Thursday, November 11, 2010

Me...A Teacher?

So as you might have guessed from reading the title, I am now a teacher. But how?, you ask, Aren't you still in school?

Yes, of course. You see, in Belgium, Wednesday is only a half day. We go to school in the morning, and most students leave at 12:30, unless they have a class 5 bis, which ends at 1:10. However, some students choose to stay at school for activites, and some help out at the primary school next door, doing crafts, playing games, etc. So, a few weeks ago, the principal at the primary school asked the other American exchange student and I if we could teach an English course to a class of primary students, who, we were told, would be between the ages of 6 and 12. Since we both have a course 5 bis, we would start the class at 1:45 and it would last until 3:45, with a 20-minute break in the middle. And, we would be paid 20£ per week to teach (don't worry, AFS, there's no contract). And so, we both consented.

And so arrived the morning our first day of teaching. I was pretty exhausted, and half regretted my decision to teach, since I really just wanted to go home and sleep. The feeling didn't improve when I couldn't find my co-teacher after I ate lunch, and then proceeded to the school, only to find the gate locked. Not knowing what else to do, I called my sister, who was in Luxembourg city at the time. She told me that she would call one of the girls who helps out at the school, and then call me back. However, while I was waiting for her to call back, the principal found me waiting at the gate, and brought me to the classroom where I was supposed to be teaching. I was 15 minutes late. The other exchange student, Danielle, was already there and had already taught the students the alphabet.

That first day was rather hectic. We didn't have a chalkboard, or really anything to write with, so everything was oral. We didn't have any order of doing things, so we just jumped around from subject to subject. We did colors, numbers, some clothing, greetings, and random nouns. And, what was more, we went around and asked each student how old they were...and found out that about half of them are 5. Okay. So at the end of the class, I was more exhausted and not even sure if I had managed to teach them anything, then had to wait 20 minutes for the bus.

And so, I wasn't exactly looking forward to the next class.

However, Danielle and I decided on a place to meet before the class started, so we were able to enter and begin the lesson together. Already an improvement. And then, when we got to the class, we were greeted with several students shouting "Hello!" We found a chalkboard in the room and put it on two chairs, and one of the adults went and found us some chalk. Even better. We had decided beforehand to backtrack a little bit, and so we went very in depth with the alphabet. First we sang the song a few times, and then wrote each letter on the chalkboard, along with its pronunciation (for example, A = é). During the break, we planned to do start some greetings during the second half of the class, but, as it turned out, there was a theft, and we never had a second half of that class. Instead, we talked in English for the next hour while the students were in another room. We allowed ourselves the hour of English, but we usually speak in French during school, since we are both determined to go back to the United States completely fluent in French.

Anyway, even though it was short, the second class was a huge improvement from the first. I actually felt like I accomplished something. And it was even better when, the next day, I was walking past the primary school during my lunch hour, and one of my students ran to the gate near me, shouting "Madame! Madame!"

And so, yesterday was our third class. We got there on time, moved the chalkboard, got our chalk, and moved all of the students so that they could see the chalkboard. We reviewed the alphabet, then moved on to some greetings. We wrote the words on the board and had the children spell out loud to practice English letters. Then we did some weather. First, we taught the difference between "good" weather and "bad" weather, and then focused on each one. We taught simple sentences. For good weather, "It's sunny" and "It's warm." For bad weather, "It's raining," "It's windy," "It's cold," "It's snowing." Teaching weather brought us into the seasons, so we wrote each season on the board, and then asked the class what the weather is like during each season. During the second hour, we focused a lot on numbers. We did just 1 through 19, since they are very young. First, we wrote them all on the board. Then we taught the rule for the -teens, and focused especially on 11, 12, 13, and 15, which don't follow the rule. A few students tried to count all the numbers, and most of them could count to ten, some as much as 15 or 16. To finish off, we went around to each student and said a number in French and asked them to say it in English. For the really young students, we stayed with numbers under 10, but for the older ones, we went all the way to 19. It was very satisfying, and I think I'm speaking for both Danielle and I, to hear when a student said the number correctly. It's great to know we're helping someone, since usually we're just struggling to get our point across. And, as the students left, many of them said "Goodbye," and one little girl even gave us each a kiss on the cheek.

So I've learned a lot (for one thing, teaching is a lot easier with a chalkboard), and I definitely don't regret my decision to teach. Ready for next week... :)

Oh, and last week we had a vacation for Toussaint, so I went to Italy and the South of France with my host mom and sisters. I'm just loading the pictures now, so I'll write about that another time.

à bientôt!

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