The final stage of the 4-week TESOL course here is 2 days of volunteer teaching at a a local government school. From the beginning, we were all pretty nervous about it as it was the first experience actually teaching for most of us. Sure, we’ve presented lessons in class to our peers, but giving those lessons to actual ESL students was a different ballgame. The experience was terrifying, fun, exciting, nerve-racking, and most of all, it was good practice.
The first day was intense. We all showed up in our smart clothes for the first time, dressed and ready to sweat. We went from tank top, shorts, and sandals, to full on shirt, slacks, tie, and dress shoes. Originally the plan was to solo teach on your own one-day, and be the support person for your partner on the next. Each day consisted of 5, one hour lessons with about 30 kids per class.
In my first class, just about everything that could go wrong, went way worse than that. The kids didn’t speak enough English to comprehend our directions, our warm up game failed miserably, they didn’t understand our primary activity, and a little kid gave me the finger. Talk about easing the nerves right? I quickly realized that classroom management was going to be a significantly bigger part of the job than actual teaching. My partner and I had to come up with 2 new activities on the spot just to fill the final 20 minutes of class. At one point we just took them outside and had a Gangnam Style race and at one point had all the students doing Michael Jackson moonwalk impersonations. Educating the youth you know? I felt slightly better after class when I heard that everyone else in my group had a similarly rough experience in their first hour.
The rest of the day got increasingly better thankfully. Not only were the kids becoming more docile and receptive, our presentation and teaching skills were gradually improving. My 2nd, 3rd, and 4th class were all 15 year olds, so they were able to understand slightly more and my activities went much better. Plus one of our games was listening to Gangnam Style and having kids sprint from the back of the class to the board when the music stopped. They dug that. At the beginning of the day, I’d say we were all pretty terrified. By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but everyone felt much more confident in our ability to actually pull this off for the rest of the year.
Originally I was going to miss the 2nd day of camp because my first placement up in the north wanted me to leave right after the first day of camp was over. Since my placement changed though and I was now leaving at the end of the week, I got “volunteered” to do another entire day of teaching. On my own! Awesome! Luckily they had a lesson prepared for me so I didn’t have to whip one together in a couple hours.
The second day, my first class was still the worst, but for the most part, I rocked it. Since my topic was shopping, I just brought a bunch of my clothes in and played educational dress up games. I taught them new vocab words too and how to use them in sentences, but my TESOL instructor pretty much told us that the kids know this camp isn’t something they’re being graded on. Therefore making it fun and entertaining was more important. Instead of Gangnam Style, on day 2 we listened to a lot of Mackelmore’s Thrift Shop all day. We had races to put on clothes fast, modeling contests, which we then paraded down the hall with, and a couple other silly games. The kids seemed to enjoy it and I felt pretty confident by the end. I did wear a black shirt the second day though… that was a poor decision to say the least.
As bitter as I was that I had to teach two days in a row while everyone else only had to do one, I’m glad now that it’s over because I feel much more prepared to start real class next week. Plus when it comes down to it, I came here to teach. What’s one extra day. Oh yeah, and when I walked into my 3rd class of that day, about 3 minutes late, I walked into a completely empty classroom. Where were the students you ask? That’s a great question and the Thai education system at its finest. Teacher Austin had a nice long lunch that day.
The best part of day two though was seeing my fellow TESOL buddy Tom trying teach through one of the more vicious hangovers I’ve ever seen. His birthday was the night before and he celebrated a bit harder than he should have. Like the champion he is though, he showed up on time and taught with sunglasses on indoors all day. Not ideal, but he made it.
It was an intense, exhausting two days but it was great experience and I think I’ll be able to pull this off all year. I’m excited to decorate my classroom with Laker flags and USA memorabilia. Jeah. Bald eagle out.