Today I taught my first English class at the migrant school. I can’t even express how excited I was to get started! We were given very few materials —two smalls books—and no real preparation for the day (I had no idea what to expect!
We didn’t know how much English the children knew or what exactly we should be teaching them) but I was still incredibly excited. We arrived at the school and met with the school’s president again to figure out where we would be teaching; I would be teaching a second grade class with Alex, another student in my program. As one of the Chinese teachers led us up to the classroom, we were both ridiculous excited. We were finally going to meet the children!
Needless to say, my first experience with Chinese second graders was not alas stressful! Really stressful! Shortly after we found the classroom the Chinese teacher we had followed spoke a few rapid words to the children and slipped out, leaving me and Alex on our own with about 30 children. I guess her exit was our que to begin, but Alex and I suddenly realized that we had no idea what to do! We awkwardly stammered for a few seconds, with the children looked on curiously, before deciding that we should first introduce ourselves (Since my Chinese name is 胡曼妮 HúMànní I introduced myself as 胡老师 [老师 lǎoshī means teacher]). Now that the easy part was out of the way, we were once again speechless; what were we supposed to do next?
The easy answer would have been to teach them English. It didn’t take the children long to figure out that we didn’t have an idea of what we were doing. Within seconds, the room erupted into shouts, fits, and laughter. There were at least a dozen kids who had gotten out of their seats, 4 children exchanging blows, and nearly all of the rest were pointing and shouting at us and each other. As we tried to recuperate and gain control of the class again, Alex and I found ourselves struggling to figure out what we were even supposed to be teaching the students.
With the help of a few of the quieter, more focused students we were able to figure out where their last English teacher had left off but, even then, we had a considerable amount of trouble trying to teach them anything. When all was said and done, we had successfully taught them 3 new words—”Quiet”, “Listen”, and “Sit”—and even those words were often said in vain. By the time “Fur Elise” began to play (the signal that the class was over) I had gotten over my initial sense of panic and simply felt exhausted.
Though the day had not, in the least bit, gone as planned Alex and I learned alot! By the end of the class we caught on to the hand signal the children recognized to mean “silence” and the one that was equivalent to raising your hand in an American school, we learned that making the children who don’t listen stand out in the hallway is an adequate punishment, and we also decided that we would bring candy to the class next week in hopes of gaining some sense of control. But most importantly we learned that, no matter what country you are in, a second grader will be a second grader!
Hopefully we’ll have better luck next week!