This week started poorly and has not been improved by the ever-warming weather. Today continued the pattern: I was tired in Chinese class, one of my kindergarteners came back from a mini-holiday only to be sulky and uncooperative, the very thought of my evening classes filled me with a mild but insidious frustration, and budget calculations show that I’m not going to have any fun until at least September (and only if I’m lucky and get a lot of hours).
Even though I wasn’t looking forward to teaching, I knew I could count on the early class today to pick me up–and was then sorely disappointed by apathetic, mostly out-for-summer 6th graders. Not only that, the problem kid in this class, who is usually not too big a concern, actually caused some big distractions today. I got back at him by withholding bathroom privileges for 10 or 15 minutes which felt far better than it should have.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m in such a mood lately, and I’ve boiled it down to job satisfaction: I don’t have much. I see kids 50% of the time they come to class (the Chinese teachers see them every time) so there is a lack of consistency. The school policy of 100% English is an impossibility that serves to create a gap between me and the kids that only the Chinese teacher can bridge. In addition to the gap, there’s the added frustration of resolving questions and managing homework and classroom activities in limited language that the majority of the class can fully comprehend.
And to top it all off, I have discovered I can’t stand teens and pre-teens, who make up about half of my classes. I believe I said earlier that I like mid- to higher elementary school students best, but I was wrong. It’s lower elementary I like because they still have enthusiasm.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I couldn’t stay angry and frustrated because my junior high class actually cheered me up. They were mildly responsive, and then my CT (Chinese teacher/co-teacher) suggested and implemented a seat change so we sat in a rectangle rather like a small college class. She also brought out her stash of fake money so we could start a system like I had in high school Spanish: responses get money, students hold the money to buy test points or candy and class parties. I have been wanting to do this for a while, but I haven’t had the money to buy… money, so I was glad when the CT brought up classroom ideas and volunteered her money for my idea. I only wish she had brought it up before class, instead of just before break. I won’t argue the results, though! I’d be hard-pressed to say the class was on fire after break, but they were more involved due to proximity, and the CT sat in the desk-square and we had a real co-teaching relationship going on.
Another good thing: I know with certainty that I may be a good explainer, and even a decent teacher, but I am not and should never (again) be a foreign language teacher. And it’s always nice to check something off the possibility list and narrow options down.
So now I’m happier. Rebecca, this is how I do it: be angry and huffy in my head until something good happens. When the good happens, let it outweigh the bad.