Disenchantment and Authenticity in the Classroom

I would say the honeymoon phase of my job is over after starting my fourth month here. I still love the majority of my kids, and there are occasions where I actually feel like I’m doing what I’ve been trained to do, but for the most part, I do feel disenchanted with my job right now. Saying I’m doing it for the money is not only ridiculous, it also leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I never wanted to feel that way about teaching. The idea that we are essentially glorified daycare sitters and tutors is not how I pictured this year to go. I rarely feel like I’m teaching anymore, at least in the truest sense of the word. It’s practically all classroom management, giving the students worksheets, and having them constantly reread a story. When does the learning happen? I feel like I’m holding my breath, waiting for more of my classes to get to the 2nd Year books so things can be more in-depth. This shows me I was not meant to be an elementary teacher. I had known that before coming into the position. I knew that my first couple of months here. I love the little ones, but the day in and day out of basics is draining.

On that note, with the classes I write my own lesson plans for (meaning without a detailed Teacher’s Edition to tell me when, where, how, and why), I have no qualms about mixing up a few things. Let’s throw in some additional homework that fits with the theme, but that’s not in your books. Find me Korean folktales. Let’s do a research project on any country you want. Those sort of things, a way for the student to connect with the material on a personal or cultural level. The books’ content has a great deal of American information, how we perceive things or what’s important to us. What was the space race like from Korea’s perspective? Why can’t these kids connect the material with their own culture for once?

Today in my last class, one with only two students, we were going to do something with Speaking and Writing and forming a narrative. Um. No. Instead, I looked at them and said, “You know what, let’s do this tomorrow. Why don’t we study for your vocabulary test today?” It felt so good to change it up, to ensure they understood material on a level they could identify with. Make it real. 12 vocabulary words turned into at least 30 total words for them on the board. I gave them the first words, and then one by one, I would right the rough opposite and discuss the meanings with them.

Vocabulary Review

Example: threat -x- safety
“Imagine you’re in your bed, wrapped up in a bunch of blankets. How do you feel? Yes, you’re very cozy. You’re warm and safe. Now, imagine you’re on the top of a very high ledge, and someone is about to push you over. How do you feel? Yeah, you’re scared! You’re not safe. You feel threatened.”

Example: design -x- destroy
Here, I draw a simplistic house on the board with a garage, a fence, and a tree. I ask one of the girls to come over and destroy it. She is uncertain at first, and then wipes her hand across the picture. Naturally, I’m very upset that she has destroyed my house and that I have no place to live. I ask her to design another one. She recreates my drawing and then decides to add a swimming pool, something I’m quite ecstatic about. The little bit helped drive home the point that designing is creating, adding ideas to a particular medium.

Example: contradict -x- agree
I introduced this by playing the “Yes – No” game. It’s similar to the electronic 80s game Simon Says, but definitely not as complicated. The simple rule, you have to contradict me. You have to disagree with me. Every time I said yes, one of the students would have to say no. Every time I said no, one of the students had to say yes. YesNo YesNo NoYes NoYes YesNo NoYes YesNo. It may be too simplistic, but it works. To beef that up, we discussed what happens when you ask your mom to do something and then ask your dad the same thing in hopes of a different answer.

The girls seemed far more comfortable with the vocabulary than I have ever seen them before. I’m crossing my fingers they do well on the test tomorrow.