Mikaela Teacher: My First Days of Teaching

Merriam-Webster Definition:
       Teaching: the act, practice, or profession of a teacher. 

My Definition:

            Teaching: Standing in front of fifteen to twenty sets of eyes, saying two to three word sentences, and making the most absurdly large hand motions. 

 I have officially become, Mikaela Teacher. Here in Korea the title “teacher” always follows the persons name. I am Mikaela Teacher, when I need help I ask Hyewon Teacher, and I answer to Head Teacher. I realized that I end up speaking about myself in third person to the students. 

“Teacher is from Minnesota, teacher likes to play soccer, teacher has two brothers and one sister, teacher has one dog”, etc…

Hayley said that it won’t be too long before I start talking like that all the time, even amongst other foreigners. 

My first day of teaching wasn’t a complete disaster. I lived through it, I didn’t get fired and the kids didn’t eat me alive. That is a successful day I think.

I read many blogs and articles before leaving for Korea, as well as received some advice from teachers who have already been teaching here for several months. The key word that kept popping up everywhere was “Flexibility“. 

I showed up for work on Wednesday morning this week completely prepared to teach my first classes starting at 2pm. Shortly after lunch Cecilia asked me if I had been told that I wouldn’t be teaching today, but would in fact be conducting speaking placement tests.

“Why no,” I said, “I was not informed of this change of plans.” I can go with the flow in most situations and therefore found myself (having never taught before) assessing speaking abilities in the hallway, one child at a time. 

I was told before leaving that I would begin teaching tomorrow. Okay, I can do this flexibility thing. Little did I know that my powers would be tested many, many times.

This is the schedule I was given at the beginning of the week.

Thursday morning when I got to work, Hayley and I noticed that some of the times were incorrect. We asked about it, and were informed that the new schedule was as follows…..

I was still in a mild state of confusion. “Be flexible, be flexible, be flexible.” 

My classes on Thursdays start at 3pm, and at 2:30pm I was given this newly revised schedule.

Finally, after staring at the clock the entire day, the hour was upon me. At 3pm I was in my classroom ready to begin with my introductory power point, when  Hayley comes running in with a piece of paper. The schedule was literally changed at 2:59pm.

I was in the wrong room! I grabbed my stuff and walked briskly to the floor below to my (new) correct classroom. I was a bit flustered during my two afternoon classes, both with older more advanced students.  Who knew 5th and 6th graders could be so intimidating. 

4:50pm rolled around and I found myself staring at a room fool of the little ones. I am not sure if any of my sentences made it over three words during my whole introduction power point. They all ooohed and ahhed at the pictures of Minnesota snow. They also found it quite funny that I am the shortest person in my family. 

I was just finishing going over the classroom rules (using one and two word explanations with gestures) when a Korean teacher walked in. She asked if I had conducted the speaking assessment yet for this class. Blank look.

I hadn’t, and didn’t know anything about it. “Flexible, flexible, flexible.” I conducted the test for the remainder of the time, and also for my last class of the evening. 

Needless to say, I am exhausted. I am glad this day is over, and I am on to day two of teaching tomorrow, at least that’s the plan as of today. 

Merriam-Webster Definition:
          Flexible: ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements. 

My Definition:
          Flexible: ahhh, I think Merriam and I agree on this one.

My second day of teaching was a success! 

It was a good day. The schedule didn’t change, not once.

I genuinely enjoy my students. Yes, I can tell that there are a few who will cause some problems, and a few with attitude issues, but I am still happy with my kids.

Normally, I am pretty good at remembering names, but remembering 50 different Korean names is quite beyond my mental powers, and so a large part of Friday’s teaching consisted of each student making a name tag with their English name on it. Some already had English names, and others picked names for the first time.

The little kids made name tags and then played a game that helped them practice the phrase “My name is,” while I had the older kids interview each other and introduce one another to the class. I learned a large proportion of my students consider black to be their favorite color (interesting).

A lot of the older kids already have English names, but most of my little kids, in my level 1 class picked names for the first time. I have an adorable little guy who now goes by Chris, and a chubby kid who goes by the name Harold.

Second day teaching, check. Next week is a full week of 22 classes, I think some lesson planning needs to happen this weekend.


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