Tag Archives: children

Pour Some Out For My Homies

17 May

Update: I AM FREE.

After one of the most bizarre weeks ever with my (ex) boss displaying some of the oddest behavior (lurking around my classroom in the dark, crazy bi-polar personality changes, ‘forgetting’ to pay me until 4 days after pay day…), I made it. Barely though. I had my school keys already taken off the main key ring, had tossed all my un-used worksheets into the scrap paper pile & was just finishing up my final class when she decided to twist the knife deeper & completely devoid any shred of guilt I felt about quitting. 

We had literally 2 minutes left of class, & I told the students to start cleaning up. Post quitting celebratory drinks with Gillian & Filip at our favorite pub were already arranged & I could not GTFO of there fast enough. When all of a sudden, this woman comes into my room.

“Hi, I am looking for Jessica.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s me.”

“My daughter has a private lesson with you right now.”

Um what.

See this is what I am talking about, this is why I despise my boss so much. She is so damn inconsiderate. She NEVER mentioned this lesson, never asked if I was free for the lesson, NEVER EVEN BROUGHT IT UP. Yet she made this poor woman & her daughter drive all the way across the city in rush hour traffic. 

“Um, I had no idea about this lesson, I’m sorry, I have plans, I can’t do it.”

Suddenly, what do you know, my phone is ringing & it’s my boss telling me she has a problem & forgot to tell me & begs me just to sit & talk to this little girl for 10 minutes just to see what level she is. And reluctantly, I agree.

But I am so glad I did.

This girl was adorable, smart & way too advanced in the English language to be wasting her time at such a horrible school that only wanted her money. Talking to her for those 10minutes made me realize, while I was estactic about quitting my teaching job, I was really going to miss teaching. So I wanted to write a post to give some special shout outs to some of the little ones who have changed me over these past 9 months.

Kamila, 4,

One of the most well-behaved Montessori children I have ever encountered. I am not sure if you are aware of the Montessori teaching style but it mostly results in unruly children who don’t understand the concept of sharing or being directed by a superior. But Kamila did. She always chattered away in long sentences in Czech to me, like I understood any of it, to which I always responded with an excited “Wow! Okay!” That always made her smile. 

Veronika, 5,

Another great Montessori kid who would always greet me with a huge hug when I would pick up her class downstairs. She loved to make little art projects & always wore the same pink dress over her clothes. She is one of the kids who, from early on, instinctively always went to hold my hand as we were walking up the stairs to our classroom.

Filip, 2, 

My youngest student, but also one of the most improved. I would have an hour long one-on-one class with him because every other child who attempted to enter the class was not as mature and often left crying & screaming. ‘Fifi’ as he called himself blew my mind every week when he would greet me at the start of class saying ‘Monkeys jump, monkeys jump!’ (Referring to the 10 Little Monkeys Song) He was like a sponge, repeating EVERYTHING I said & actually remembering & understanding. He would tackle me & hug me & his favorite sentence by the end of the year became: “Fifi is crazy! But Jessica is crazy too!”

Prokop & Elias, 5,

These two extremely hyper blonde best friends originally did an observation class in one my most calmest classes. The results were awful. The tackled each other & Prokop “Rocky” left crying with a bumped head. I was weary when my boss created a special class with only these two boys, but it worked out great. I mirrored their energy & after every snack time for 10 minutes they would chase me around the room pretending to be Iron Man or Spiderman. Their final class with me consisted of me painting their faces like transformers. 

THE BEST CLASS: Vivi, 5, Luisa, 5, Diana, 5, Lauren, 4, Sophia, 5, Hermina, 3.

I loved coming to this class every week & simply referred to them as ‘my girls’. They were not only all extremely smart but they all loved me & listened to me. They would all come in with homework completed, follow directions & give me big hugs when they left. They loved to point at me & say I was various items they had for snack that day. They thought it was hilarious. My biggest victory as a teacher came around March when all the girls (even little Hermina who is basically a baby my boss stuffed in the class because her mom already paid) said their first sentence. Going over family vocab & I said: “Me, I have 2 brothers, do you have a brother?” They all went around the room responding USING THE CORRECT PLURALIZATION “I have 1 brother”, “I have 2 brothers” “I have no brothers” I have never been so proud.

Pata, 8,

The mature & smart older sister of little Honza, a boy who was too unruly to be in class, Pata was very responsible. She always did her homework correctly & just loved to learn English. She would often ask for copies of worksheets we did to practice further at home & impressed me with her improvement each class.

Eliska, 8,

Sweet & shy, Eliska was also one of the strongest in her class. She would always come in with her long brown hair in 2 braids & would wear cute little skirts. She also loved to learn English, but was also an amazing artist. Many of the homework assignments I asked her to do are still hanging on my wall & will continue to in USA just because she is that talented. 

Andrea, 4,

This little spit fire who began the class shy & quiet certainly came out of her shell. She is the one who would joke at snack time that her water bottle was actually filled with alcohol. She especially thought it was hilarious to sneak up and take the pillow I sit on at circle time. I will miss her for her wonderful personality & her cute little metallic rhinestone outfits she would rock each class. 

Danny, 4,

Another one who began extremely shy but soon found his place. Danny is the little boy who was so excited about the weekend he accidentally peed his pants. He was so adorable & fit in perfectly with his class. His mom, who was a sweetheart, would always whisper to him at snack time in Czech to offer me a piece of the chocolate he was eating. That’s one way to definitely get on my good side!

Ivan, 5, 

One of my all-time favorites, I can remember Ivan all the way back from the open house in September when I played board games with him & his little mini-me brother, Boris. His family soon became one of my favorites as well, with his mom always asking me about me & gifting me with an amazing (expensive!) box of chocolates on Christmas. Ivan loved spiderman & dinosaurs & we just completely formed a bond. He would always sit next to me at snack time & even when he got a little fresh mid-way through the year, all I had to do was give him a look. He was one of the few kids who felt bad about misbehaving because he knew it upset me. I will miss him very much & will always save the slightly lopsided self-portrait he drew for me.

Dori, 8, & Tobi, 6,

A sister & brother with SO MUCH energy. Whenever my 3 hour Friday class was quiet you knew it was because these two were absent. But as much as Dori would get upset & cry sometimes or Tobi would throw a temper tantrum & hit another student, they were such sweet children. Dori loved to act like a big sister to all the other kids in the class & Tobi was OBSESSED with playing Plants Vs. Zombies on my computer. Their mother is blind & they would always come & go from class linking arms with her on both sides. Even when Gillian was still teaching at the school, she loved these two, & when she quit they were the only 2 kids who asked about her. Dori would give me a big hug & kiss on the cheek when she would leave & Tobi would always want to hug me & sit on my lap while we watched videos (all completely normal/allowed student-teacher behavior here). Often if I was leaving the school the same time they were we would walk to the tram together & they would hold my hands. These children genuinely loved me & their parents said they would not be able to sleep on Thursdays because they were so excited for English class.

See, I really do love my students & some of them I will never forget. As much as I completely dreaded coming to work somedays because of my crazy boss or unpredictable parents, my students made it all worth it. They made me laugh & smile. I would chase them around the room, we would have tickle fights & then they would amaze me & make me so proud with their English. 

When I quit I wanted to make sure that the parents knew that.

It is unfortunate that my working situation was so awful–but I wanted the parents to know that I wasn’t leaving because of their children. So I sent out an e-mail to all the parents from my school e-mail address saying what a pleasure it was teaching their children. I wished them all luck on their future with the English language & said how proud I was of all of them. And its true. I can remember from all my years as a student some of the great teachers that I had. They inspired me & I will never forget them.

& I just hope that at least one of those kids remembers that blonde American teacher from some weird place called ‘Massachusetts’ who loved to draw horses & sing about monkeys.

🙂

-JG 

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

Preschool Pandemonium

1 Oct

I’m not sure if you’ve ever spent significant time with a child before, but let me tell you: they’re crazy. Crazy as in both crazy awesome & crazy insane. But, as I previously stated, I like this mesh. I feel very natural & comfortable around children. I think they’re super cute & admire their innocence. I can color & sing with them but at the same time, I treat them as an equal. Aka: I don’t let them get away with ish. The kid’s I’ve babysat have always had a blast with me. We just click. I think they are these awesome little people who mumble to themselves while playing & spill things all the time & are a little weird, but they have every right to be.

It’s my third week as a preschool teacher & I can happily say that I made the right choice. I have a natural inclination for this. Who would have ever thought that babysitting for so many years could turn into a full time job in Europe? Life’s funny like that. However, as much fun as I’ve had being a preschool teacher at Keytone, sometimes I feel like I live in a Czech soap opera. Let me do a quick run down of my schedule for you…

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(Above: Some of the Czech kids. I didn’t take this pic but the girl in the red pants is in my class. She’s adorbs)

Monday:

10am-11am, 4 children, 1.5 years old

You are probably wondering: why is she teaching one year old children? They can barely speak their own language, let alone another language. Oh dear reader, I am wondering the same thing. First of all, one year olds are babies. Babies cry & scream & flip out non stop because they cannot express themselves. I’m not sure it’s all that helpful that you have some foreign girl speaking in a completely different language who doesn’t understand the 5 words your 18 month old brain has retained. So what do we do for that hour? We sing. Well, I sing. They stare at me all wide eyed as their moms clap their little hands together.

Memorable Students:

Theodore is the fussy one. His mother came in the school to find me, the only one in the building, & proceeded to speak Czech even after it was clear I had no idea what she was talking about. Awkward. Then her son screamed for the whole class.

Thomas is the little cutie. He sits their in his little sweater vest while I sing Five Little Monkeys and stares in pure awe. He is at that age where he just learned how to master the art of walking. So instead he runs. But his little legs move faster than his body. So he falls a lot but is just too darn happy to cry. 

Ondrej is the smart one. His mother, my saving grace, spoke English. Aka: every time I say something she translates to the other moms. Surprisingly enough not a lot of middle-aged people in Prague speak English well. This is because during the Soviet rule, they were never allowed to learn. But Ondrej’s mom is great. It’s parents like that who’s kids will actually learn something. Because it’s clear they practice outside of class. Ondrej knows all his colors & can count. In a 2nd language. Impressive.

3:00pm-4:30pm, 5children, 3-4years old

These are the Montessori kids, or the ones my boss says “learn differently”. I’m not quite sure what that means, but the Manchild went to Montessori, so I guess that explains a lot haha. Anyways these kids are really cute and a very diverse bunch.

Memorable students:

Well, let’s see, you have David who is usually always staring off into space & refuses to wear the protective aprons for painting. Ondrej is the youngest & loves to flip over chairs, throw things & sob whenever his mom attempts to leave the room. Ema & Camillka are adorable, yet like most of the kids I teach are convinced I secretly speak Czech. They often turn to me wide-eyed & excited, babbling about something & I feel awful just nodding. Seriously sometimes they tell 5 minute stories & are certain I know what they said, even after I repeat Nemluvim cesky.

Tuesday:

10am-11am, 4 children, 2 years old

I know what you’re thinking–uh oh, toddlers, this must be her worst class. Luckily, my class has escaped the terrible twos. Well, I mean for the most part. This is a class of all girls & they are sooo cute. Like most young children, they love to sing & get ridiculously excited whenever I tell them to stand up & form a circle. They are the coolest 2 year olds I know.

Memorable Students:

Sophinka is the energizer bunny. She gets more hyper than a un-housebroken puppy when we do anything. We sing: she jumps up & down. We dance: she jumps up & down. I mean I know my classes are fun, but gurl, calm down.

Lucinka is the girl in the red pants in the picture. One thing I have learned about most Czech children is that they are all absolutely beautiful. Like they could all be child models or Gerber babies or whatever. Lucie is no exception. She cannot speak really, but has the bluest eyes & constantly smiles with her 3 little teeth.

3:30pm-5:00pm, 5 children, 4 year olds

This is definitely one of my favorite classes. They just mesh so well together. No one is really high-strung or out of control & they all constantly laugh at everything I say. They love to participate & we have a great time!

Memorable students:

They really all are. Alex is my boss’s best friend’s son. He is essentially mute & didn’t want to participate. That is, until he found out that I rode horses for 11 years. Alex is obsessed with horses. Suddenly he participates & wants me to constantly draw him horses. I don’t mind at all.

Vivi & Luisa are bffs. They know each other from before & constantly hold hands. But in a cute way, sickos. Vivi is a mini-Elle Woods with her all-pink ensembles & flower headbands. Luisa sports overalls & neckscarves every class. They both love to participate, even when Vivi has mini-meltdowns. But Luisa knows her colors like a boss.

Diana & Lauren are the hyper ones. They are both very advanced though, so whatever. They recently discovered it’s hilarious to run up & tickle me mid-lesson. They also love to take my seat when I’m not looking. Lauren looks like Cindy Loo Who from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas & reached out for my hand today when we were going to snack. Awww.

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(Above: photo from our open house. Me going over animals with Georgia)

Wednesday:

2:00-4:00pm, 6 children, 6 years old

This.Is.The.WORST.Day.Ever. You’d think ‘oh they must be the easiest, they must be mature & well-behaved, right?’ Wrong dear reader, so seriously wrong. First of all, six children is a lot. Especially when five of those six children are so high strung. Two of those five are completely out of control. I dread this class. The worst part of all is that I like all the kids, I really do. I could do one-on-one time with them in a second. It’s just really hard to give them all my undivided attention. I feel like for those two hours I try to reprimand one child & the second I turn my back, another one does something. It’s time outs galore for these ones.

‘Memorable’ students:

So. You have Jan, Katerina & Martin, three out of control children. They literally feed off each other’s energy. I cannot even tell who is the root of the problem. Jan is a six year old boy with severe ADD. He loves to run and run and run. Screaming is his second favorite thing. Martin & Katerina are friends, so they basically tackle each other & join Jan in the craziness. They mock me when I tell them to stop so every class I get all HBIC on them. Often putting Jan & Martin in simultaneous timeouts, in which they just throw things across the room at each other. Sigh.

Nikolka & Eva are hyper girls (whose mothers give them candy at snack time?!) who are bffs. They are both blonde & adorable but can get very loud. They’re easier to manage than the previous three, but still don’t help calm down the classroom environment.

The other Nikolka is the well-behaved shy one. She always just patiently sits & waits for my instructions while all hell breaks loose around her. I feel really bad for her because sometimes I was that student too. The one who wanted to learn while everyone else around me caused problems. Don’t worry girl, look where I ended up & they didn’t 😉 

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(Above: Luckily this photographer really understood the rule of thirds #skullprobs)

Thursday:

4:00pm-6:00pm, 4 children, 4-5 years old

This class initially rubbed me the wrong way. My first lesson began with two boys flipping over tables & ended with one of them punching me in the arm. I have never been assaulted by a 5 year old before, but let me tell you, it’s terrifying. Luckily that boy was only subbing in my class so another lucky teacher gets him instead! Now this class has become another one of my favorites. This group has a great dynamic & we have a lot of fun.

Memorable students:

Ivan is one of my all-time favorites. Some of the kids I’ve met just instantly bonded with me. So much that I would honestly ask their parents if they ever needed a babysitter. I want to hang out with them because they’re so cool. Ivan is the cutest little thing. First of all, he has a little brother, who is about 2 who is his mini-me & wears Mickey Mouse overalls. Ivan thinks it’s hilarious to pick up his brother & carry him around. It is hilarious. Ivan’s mom is awesome too & told me that he loves my class & is so excited for Thursdays! She even gave me her cell phone number in case of emergency. Best family ever!

Jachym & Tyna are brother & sister. It’s funny because they are those two siblings who look absolutely nothing alike. Jachym is blonde with blue eyes & Tyna has brown eyes & super short brown hair, which is (unfortunately) a really popular hairstyle here. These two cooperate but can be a little lazy. They get exhausted from coloring & singing about frogs apparently.

Nikolka is another one of those flawless white-blonde haired, sky blue eyed Czech children. She is very chic & sports evil eye necklaces & matching bracelets. She is often one step behind us. Teaching her the concept of Duck, Duck, Goose was impossible & we soon just all laughed as she ran from the person who she was supposed to be chasing. I love kids.

Friday:

9:00am-12:00pm, 5 children, 5-6 years old

Yes. You read that right. A 3 hour class. FOR CHILDREN. I don’t want to be in 3 hour classes, so who would ever think that children would want to be either? Bad idea. Not only do they start whining about snack time at 9:30 (to which I have to reluctantly tell them that snack isn’t until 1 whole hour later), but this crew likes to F things up. They are all different levels. It’s a popourri of kids in this class. Kids who like to cry. Kids who like throwing things. Kids who prefer hitting other kids. Yet they all have the common denominator of one exhausted teacher who cannot WAIT to drink a bottle of wine immediately afterwards. 

‘Memorable’ students:

This group really is a mixed bag. We have Viktor who can either stare off into space in his own world the whole time, or screech odd animal noises while misbehaving. Toby & Dori are siblings, which I didn’t know. I thought Dori & Matilda were siblings. Mostly because Toby liked to hit Matilda who liked to throw massive temper tamtrums when she was told art time was over & Dori, who is actually 7 years old, would comfort her & yell at Toby. Justinca is the absolute spitting-image of my friend from home, Molly, when she was younger. It’s really cute & makes me miss Molly a lot 😦 Obviously Justinca is perfect & dainty & polite while the others wreck havoc with all their inner conflict. Pretty sure they were making fun of me once they realized I didn’t speak Czech. Luckily I know how to outsmart children. While they were talking, I made eye contact with Toby & shook my head. They asked me something, which I assume was along the lines of ‘Omg, can you understand us?’ I then just shrugged my shoulders. They shut up after that. I win. Needless to say this class is going to almost guarantee the fact that Jessayyy will be making appearances every Frisky Friday, but like she needed an excuse to anyway…

So there you have it, that is what my work week is like. Jealous? Nah, it’s actually super rewarding & fun. Plus I would much rather be doing this than making coffee or stapling papers any day.

Stay tuned for more adventures later!

-JG