Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Just... Teach?

“Just go in and… teach.”

I entered the 3rd grade classroom; class Joy. This was the first day I would have the students for more time than simple introductions, and it just-so-happened to be a double-length class period: 90-minutes. Of course. Ninety minutes with 30 high-energy 3rd grade students who knew only enough English to understand the key words of phrases I said to them—and I had never taught a class in my life prior to this week. Hoboy.

I walked out from the safe security of the teacher’s office towards class Joy. There was what seemed to be a scout perched at the door who, upon seeing my approach, ran into the class calling out “Sir! Sir datang!” Mad scrambling could be heard from the classroom. I walked into the room just in time to glimpse stragglers diving to their seats in preparation for the start of class; falling into an organized order which seemed as natural to them as walking home. I slowly set my books on the table at the front of the classroom, nervousness and uncertainties abound as I tried to think back to my class plan… Thinking about how to manage the class, thinking about what I would say to start class, thinkingaboutthinkingabo-


Um, what?
A student had stood as soon as my books hit the desk, and continued to call out to the class.

“Good morning Sir!”

The class immediately echoed her call, yelling “Good morning, SIR!”

“Um, thank you class. You... may be seated?”

“Thank You, SIR!”

Composition and plan lost in the unpredicted opening to class, I gracefully (I would like to think) stumbled into a lesson on articles and nouns, continuing to prove how I’ve found myself often times forced to learn more-so from failures and mistakes than first-time successes. Three poor explanations and a handful of internal ‘Aiyo’s later—maybe 40 minutes in—I turned to the side of the class to see a student in tears. At this point I had a vocabulary adequate to ask for food, comment on the food’s deliciousness, and follow up with an inquiry as to the location of the toilet. While this may cover a surprisingly large amount of daily speech, it wasn’t particularly helpful in figuring out what was up.

Other students quickly noticed the tears.

“Look! Look! Sir! Look!”

The students zoned in on the situation. One seemed to be comforting him, placing a firm hand on his shoulder in a surprisingly fatherly fashion. Other students quickly were figuring out what happened.

“This! This!”

The students each began to reenact what had gone down. With four students repetitively miming throwing an eraser into the face of the boy, I began to understand a little of what happened.

Even so: It was pretty obvious that I really didn’t know what to do—between spinning about between the many story-telling children and muttering far-too-many a confused “apa?” I wasn’t exactly rectifying the situation. Again, the children knew what to do.

“We go—take them to cikgu, yes?”

“Um, yes! Boleh! Go!”

Two students walked the hurt boy out, and a third student guiding the offending student out the door—who went along willingly, if quite begrudged and unhappy. As soon as the students left the room the rest of the class seated, falling back into their systematic order. They turned to the front of the class, quieted down, and waited for me to continue where I left off.

“Ok Sir! Ok to teach now!”