First time teaching

We had to deliver six hours of teaching to a classroom of students, but before our first teaching practice session, we had to observe one of the tutors on our course. I was watching CK who was teaching pre-intermediate students, along with my peer MS. MS and I would be observing each other during our teaching practice sessions. I felt nervous because I had never been to the venue we were teaching and I didn’t know what the people who worked there would be like, or what the students would be like.

I arrived before MS, and I was anxious because I wanted to see a familiar face. I met with my tutor CK who I hadn’t met yet. He gave us our passes so we could get in and out of the building freely. I remember laughing at the photo on my badge because I was smirking in it and commented that I looked like a politician who always has a smirk on her face. It was rather crude because the politician in question is Asian and I remember CK telling me not to say that out loud. When he said that, I thought, “Shit, I’ve made a great first impression. I’ve made myself look like a mouthy cow and a racist.” MS arrives, and we all go to the classroom, where we observe CK. I think we had to observe the students and see what they’re like. The students generally were attentive and took part in every activity. One of the activities was a running dictation, which practices speaking, listening, writing, walking (running more like) and memory. CK encouraged the students not to take a pen and paper with them, but some did anyway. I made a mental note of those who did.

We had to give feedback about the students and the class itself. I don’t remember what I said, but it was something along the lines of “It was a good class, the students seemed to have fun, but there were some who were a bit naughty and kept talking when you were. I think you should have been a bit stricter.” I don’t think CK liked what I said because he said that we couldn’t be too strict because it will alienate the students. He did have a point there because the students were adult immigrants, some of whom may have arrived in the UK in dire circumstances. For example, human trafficking or travelling to Europe by boat (there is an unfortunate moment in one of my teaching practice sessions related to this). After the class, I thought “CK really doesn’t like me now. I read him to filth over his teaching. Now he’s going to read my teaching to filth.”

A week went by, fast. I was going to class on Tuesday evenings, and my first teaching session was on Wednesday night. The course leader SZ heard that I nominated myself to go first and said I was brave, and there’ll be a lot of pressure on me (no shit). I had to go first because I was nervous as fuck and I had to get it done and out of the way. I had all kinds of thoughts rushing through my head. I wondered “Am I going to do a good job? What if the students ask me a question and I don’t know the answer? I’m so going to fail this class!” I went straight to bed when I got home from class. I needed to get as much sleep as I could because I’m a light sleeper and most definitely not a morning person. I woke up the next morning to get ready for the lesson and to do one more practice run of the class. Once it got to the afternoon, I packed up my stuff, ready to go. I brought my laptop with me so I could use it for my class, especially when it had my PowerPoint presentation.

I could feel myself shaking, but I didn’t know if it was nerves or the fact that my bag was so damn heavy. I remember getting to the venue and having no idea where I had to go. When I met with CK in the classroom, I brought my laptop and tried to connect it to the whiteboard. Nothing worked. There were no outputs available for my laptop, and I was freaking out because my laptop was the only thing that had my PowerPoint and the Wi-fi in the venue was slow so sending it to myself via email wasn’t happening. I was shaking even more, and I felt my face warm up.  Not sure if my face had gone red, but I felt it, and at one point, I thought I was going to run out the classroom and cry, or even leave and go home. I didn’t. MS let me borrow his USB pen, and I put it in the laptop sat next to the whiteboard. Once that was resolved, I started the class.

The shakes went away after a few minutes, but I was still nervous, and when I’m nervous, I talk, and sometimes too much. I remember some of the students were struggling in the second activity, and I tried to give some encouragement. Do you remember me mentioning something unfortunate happen during one of my teaching practices classes? It happened in my first ever class. I told the students it’s okay to make mistakes, that’s how you learn, and you’re all in the same boat. I told a class full of immigrants, some of whom may have travelled to the UK by boat, that they’re all in the same boat. It took me a few seconds to realise what I just said, and when I did, I felt my heart and my stomach turn. I felt my face go red, and I thought I was going to throw up. I also hoped CK and MS didn’t hear me say that and spent the rest of the class praying they didn’t. The class was finally over, and I could now sit down and have some breathing space before the next half of the class which MS was teaching. The final hour went by fast, and we reached the point where we would receive feedback. I felt my nerves come back, and I just wanted to be put out of my misery. I got my feedback, and I was relieved. My class was marked as “to the standard”. I did get read to filth, but it was expected. I was picked up on too much talking, which they call it ‘teacher talk time (TTT)’. I agreed and said when I’m nervous, I talk too much and say things without realising. I asked them if they heard me say anything bad. They said no. I thought they said no, just to make me feel better about myself. I told them what I said, and the reaction was a mix of a chuckle and roar of laughter (feel free to guess who roared with laughter and who quietly chuckled). I had to tell them because I was worried some of the students would make a complaint. If there’s anyone in this world who would do this, it would be me, ask anyone who knows me.

We were done for the evening, and it was official. I had just popped my teaching cherry.

Lessons learned:

  • Get a USB pen, guard it with your life and save all your work on it.
  • Only talk when you are teaching, not while your students are working. A running commentary is unnecessary, and you risk saying something bad.
  • Do not tell a classroom full of immigrants that they’re all in the same boat. They may have arrived into the country by boat, or they literally were in the same boat as each other coming to the UK.

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