Sunday, August 12, 2012

When is the Semester Over?

Hats off to my K-12 teacher friends who day in and day out hit the trenches of teaching.  I knew teaching was tough but after one week of teaching every day,  I have new found admiration and respect for you.  Typically at a college level, a teacher might teach three times a week, but here the visiting teachers (i.e., Americans) get to teach every day.  Maybe it's not a full straight eight-hours, but for this novice teacher, I was worn out on the first day. 

Like many novice teachers, I planned all sorts of activities and multimedia enrichment for the week for my classes.  Then I got the text books and the program syllabus, which didn't quite match what I was given originally.  I started with very detailed, typed lesson plans for each day, with objectives and assessments.  Yet, by day 2, I realized that was overkill.  I was quickly going to learn that you can't count on technology or spend too much time going overboard with lesson plans.  Plus, the curriculum is British, so I have to explain the difference between American and British English - not that one is better than the other - just that they're different. 

One of the things I have to adapt to while at the university is their scheduling.  Since my classes are every day and space is at a premium, I am in a different room every day for each class.  Sound confusing? It is!  Since I am in a different classroom, different schools (i.e., the school of communications, or engineering) have control of the multimedia equipment (projector remotes, a/v cables, workstation keys).  So, I have to cross-reference what room I am in for that session on that day with what school has the equipment if I plan to use any a/v that session. Each school has a different requirement for getting the cartucharas (literally pencil case). One school's office has a sign-out sheet. Others just hand it to me.  After class, I have to return it. If they're not there or it's 8:30 at night, I have to find a building custodian or a drop-box, depending on the school.  

I didn't get any classroom technology training either and like in the US, every building has a different setup. There's no white boards either, just chalkboards and chalk (which you have to bring yourself).  On Monday morning, the Centro de Idiomas' box of chalk was filled with fresh and bright full sticks of chalk. By Friday, all that was left was neon green and purple.  Sometimes,  if you're lucky, you'll find a left over piece of chalk in the classroom that another professor left behind. 

Monday: The first day of second term. My first class was at 11 am - Intermediate II. I was very nervous but I was in my dress suit, heels, and pearls. I went to class to set up before hand, but there was a class already in there.  The professor helped me set up the computer, but the prezi didn't download right. So, I thought I'd just go to the live one online, but the computer didn't have Adobe Flash. So, no fancy presentation.  Rule #1 of teaching = never count on technology! I learned this over and over and over during the week. If the computer worked, then the projector didn't. If the projector did work and the computer did, the sound wouldn't work. 

Like in the United States, nobody talked before class started and nobody talked to each other.  
I went over the rules and we did get to know you activities. You would have thought I asked my classes to jump into a pit of acid the way they reacted.

The students for the most part are respectful and good.  Though, perhaps it is normal, but I felt like I connected more with my first two classes than the 7 pm class.  I feel like I'm a parent and I don't really like one of my kids as much as the others.  But, the 7 pm class is slowly starting to warm up.  Some activities that work in one class don't work in the other.  The students are mostly your typical college-aged student, but I have some working adults in my classes.  

Another interesting scheduling quirk is that students can have overlapping schedules. They might have a M/W/F class during my English class.  In the states, if you had a class conflict, you had to pick which class to take.  Here, they can miss 12 classes without penalty.  Then, they can miss 6 with an excused note if they make up the class in a different session.  But after 19 classes, they might be dropped from the course.  So, trying to figure out names and attendance, and who is late is proving to be a challenge.  I'm also trying to remember names which is hard when students switch classes around like some people switch socks. 

On Friday, in my Intermediate II class, I had a surprise evaluation. I had planned to play some videos (more for fun) because it was Friday and our unit's theme was Ireland... yes, I was going to play U2... but I scratched that.  I think tomorrow I will have my review. 

I hope I am helping the students. The curriculum is scant with in-depth information.  If I'm explaining question tags, I have to supplement my knowledge with internet searching.  Thank goodness for the internet.  I knew teaching was a tough job, but my respect for the good teachers I know has grown just in one week.  Can I make until November? 


  1. You can do it!!! This is the first time I have had a chance to look at your blog and it is bringing back all kinds of memories from my own time teaching in Mongolia. Your experience is a little different, but many of your frustrations sound the same. Stick with it. You will start to see the rewarding parts of teaching as you go. The students can be awesome. I can still see the faces of some of my favorites, though I can't remember most of their names... I can see you being a really good teacher. You will find your groove soon enough! :)

  2. I gotta say it sounds fun despite the quirks of overlapping students and changing classrooms everyday. What an adventure!!