First day still crazy after all these yearsMy induction to the glamorous world of TEFL was a jetlagged blur of classroom observation sessions where teaching methodology and PPP models were ditched in favor of a barrage of personal questions fired at the new teacher. Discomposed, done in and benumbed by my first tastes of kimchi and soju, I counted down the hours to my first class with growing unease.
The unfortunate witnesses to the start of my new career were six sullen-looking Korean businessmen. Kicking off the lesson with witty small talk, I segued effortlessly into the topic spelled out in the textbook. Then it all started to go wrong. Very wrong.
Much later, after my colleague had returned the copy of “Let’s Talk 2” that she had borrowed unannounced, I registered an embryonic sense of amusement. At 8 a.m., I consoled myself with the thought that it could have been worse.
It did get worse. That afternoon I found myself mobbed by 9-year olds, including one “Tiger” who delighted in stalking me round the classroom while attempting to shove his fingertips up my backside. After I’d perfected the use of the textbook shield, he switched to screaming obscenities and hiding my markers. My cleverly designed card-based activity collapsed into a whiny voiced chorus of “Teacher, this no fun!” before Tiger brought a premature halt to the hastily arranged game that followed by holding a pair of scissors to a classmate’s throat.
The fun and games didn’t stop there, though my day did level out when it hit bottom. Ah, the memories ... the five-minute breaks between bedlam and the bell, which sounded as soon as I saw the teachers’ room; the girl who threw her chair when she lost a game of Simon Says, and the overwhelming relief when it was finally, finally all over.
Of course, three countries, four years and a CELTA course later I know the vital importance of backup plans, as well as a cornucopia of handy first-day activities. Back then, I was as out of my depth as a future colleague who, as the children danced on their desks and made paper airplanes from their worksheets, turned to the just-off-the-plane teacher observing him and asked, “Have you got any ideas?”
Later that night I told the nervous-looking, newly promoted head teacher that I doubted whether I was cut out for teaching. I felt swamped and disillusioned, and I doubted very much whether I could contribute anything to my students’ knowledge of English. She told me to give it to the end of the week. I stayed three years.
by Michael Hudson