Wednesday, May 5, 2010

An ESL Teacher's Tale - Part 2

Day 1 - Part 2

It's ten minutes to four o'clock, I had better find my classroom. The room is small, but adequate. It has a magnetized white board, CD player, markers, and a doll house set of desks and chairs. Looking at the size of the desks I start to wonder just how small these kids are. I hear some noise in the hallway and realize that it is now two minutes to four. Several kids enter the classroom carrying backpacks that are both larger and judging from the strain on their little faces, heavier than themselves. I smile and say "hello". In between gasping breaths for air, they smile and return my greeting with a "hi". Out of necessity, they quickly find a desk to plop their belongings on. Once this is done they begin to giggle hysterically between glances at me and each other. The silly face monster face I make at them doesn't help the situation, but it does put us all at ease. Over the next several minutes, this interaction repeats itself a few times until I have nine kids whom I guess are between 5 and 8 years old. I think to myself, this isn't going to be too bad.


The kids are friendly, smiling, and some have even started to speak English to me. Over and over again I hear "teacher, teacher," followed by a string of words in their native tongue. I guess that they are asking me about myself, probably my name and where I'm from. I grab a marker to write my name and draw a quick world map on the white board. No ink. I grab another marker, again no ink. I here the giggles start behind me and increase in volume with each dried up marker I grab. Having no markers left to check, I turn around and shrug. One of the older students stands up and indicates he will go downstairs. I nod and say thanks. "What a great group of kids," I say to myself. Then the late arrivals show up!


The first kid is a bit older than the rest of the students, perhaps 10 years old. He just stares at me when he enters. He is speaking rather loudly in his native language to all in the class. Some of the students start to laugh while others stare at their desks in discomfort. With cocky assurance he asks me my name, where I'm from, and how old I am, all with decent English pronunciation. He translates my answers into the students native language, which prompts a flurry of discussion between him and the other students. I've lost control.

The second and third kids enter, or should I say are dragged in by their parents. They are two girls, probably the youngest in the class. It is obvious that the two of them had been crying. The parents seem somewhat embarrassed, but they do get their children seated. As the parents exit, they cross paths with the boy returning with the new markers. OK, now I can begin teaching. I go to the white board to finish my original plan, to write my name and draw a map. I turn around and say "Hello, my name is A." Some students respond by saying "hello A." Next, I say "What is your name?" All but three of the students sit silently, while the other three answer the question in varying forms - "April", "My name is Jimmy" and "I am Betty." Using exaggerated hand gestures, I repeat ""Hello, my name is A. What is your name?" This time I'm greeted with a cacophony of random syllables. Smiling, I start individually asking each student what their name is. With some help, the students begin to answer the question. "Hello, my name is Sandy. Hello, my name is Gus, etc. All is going well until I get to the last two kids who came late. Before I get a chance to even ask their names, they both start vibrating, then shaking, then go into full fits of crying and tears. Oh no! What do I do now? I back away from them and avoid looking at them. I learned that when I once encountered wild monkeys in a jungle. DON"T look them in the eyes. I next look to the other students for help, some of them are kind enough to try to calm the two girls down. By ignoring the sobbing students and with the aide of the other students, they gradually stop sobbing, yet I can see the well of emotion lingering behind their puffy eyes. I decide to take an early break. I need to get their books anyway.

(to be cont...)

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