So, I just completed my first month of teaching, hooray!
I came to Taiwan from New York City with nearly 7 years of experience as a private English tutor (a mixture of ESL and remediation for 10-14 year-old dyslexics), but NO classroom experience. I read posts on Forumosa and Dave’s ESL Cafe for a year before making the decision. And, once I decided to go, I even observed the classes of some of my teacher friends.
Basically, I was trying to do everything I could to prepare myself for what I would experience as both a new teacher and a person in a new culture. I hoped to ease the discomfort I knew I would experience, even though all my teacher friends told me I should just prepare to have a horrible first year.
But, as it turned out, I didn’t really experience any discomfort initially. I got a job at a preschool (the last place I’d planned to work) and took to it like a duck in water. I love morning exercises, circle time, storytime, etc. And all my dyslexia training comes in handy for teaching little ones to read. I’m even not as bad at classroom management as I thought I’d be; although, I’ve still got a lot to learn. Preschool isn’t perfect, but I think it’s wonderful.
The adult classes I started teaching two weeks ago, on the other hand, have been a completely different story. My training was just the day before my first class. I was made to watch some videos and given a long lecture about the changing theories of ESL teaching over the past 40 years. Then, I was given a huge pile of materials to use and told about them, but had no time to actually read them myself. I did what I thought I was supposed to do, but the next day it was hinted that the students weren’t happy with my performance. So I tried a different style that was suggested to me for the second class–again using materials I was given the same day and had no time to read–but I was really uncomfortable with that style, really didn’t understand the materials, and was more nervous and paranoid than I had been in the first class.
The following week, I learned that half my students had decided to quit the class. At that point I felt like quitting myself. I felt like I wasn’t ready to teach adults; I should keep teaching kids for a couple of more years. But, I couldn’t give up before the school gave up on me–i.e., fired me–so I went to the third class anyway.
To my surprise, it actually went quite well. I had a weekend and a few days to get to learn the material and talk to/observe the classes of some of my fellow teachers. The smaller class size meant that only the people who were open to my style were there. And, since there were fewer of them, it was easier for me to get to know them and their needs.
Since then, I’ve had two more adult classes. They are still not as enjoyable or comfortable for me as the preschool classes, but, at least now, I feel like I have the potential to become a good adult teacher too.
I’m wondering: what did the rest of you go through during your first few classes? And how did you keep from feeling like a total failure?
What kept you going, kept you from feeling utterly depressed, during the first year?