the time in class teaching. The rest of the time you spend at you desk planning your upcoming classes. However, after starting a routine you find that planning a lesson doesn’t really take long at all. The rest of the time (unofficially) is yours to do as you please. Take a long lunch, learn Chinese, browse your phone, even take a nap.
Having a CT
Now this could just be specific to China or certain English schools, but I have the incredible advantage of having a Chinese teacher with me in every single class. They’re the go-between with you and your students. They’ll help cross the language barrier and use their experience to teach these kids the way they know best.
This takes an incredible amount of pressure off you and lightens the workload. If you fail to explain to these kids well enough (which happens) then the CT can step in with their attempt. If that fails, then they simply translate the word for them, where they instantly understand.
Of course, this can at times become a disadvantage. I mostly have a positive relationship with all my CT’s. Each have their own unique techniques and vary in the way we work together. However, some CT’s you just won’t get along with; disagreeing on methods and not seeing eye-to-eye. This is a ballache, because imagine having two people contradicting each other trying to teach you something new.
Good on the CV
There are numerous amounts of all important CV skills you’re able to gain with this line of work. One of the seemingly most important is always “teamwork”, which is a big part of working at the school. I have a different CT’s in every lesson, each with their own personalities and techniques. Working well along-side them is essential.
Another is overseeing a group of kids of varying ages. Nothing tests your patience and authority more than a screaming group of children or disinterested teenagers. It’s definitely a skill in itself, something I still haven’t totally got to grips with.
I’m also personally responsible for assessing new students. They’ll be brought to me and tested to figure out which level is suitable for the kid. This is actually a HUGE responsibility which I feel at the time. I decide whether he can skip a grade or complete an additional one. I thought my responsibilities extended to giving the kid the test, then discuss with my superiors what to do with the child. Instead, I’m solely responsible to assess the child and decide which class they’re suitable for. Its all down to my own inexperienced opinion.
Favourites and Enemies
This is something I’m sure that no teacher at any position or level would like to admit, however it is an undeniable truth. You’re not going to be able to help yourself with having favourites in class, those kids you just can’t be mad at as they’re so sweet and try so hard. You’ll also have those students which you straight up just don’t like. Those kids you’ll regularly refer to in private as “little shit”. Its crazy, these are kids, you’re not supposed to have such petty hatred of a 5-year-old! But it happens.
This is something that every teacher begrudgingly admits to, something completely unprofessional however nothing more than human nature. In life there are some people you like, and some you don’t, so why would work be any different.
Of course, this isnt hatred, it simply a result of kids who don’t give any effort, or consistently mess around, ignoring authority. The well behaved kids don’t gain a majour advantage or given special treatment compared to those you don’t like. Each child gets given the same opportunity. However, if the well behaved child is more likely to get a sweeter softer voice compared to the chaotic little shit.
Not Every Age is the Same
Being as each class of kids have a different range of ages, your technique must vary between each class. Most people will have their preferences to which age group (and therefore technique) they use.
I find there are two distinct groups; the toddlers where the world is perfectly simple, and the older kids who’ve developed some independence and attitude. Personally, I much prefer teaching the younger kids. It better suits my style of teaching where being hyperactive, loud and looking stupid works to my advantage. This won’t necessarily work with teenagers, where the work gets a bit more intense and just slightly more “boring”.
You’re a Teacher, You’re Boring
This is undoubtedly the trickiest problem any teacher must deal with. All very well and good that you’ve got a lesson plan and you know what to teach, but if the kids aren’t paying attention to you then its pointless. You have to take into consideration how boring it would be sitting there listening, and you have to construct fun new ways to teach your lesson, sometimes mid-lesson.
This is one reason why teaching the younger level of kids is easier, because it doesn’t really take too much to entertain them. However, it becomes much trickier with the older kids and near impossible with the teenagers. At that age I’m even dealing with the problem of mobile phones in my class when the work I’m teaching isn’t hitting home.
The Parents Are Watching You
This type of teaching appears to be unique as you are directly in the line of fire of the parents. You are watched and judged by them every step of the way. They’ll be stood there at the start of the lesson waving off their child and waiting to pick them up and discuss with your CT about any issues that may arise.
All classrooms are also fitted with CCTV which is constantly streamed at the front office for the parents to watch. Parents are also invited to attend an “open” class regularly, where they sit at the back and actively judge your teaching technique and asked to assess your performance.
I also have the incredibly unique feature of being able to directly contact parents of any of my students through group chats on my phone. The parents also expect a form with everything their child was taught that lesson as well as a video explaining what they did.