Teaching beginners

After the second teaching observation, it was time to teach beginner students. I was absolutely shitting myself. This was going to be a classroom full of new students who I didn’t know, and going by what I saw of them, they were going to be noisy and a handful. In my first teaching session with them, I decided to go first because I knew I would be nervous, and I just wanted to get it over and done with.

When we were getting prepared for class, my tutor handed out tags and asked students to write their names on them. Once I had my PowerPoint set up, I went around the class to see people’s names and I approached one boy who didn’t put one on. My tutor said that he didn’t want to put his name tag on. I crossed my arms, gave him one of my glares and asked him why. He didn’t say anything, so I told him if he doesn’t tell me his name, I will call him “Boy”. I then asked him what’s his name. He said it quietly, so I asked “Sorry, I didn’t hear that. What’s your name?” and he told me his name. I said, “Hi, Abd, nice to meet you.” After that moment, I made it my mission to watch him like a hawk. Mission successful. He was on his best behaviour for the rest of my classes, though that may be because I would pick on him and make him answer the questions.

Do you remember when I had an unfortunate moment in my first ever teaching practice? It happened again. In my penultimate teaching practice, we had to talk about seasons, and one of the activities involved comparing Cairo and Moscow. Before handing out the activity, I had to pre-teach vocabulary, and one of them involved something that is ‘haram’ (forbidden in Islam) – vodka. I saw the look on some of the student’s faces, and I thought “Oh shit. I’ve done it again. I’ve said something bad!” I handed out the worksheets for the students, and one of the students asked me about rum. I said that it’s like vodka but has a different taste to it. I didn’t know this until the end of the class, but MS told me that one of the girls said “haram” fiercely but giggled afterwards, and he said one of the students sat next to him asked him about gin.

In my defence, I know Muslims who drink, and I didn’t think anything of it. I remember spending the rest of the lesson worrying that I was going to get “below standard” because of this or the students were going to make a complaint against me. I didn’t. I was marked “above standard”, and SR said I looked confident (I must have gone into “fake it until you make it”) and built more rapport with the students than my last class. I asked her how I was given that mark because I talked about something that was haram and she said not to worry about it and that they probably knew what it was or they were going to learn about it in the future anyway. I took her word for it, but I know if I ever get a teaching job in the Middle East or Muslim majority country, I will not talk about anything that is haram.

Lessons learned:

  • Do not be afraid to make your mark with a mischievous student in the first lesson.
  • Do not talk about things that are ‘haram’ to a classroom full of Muslim students.

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