I have to admit it: two and a half weeks in and I’m really enjoying myself. (The first thing I thought when I saw that sentence was, “Ah, must check that they know the “l” in “half” is silent.” That is something I came across in a private lesson last week.) Yet, if I had written this blog last Tuesday after school, I would have said how terrible I thought I was doing and how the teachers must all be thinking that I’m hopeless. What a difference having two great lessons at the end of the day, as opposed to one mediocre lesson and one shambles of a lesson, can make to your general mood and opinion.
You will have worked out, then, that it hasn’t all been entirely smooth sailing at school so far. There have been times when I have felt very unqualified for the work I am doing, and have actually wondered if some of the staff think I have some teaching experience. I don’t. I have been a mentor/tutor to some small groups of girls at a high school, but I have never, ever stood up in front of a class to teach. (Unless you count teaching a few ballet classes about 6 years ago..!)
A few times since arriving here, I have felt totally thrown into the deep end when asked to occupy the class for the entire lesson with a worksheet given to me about 10 minutes beforehand, while the teacher sits at the back of the classroom marking work. Fortunately, most of the time I am acting only in my stated role of “language assistant.” This means that the teacher runs the class and I help them and answer student questions. Or, I am given an activity to do with the kids a day before or a few hours before and I can prepare myself. Or, in one year level, I have been presenting Australia to them for the past three lessons. When I can prepare myself, I feel like I can actually pretend to know what I’m doing. When trying to make it up as I go along, I fear I fail miserably!
These bumps in the road are normal, and I’m sure I will only gain confidence as I go along and work out my role in the classroom and how I can best help these kids. I work with the bilingual classes, the students who have elected to do a number of their subjects in English, rather than just taking English as a second language subject. So far I have been impressed by the general level of English and by the confidence of many students. I still have days where I say something and all I get in response is a look of utter incomprehension but I don’t doubt they’re still becoming accustomed to the Australian accent!
With that, Happy Australia Day! I will be going to work, it is freezing cold and the only Australian food I have here is Vegemite. Ah well, it is a year of firsts.