I have always thought that teaching children isn't really for me. At the same time I've always known that I won't get away without having this experience especially planning to stay in the teaching industry and pursuing a sort of academic career in the EFL field. If I want ever become a director of studies or techer trainer I need to have at least some experience with the little ones.
So the opportunity came along and three months ago I've started working with Cambodian kindergarten students. Mr Long who employed me was kind enough to give me a week to observe more experienced teacher to minimalise the shock and give me some time to make a final decision. It's very common that people think they can teach children but once they are left in a classroom with thirty kids it turns out that things get out of hand and it's more complicated than it seems.
I had my doubts. First of all, I had no experience with children whatsoever. I don't have younger siblings, I am the youngest one. Yes, my brothers have children but having lived away I rarely had time to hang out with them and if I did it usually was for a limited time when they were on their best behavior. So that really doesn't count as an experience. Secondly, I didn't know anything about children's developmnet, what to expect from them... what to demand and so on. Finally, deciding to tech children I had to get out from my comfort zone of instructing adults who I am quite good with. I was really apprehensive and basically couldn't sleep few nights before and after I'd started delivering my own lessons.
After the first day, I was knackered. I was so tired as if I'd just run the marathon and that was only four hours of teaching. Or trying to teach, I should say because first weeks were to survive really.
I was tired and still not sure if I could do it but decided not to give up regardless the snot, tears and noise.
I'd say that it took us a good month to get to know each other. It took me forever to remember thirty strange sounding names, which I sometimes still confuse or forget, to my despair.
We aren't there yet though. I still have some problems with the discipline in the classroom but I also know that there's only so much I can do with thirty-odd creepy-crawly who are not always in the mood to cooperate. On the top of that, the class is of mixed ages and abilities so my students range from three to five years old. Some of them are very independent and sharp, and some are not there yet and need lots of assistance and attention. Unfortunately there's only so much time I can give each of the students and I'm really trying not to miss any of them. Difficult.
I should add that I'm not an English teacher only. I teach maths and science as well. And basically what I'll teach them now, they will take with them to school, which the fact makes me even more apprehensive. I feel responsible for them. I would like them to finish kindergarten and go to school equipped with the whole spectrum of skills and information. I'm on the mission :-)
Because of these kids I've decided to stay in Cambodia longer. I had planned to go to Bangkok in May. I was offered a job in one of the schools in the Thai capital and tempting as it may be, I have decided to postpone it in time. It's taken me too long to get to know these kids and school, and it takes a long time for kids to get to know a teacher. So I can't leave just after three months. I'll stay with them until July then, which makes more sense.
After all Bangkok doesn't go anywhere and people there will have a place for me there in October. Yey!!! All pieces have come together.
At my 'old' school - Western International things are doing very well. We are trying to change things there so that the school becomes a player on the market again. The place had been neglected academically for a long time and with the new management we are trying to set up some standard so that students/parents will trust the place again. It's all happening now but we have first results - more enrollments, more satisfied clients so that's very good. I hope that soon we'll hire a new CELTA qualified teacher so that will make two of us. The CELTA course is not an ultimate recipe for good teaching but it certainly gives valuable knowledge and equips a new-qualified teacher with set of very useful tools. It's also sort of guarantee that such a new teacher has been taught how to give lessons in the communicative way, which I wan't to see more and more in our classes at Western. Khmer teachers often use more teacher-centered approach and are skeptical about letting students go and experimenting with the language, which I believe is the most effective way of teaching and learning the language. I do really hope that within the time and with support from me and Steve, my academic supervisor in Bangkok, we'll be able to get teachers to change their routines and teach English in a modern way.
It's really good, professionally. I'm learning new things every day. I feel that I'm developing and that I'm supported in this development by my managers and supervisors. They trust my common sense and experience, which is really nice and which is building up my teaching confidence.