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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Visions in the classroom

I stand in front of the class and on fleeting moments see my Indian little kids… Such an impression they made on me – even though it’s nearly a year since I was teaching them.

This method of teaching is from a textbook. I haven’t created the lessons myself (which is different from how I taught in India). This current set-up can work so much to my advantage, when taking the lesson preparation into account.

So… I stand. And the kids are so close to me. The classes are relatively small – because so are the groups. A maximum of 16 kids… How different.

I’m standing in my own clothes, wearing what I please, with my hair as it wants to sit and my mood is just the way I wish for it to always be: positive, happy and flowing. The kids aren’t too impressed by seeing someone so upbeat! Probably because they’re forced to take these extra classes by the wealth their parents own; so it isn’t their own choice, and therefore not always a pleasure to see the English teacher!

They’ve been to a dozen classes this week already and every class is focussed on a different subject (maybe music, sports, language or tuition for subjects they struggle with at school) IN ADDITION to their full-time education. Their families are wealthy and they’ve enough money so as to give their only child as many opportunities as possible and to be educated to the max. They’re pushed almost to be intelligent, clever and to have the highest grades possible – even if their level of intelligence isn’t really permitting such pressure.

This English class I’m giving is just another hour for them. These kids are tired, lifeless and don’t even bother to take off their designer coat…

So of course they’ll get pissed-off when they see a happy person standing in front of them. Because it shows them their own mood is the total opposite from how it could be.

So… I stand. Do I let their mood affect my own? Without understanding why they’re pissed-off, I’d definitely let it affect me. But I do have understanding, so I accept and I realize I’m in control - as the teacher - when it comes to creating a particular outcome from one individual lesson.

Seeing as though I’ve only just started and I’m still new to these kids, they still need to suss me out. Some are shy, some freeze-up when I speak to them individually. Others are making witty remarks in Chinese because they know I don’t understand… So they could be saying anything.

The classes are small and the kids are sitting closely to me, in half a circle. It could be cosy and friendly – depending on their level of comfort. But, as I said: I’m new, so they aren’t as comfortable as they could be. But am I? Yes, I have to be. With comfort comes an ease in teaching and with ease they too will feel loosen-up and hopefully no longer freeze when individually spoken to…

When they DO freeze, I have visions of the Indian kids again… I see colourful clothes, I see them sitting cross-legged on a bamboo mat, and not in a clean classroom with only 16 kids. But there are 30 or 40 kids, all interested, all beaming up at me. Sometimes overwhelming - other times just ‘normal’. But I don’t smell India and the view out the back window of this clean, intimate and small classroom has rows and rows of buildings and shops with Chinese characters, symbols and writing everywhere. Also, I have an assistant, who doesn’t look Indian. She’s Chinese. She understands maybe half of what I’m saying; just like the kids. But she’s smiling and slowly the kids are starting to relax too. Some remove their designer coat and they don’t care to make mistakes… because this is what I’ve taught them: never be shy when making mistakes... it’s the only way to learn a language… So they don’t feel scared of what the teacher could say… She doesn’t bite, but she corrects and applies healthy discipline when keeping the kids under-control – should it so happen they were to get too comfortable and rowdy, once their coats have been removed ;)

I stand and I thank India for those months of teaching, because it enables me to escape from here should I feel the need. It enables me to already feel so strongly I’ll return to India and this in turn enables me to teach here wholeheartedly… because I know what it’s in aid of… Always looking forward by appreciating and relishing what I’m experiencing right now…

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