So I Found Out I Don’t Know How to Teach

The title of this post is probably not going to come as a surprise to many of you, since a) I have never studied Education in my life, and b) I hadn’t in the past ever said I for sure wanted to become a teacher (or a TA). I went to school for French, and International Relations. If I could be a diplomat, I would do it in a heartbeat. Teaching is still a possibility, but right now, I’m feeling unsure about teaching English as a second language. I truly hope this post doesn’t become too complain-y for you, but please just bear with me for a few minutes! P.S. The existence of my blog is kept a secret from my colleagues.

I only work three times a week. However, on Tuesdays, I have to go to a village 30 km away and teach six separate English courses. I guess they really wanted me there? That’s really neat, but, maybe they’re all expecting too much from me. It just might be too much to ask because I’m exhausted commuting there, and I’m pretty much burnt out after the first couple of classes. I think they should perhaps focus on “la qualité” rather than “la quantité”. It didn’t help that my first day there was a day in which I felt ill all day (that feeling when you just know you’re coming down with a cold), and my first experience was an extremely rowdy, uninterested, and “agité” group of students. These particular students were yelling English obscenities while the English teacher either didn’t hear or didn’t know enough English to know it was a horrible word. They also laughed when the box of chalk dropped on the floor, leaving me to pick it up.

I definitely do not think that every single middle school English language student of mine is awful. I think there are some who are well-behaved, sweet, and seem to really want to learn English or improve their current skills. Those are the diamonds in the rough to me and I’m already thankful for them. So why do I think I can’t teach, you ask? Well, it’s because:

  • I’m still trying to understand their school days, with week A’s one week, and week B’s the next. I still don’t understand when and for how long they have breaks, either. Of course, I’m trying to learn all of these different teachers’ classrooms and even where they are located. I have about 10 to memorize, so I’d better get started.
  • I’m already being given complicated lesson plan “themes” and have to come up with material fairly quickly. You actually don’t realize how hard writing out worksheets, games and activities (in your native language) for themes like how to order at a restaurant is until you try to do it yourself. They also have to be interesting enough for middle schoolers.
  • This brings me to my next point, which is that I feel incredibly incompetent in every language I speak and write (English and French). I talk to students mostly in English, but they always want me to repeat and also will look at me blankly the whole class. I’ve even been told by Europeans that my English is easy for them to understand in comparison to other Americans. But, when I talk to my students in French, they still don’t really get what I’m saying, probably because I’m explaining English language stuff like spellling. It just feels frustrating.
  • When I live in France, I get this idea in my head that I am just not French. This gives me a feeling that I’m an outsider (filling out visa forms and “special” laws for Americans at the banks only reinforces this) and that I’ll be viewed as one wherever I go, but ESPECIALLY when I speak American English. The students also seem to believe a lot of the awful stereotypes about Americans, where as I have worked very hard to get past the ones I might have about French people from living in Paris for almost 9 mos.
  • I’ve simply not had enough practice to be thrown in to lessons on my own and expect for something to come out of it.

This post may have been brought to you by feelings of homesickness (brought on by a particularly awful cold), but I assure you besides this, I do truly enjoy the French life. I’m hoping it gets easier with time!

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