Friday, October 28, 2011

don't get too comfortable.

the comfort zone is a dangerous place. in this zone, it's easy to become robotic, simply going through the memorized habits and motions.

i was quickly reminded of this about a month and a half ago when my teaching schedule was thrown for a loop. one week, i was in my comfort zone, teaching mostly small or individual classes of adults, with just two classes of 11-12 year-old children to challenge me. things were simple. the next week, it was a whole new ballgame in which most of my classes were wiped out to be replaced by teaching at a primary school in a nearby town. all children. all day. twice a week.

i hadn't taught any children at all until this year. needless to say, i was praising God for the few weeks of "practice" i'd been given with the two children's classes that were in my original schedule. to go from teaching small classes of adults and a few teenagers to classes ranging from 13-20 students ages 8 and up is quite a change, and i've decided that teaching children who don't speak your language is near the top of the list of ways to test my patience.

the past month and a half definitely hasn't all been smooth sailing, and i'll freely admit that there have been multiple times where i've wanted to throw up my hands in defeat, break down in tears, or do a combination of both. however, the good moments have definitely outweighed the bad, and i'd like to share a few of the heartwarming and/or entertaining moments with you.

*word at the school has quickly spread that i am the native english speaker, and whenever i walk down the halls, students that i've never taught say hello in english (though quite sheepishly, much to my amusement). the students who i have taught are often much more confident and animated, and many of them practically shout, "hello, ashley!" better yet is when i walk into my 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes, and the students light up like christmas trees and excitedly shout my name. even if they act like stinkers in class, it's nice to know that they appreciate my presence.

*on the first day of teaching the 7th class, there was a group of boys near the back who weren't paying attention. i walked back to them, crossed my arms, gave them the stink eye, and told them that i wouldn't move until they had answered one of the questions in the activity we were doing as a class. of course, they gawked at me like i was speaking chinese. one of them finally spoke up, so i moved on. later on though, they were being quite loud and distracting, so i shouted, "ticho, prosim!" (quiet, please) in their direction. these students didn't know that i could speak and understand some czech, and the boys' jaws practically hit the floor while all the girls stood up and clapped.

*i teach a few after-school classes, where there is no czech teacher to supervise. since it's only me, the children often lose their incentive to behave and end up driving me crazy. two of the classes contain multiple hyper-active children, so i've found that providing a word search or scramble can often help them to focus. when they finish the exercise, they come up to my desk to have me check it and give them a grade. even though it's not technically for a grade, it gives them great pleasure when i put a 1 at the bottom, which is the best grade possible. but of course, the grade isn't enough. they also want me to sign it. one week when doing this, the students decided that i was a celebrity and practically attacked me in a mad attempt to get my signature. they had me sign random papers, exercise books, hands, and even one boy's wallet. i'm sure their parents were pleased that i refused to sign their foreheads.

*in another after-school class, there is a set of two boys that always stay behind to help clean up the classroom. they typically just wipe down the chalkboard, but yesterday they even took to straightening the rows of desks (in a slightly OCD-manner, i might add).

*last week, when my public children's class (held at the fishnet office) was over, one of my students came up to me and handed me a picture she had drawn of me. my heart definitely smiled in thankfulness at the sweet gesture. and how fitting, as our lesson was on thanksgiving. i have posted the picture below in hopes that it will bring a smile to your heart too :-)