Sunday, December 25, 2011

First Week Teaching

There is no reason to sugarcoat what happened. My first week teaching was a nightmare. Miserable beyond miserable. I came in expecting a challenge but it was more than I thought I could handle. I had no idea how I was going to manage everything. The workload seemed impossible with no way to ever get it under control.

I am teaching a lot of different subjects. The compnay said it would be biology with a couple health classes. That made me nervous since its been about 8 years since I have taken a biology class (I know I was technically enrolled at JCU my junior year of uni, but I never went to class and during my senior year at UNCW the only science class I took the whole year was Senior Seminar which isn't really a science class. It's just a presentation to help you improve your public speaking). I was looking forward to the challenge. I thought it would also give me a better idea about how teaching would feel in the US.

Right now I'm teaching grade 12 biology (covering: physiology, human development and immune system, etc), grade 10 biology (which includes biochem, genetics and cell structure, etc), grade 7 science (physiology, weather, chemistry and physics - i have changed the order we are covering the topics and I'm hoping we will run out of time for the physics =), grade 7 ecology, 8th grade physics of light, grade 8 astronomy, health for grades 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and an English class too. Just a little overwhelming for a teacher who has never taught before.

When I arrived at school around 7:30am (I'm not a morning person so that has been hard enough in itself!) I was given a new schedule and that was it for my orientation and training. That was it-- 'Hi. Here's your new schedule....GO!'

According to the new schedule, 3 classes were added and one started at 8:30 which gave me less than an hour to prep for a 12th grade biology class covering the circulatory system. There was no time to even think about the craziness of it all (aka freak out) since I had to learn about the circulatory system well enough to teach a 50 minute class on it in less than an hour. I didn't even know where my classroom was! I had a couple 'get to know you' activites planned and name game, but that was only going to take up a few minutes at the beginning. Luckily I had looked over that section a little the week before, but on the original schedule they gave me, I didn't have to teach that class till the end of the week so I wasn't prepared yet.

When I went into the class room I had one student since the other one was absent. (yeah there are some small classes here!) There was no way to kill time playing a name game, but on the upside it was really easy to get one name down! I guess I learned enough right before class to get through the lesson. Def not the best, but it could have been worse. The other upside to just being thrown into a classroom is that I had no time to get nervous beforehand. It was just time to go. And that's pretty much how it was for the rest of the day.

I'm teaching at a government school in the small English Program section. Not all of my classes have just 2 students, but quite a few of them are small and my 'larger' classes have 13-16. I really really love the fact that the classes are this size!!! It's a good thing since I have not had any training and am horrible with names! I'm a week in and probably know at least 75% of the kids names. I'm teaching grades 7-12 so there are a lot of names to get down. Some of the students I only see once, maybe twice a week which makes it a lot more challenging. I have my 7th graders 6 times a week and I know all their names and a fair bit about their different personalities already. They are super cute!

Unfortunately I don't get a classroom. All the foreign teachers have a desk in a shared office which makes it a fun system. Then we move from classroom to classroom to teach.

I think it was the fact that there were so many unknown factors that made it difficult and overwhelming last week-- I had no idea (and I'm still not that sure) how the testing and grading work (Thai students always pass even if they fail so its a weird system), the amount of material was overwhelming, I was lesson planning every free second of the day and staying up till at least one every night, not only figuring out what to cover, but re-learning a great deal of the material so I could teach it- there is a big difference between memorizing enough of it to pass a test back in my college days and actually teaching the material. Last week I was told I had to fill out a materials lab sheet for all my labs for the semester (it was also due last week, but I still haven't gotten around to it...labs? for the semester? Are you kidding me? I barely know what I'm teaching and they needed all my labs and a materials list for the semester!).

There is always pressure when starting a new job with wanting to do it well (that was an added stress), but now that I've figured out the atmosphere is sooo laid back it takes off some of the pressure (hence why my lab writeups for the semester are not done, however-  my classes have already completed 2 labs and 2 experiments). The other kick in the balls was the fact that the other teachers in our TESOL program were placed in schools to teach English (that's what I came over here to do), they had all the lesson plans handed to them and they were teaching material they already knew (English vs biochemistry). The other teachers weren't coming home and reading, writing, researching, planning labs, making worksheets, studying and staying up till the wee hours of the morning. And they also had a month longer to teach which means another months pay. Christy and I were not very happy about the whole situation so she sent an email to the program that placed us. Considering how useless they have been I wasn't expecting much, but they sent back a response saying we could receive our whole salary and they wouldn't take the almost 50% cut each month. Amazing news!

I'm about to wrap up my second week teaching here. Things are a million times better!

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