Today Was My Worst Day As A Teacher

28 Mar

Well, actually, yesterday was—but I am just getting around to posting this now.

I must say that I haven’t had a week this hard since back in October. It began on Monday morning when one of the 2-year-olds… (yes, I teach 2 year olds & yes, I know, ‘how can they speak English if they can’t even speak Czech?’, um, they can’t so we just play for an hour, only recently this ‘playing’ has evolved into them climbing all over me and tackling me and flipping over chairs/throwing everything in sight,etc.) So one of these 2-year-olds, after he tackled me, kicked me in the mouth.

I have two very rational, very real fears in my life: 1) Breaking my nose. It seems very painful/I feel like even the best doctors wouldn’t be able to perfectly recreate my slightly asymmetrical ski jump nose

2) Breaking/losing/cracking/damaging my teeth. ANYTHING BUT THE TEETH. I am so paranoid about my teeth I have nightmares about getting them knocked out. Mostly because after 2 years of Invisalign perfecting my chompers & brushing them 3+ times a day, the last thing I want to do is rock the pirate look.

Luckily after the sharp throbbing subsided, I saw that by some miracle, the 2-year-old had missed both my teeth and my nose, and had just given me a fat lip. My lips are extremely thin so whatever, I could use the plumping.

So after class, my fat lip and I went to teach another two classes, which went great. Even after my boss, who is ALWAYS looking out for children/teachers’ best interests & totally isn’t money hungry or anything scheduled a new class. One that she prefaced with (20mins before it started): “It’s 3 boys, one is super well-behaved, and the other two…oh you remember them, those 2 who  boys who did a demo lesson together & fought, cried, then smashed a glass plate in the kitchen after, yeah, they’re really naughty…anyways that’s who’s in the class.”

Sometimes I feel like my job is synonymous with a super hero’s: impossible and can only be completed with magical powers. Luckily I had chocolate and Skittles which I began throwing at the kids whenever they repeated English correctly. Psychological theory of positive reinforcement REALLY works with children.

So after the hell class wasn’t so hellish, my boss did what she does best: completely ruin my day. She read/translated an e-mail from a group of parents from my Thursday “ALL the parents in the class” (3 out of 6 parents but, okay, math can be hard), who said they were upset because:

1)    my classes are boring/children don’t want to come…the same children who climb all over me, constantly hug me, high 5 me and laugh at everything I do…

2)    I don’t ‘speak’ to them…uh oh, she caught on to my mute teaching practice, right when I was getting so good at miming out everything to the kids too…

3)    All we do is color, and children don’t like to do that…um, SINCE WHEN? And we are not ‘coloring’ we are demonstrating shape recognition, math practice and improving motor skills, but yeah, you’re right that’s no good.

4)    I don’t bring in foods/toys/plates/random expensive objects when I am talking about them…you know, the ones I can all TOTALLY afford from making 11,000kc a month…

Needless to say, this e-mail really upset me. Not because of what the parents had said, but because they said it. The same parents who bought me expensive Christmas chocolates, ask me about my home life and my vacations. These were not clients, these were friends. I felt pretty betrayed to be honest, also completely blindsided because I never had ANY indication they were unhappy at all.

Instantly I wanted to point fingers back. Because I realized I was set up to fail. This class was once a calm class of 4, aka: one quiet girl, a brother and sister who were silly but managable and my favorite student, Ivan. This formula worked. We had fun, we were focused and we got things done.

But then my boss decided to stuff in 3 more kids: a brother and sister who were adorable but extremely quiet and one boy who was super hyper and REFUSED to speak English. Suddenly it was a circus.

I often felt like a shepard herding sheep. Once all 7 were sitting, someone would get up, someone would knock something over, someone was already finished, and someone had no clue what was going on. It was exhausting. They were all on different levels and there was nothing I could do about it.

My boss said she would ‘help me’ plan the class because the entire structure needed to be changed. No coloring, no reading, lots of moving. Alrighty then. She liked my idea of creating a tiny city (we are learning about the city buildings such as hospitals, schools, restaurants, etc.), so I prepared to create a tiny bus we would walk around the room in, each child would have a different ‘ticket’ that would tell them to get off at a different place and it would be fun and awesome.

A huge rule of teaching: be absolutely prepared for everything to go wrong.

Thursday came and I was sick to my stomach. I knew the parents would sit in there and watch me teach, I knew they would just be waiting for me to fail. So I worked harder than I ever had before. After 3 hours of creating the tickets, setting up the room, and arranging everything, it was time for class.

The kids came in and were instantly confused. Normally we sing our hello song and then go to sit in the corner to review weather, colors, and sing some songs. No, I had to change all that. The children had no idea what to do with the change in routine and immediately formed a mutiny. I spent the next 20mins trying to get them to all sit. The worst part is 3 of them (the quiet ones) would listen and then the 4 unruly ones just wouldn’t. Ivan was the worst of all and I have never been so disappointed in him.

I took them around the little city and they had no idea what was going on. They ate the chocolate coins they were supposed to use for money, the ripped their tickets, they didn’t wait their turn. I wanted to cry. I literally just wanted to give up. Because everything was so out of my control. All I could think was how much calmer they would be right now if they were all sitting and doing a math worksheet or a shape worksheet—sure it’s ‘boring’ sure it’s ‘repetative’ but THEY WERE LEARNING. I was all on my own.

The two hours dragged. After repeatedly saying ‘no’ to me, I grabbed little Ivan’s hand and dragged him to time out. He sat there for a minute trying to be silly and then suddenly burst into tears. I felt bad but whatever. During snack time I watched the one mom who always sits in on the class go and report back to the others. I watched her go tattle on me right in front of me in a language I can’t even understand.

It took everything in me to not walk right out.

I came across a saying the other day that said ‘what you allow is what will continue’, and this is how my life has been these days. The kids are taking advantage of me because I am not strict enough. My boss STILL hasn’t given me my full paycheck when it was due MARCH 12TH, and there is just too much negative energy around me.

I was always in this all alone. I have no resources, no materials, no experience, no guidance from my boss, don’t speak Czech and parents think that somehow if their child hangs out with a native English speaker for two hours once a week they will magically become fluent. 

More than anything I want to stand up for myself, but I don’t really know how to. I want to demand respect but go about it in the right way. I know I am young and inexperienced but I am so sick of being treated this way by everyone.

So I am asking you dear readers, whether you have teaching experience or not–please, someone give me some advice 😦

-JG

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8 Responses to “Today Was My Worst Day As A Teacher”

  1. pickledwings March 28, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    I can’t offer you advice about teaching little kids, but you certainly have my sympathies about that email.

    Though I hate to generalize, that email represents one of the least appealing aspects of Czechs; indirectness to the point of backstabbing.

    Most Czechs I know will freely admit that such indirectness is a deeply entrenched aspect of their national psyche. It might seem like betrayal, but it’s really more rooted in the passive/aggressive streak that most Czechs have.

    Believe me, a lot of younger Czechs I know who have more experience with other cultures are trying to be different and change this characteristic. Though I think the change will come slowly.

    Most Czechs avoid confrontation like the plague and will remain nice to your face and act like nothing’s wrong. The next thing you know, your boss is telling you that your wonderful Czech students aren’t satisfied with you and want a different teacher.

    That sort of thing happened to me a lot when I first started teaching here. Thankfully, it’s pretty rare ten years later, though it still does happen from time to time.

    The best thing is to just not let it get to you and not to take it personally.

    • jgravesss March 28, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

      That’s very interesting and I hate to generalize, but I totally agree. I think it is the Czech brutal honesty. I am trying to not get worked up about it, but at the same time, they also need to realize where I am coming from. I am doing my best and the kids really like and have been learning, regardless if it’s the method in which the parents want them to. I am just trying to get over it.

  2. Emily Gaudet March 28, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    Jess I’m so sorry to hear about this. It makes me so angry to hear how the parents completely betrayed you in the most backstabbing way possible. How immature. I started teaching this year and I can sympathize with your parent dilemmas. The fact is, parents have no idea what goes on in the classroom (at least high school parents don’t) and they don’t understand just how difficult it is to be entertaining, informative, respected, disciplinarian, kind, and super effective all at the same time. It’s impossible! I don’t know how much support from or contact with other teachers you have, but I would talk to them. You aren’t the first to deal with difficult kiddos and obnoxious parents there, I’m sure, and there has to be someone who can offer you some words of wisdom that are very specific to your teaching situation. Communicate with the parents as frequently and honestly as you can, take their suggestions (so at least they feel like they’re being heard), call them out on their less-than-professional behavior, and help them realize that teaching is a partnership, not a dictatorship. A teacher without both cooperative children AND parents can do nothing. The best thing for me is knowing that the administration and my department head always always have my back and will defend my decisions to the parents. Your boss needs to be a supportive barrier between you and the parents, and if she isn’t, then that is a huge issue.
    Keep it up, don’t let those mean moms get to you 🙂

    Emily G

    • jgravesss March 28, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

      Thanks, Emily! Yes, luckily my ex-assistant boss (who quit 3months ago because she hated my boss so much) is like the cooler older sister that I never had. She is so experienced and has so much knowledge about everything so she totally helps me with lesson planning and new teaching ideas–and honestly that’s what I’m most concerned about. Parents are whatever, but as long as I know that I am doing my part as a teacher than that is really all I’m concerned about 🙂

  3. Clara Moses March 28, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    I haven’t had the time to look at your blog in forever but I couldn’t ignore that sad face! I work in a group home with teenage girls and today the emotionally stunted 14-year-old that I supervise at school threatened to lie in the middle of a busy street because I wouldn’t take her home. By the end of the day, however, this same girl, who had also shoved me around the day before, gave me a hug goodbye, in which she ran and jumped into my arms. Kids hate one person in one moment, and love them the next. Same with classes, believe me! They get bored, for no real reason, simple as that. Parents should understand that, but clearly some of these don’t. Despite these loons I deal with on a daily basis, the hardest people to deal with at my job are some of my adult coworkers. If you feel like you’re doing your best, then keep doing it. You sound like an awesome teacher, and I know for a fact your fun! If you feel like you could improve by being more strict, then just remind yourself that you are in fact the adult in this situation now and you have the power. Reward then when they do well, literally ignore them except to make your disappointment clear when they’re acting up. Unless they’re being dangerously naughty, and then don’t be afraid to let them know that their behaviors are absolutely unexceptable. I have no idea how to do that in another language, but I know you can handle yourself and I’m sure you’re doing just fine! Don’t let those adult bullies beat the inner child out of you or any of your students!

    • jgravesss March 28, 2014 at 11:50 pm #

      That is a very good point! Sometimes I just want to be a friend to them. I don’t want to yell at them and be mean and a dictator, but then again I don’t want them to walk all over me either. I find that being stern sometimes and counting 1-2-3 really helps. If not then I threaten them ‘okay fiiiine I guess we won’t have chocolate later’ and then they soon shape up. It is so difficult and honestly the kids are really not the main issue. They are just kids, they don’t know any better. But my boss and the parents are working together to break me and I just won’t have it. I am going to hold me own! Good luck to you! Miss you gurlll

  4. Ron March 30, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    Jess, your doing everything right. You have to realize that the other people are doing wrong and blaming you. Don’t go out of character and change who you are. If they don’t like how your doing something that’s their problem not yours. Hang in there. Remember,” the first hundred years are the hardest.” Je t adore Tu me manques

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