I’ll be coming to Taiwan in August, hopefully working in Hsinchu and living with my girlfriend. Since I’ve no teaching experience I thought I could put my mind at ease by hearing a few first day horror stories from some of you who have gone on to become fine, respectable, and beloved teachers!
My first day wasn’t too bad … not because I was any good, but because it’s really hard to mess up the Hess stuff. I was kinda slow and boring for a while, but I think that’s normal.
It took about three months before any of my kids could understand a word I said, though – London accent is tough for them
Ha ha, yeah a cockney accent would be tough for them!
I’m from the far north actually, Lake District, but have no real accent. Just sound British with quite a flat tone.
I think I’ll look up Hess some more, cheers Brendon!
You could try Global Village or another school that teaches adults in a more relaxed “English Club” atmosphere.
Mostly just talking…
My first day of teaching came less than 72 hours of arriving…and it was a 10-hour day. I had one little girl that clung to my Chinese TA’s leg and screamed every time I tried to comfort her. I had another girl who came in in tears and threw up her breakfast on the rug. A little boy decided to knock all the blocks off the table and then play “Catch me if you can” around the classroom. And the parents all wanted to meet with me and find out what my plans were for their kids. Plans? I didn’t even know what I was doing that day, let alone for the whole school year. Which, by the way, had started a week before I arrived in Taiwan. And this was all happening at 9am. I still had 9 more hours of work to go.
After the kids all managed to get picked up at 11:30, I had an hour for lunch and then on to my next task…learning what I was supposed to be doing for the ESL class. I talked with my co-teacher about how we were doing assessments and what she already knew of the kids from the other classes when she did her observations during the week I was still in the US. That was probably the easiest part of my day. Still didn’t know what was expected of me, but at least I had someone finally explain to me what to do. She was the first person to really do so. Then on to my buxiban class. Which was in another teacher’s classroom and not my own. Fortunately, it was the first day of school for them and their parents were not as lax. They were 1st graders who had just graduated from the kindergarten. Again, not having any kind of orientation, I had no idea what to do with these guys. They, of course, only wanted to play with the toys in the classroom from the kindy class. I knew enough to know that it wasn’t a good idea to do so. I tried to do some kind of art project (a big no-no in the teaching bible), and lost control of them. One kid pulled the chair out from under another kid so that he fell on the floor (the next day, his mother gave me the dubious honor of my first complaint because of this). Another kid grabbed my breast when I bent over to help him with his work and shouted “nei nei”. Now, they don’t teach words like that in your 1st-year Chinese courses, but I had already heard comments from the younger ones about pigou’s and nei nei’s to understand that it was not his way of getting my attention. When the end of my day finally arrived, I had one kid’s mother looking for her child because I didn’t know who the kid was. I went back to my hotel room, cried for an hour, and then calculated how much money I had left in my bank account to see if I could afford to pay the penalty for bumping the return date of my flight up to the next day.
That was almost five years ago. Ironically, I had my first day of summer buxiban class today which includes some of the kids who were those same 1st graders five years ago. I greeted them at the door, told them which table they were to sit at and directed them to the instructions on the whiteboard (which were to fill out the questionnaires and surveys and create a label for their basket and folders while everyone arrived) before we had our class meeting 15 minutes into class to go over the rules and expectations. Quite a different result. I also have had a few weeks to fine tune my lesson plans and classroom management plan (and the knowledge of how to plan a class effectively).
My first day hell was caused by a combination of lack of experience with teaching a full classroom of children, serious jet lag (having traveled across 12 time zones), and absolutely no orientation or training from the school (aside from a tour to show me where the library, kitchen, and air conditioner was). Hope no one else has to go through a day like mine.
I hadn’t taught before and had almost no experience with children whatever, so what did they do…?
Here’s your books, here’s your class. See ya!
It was all downhill from there until I came into work one day in early March to be told I was fired – as of the end of June! :loco:
I might have done better had there been some training, a CT in the classroom, or some kind of support or mentoring system. Nevertheless, I survived, learned from it, and became a better teacher because of it.
I got here on a Monday night, 36 hours after leaving Newfoundland. I had a job lined up and the boss met me at the airport. He couldn’t string enough words of English together to come up with a sentence. He kept looking at me while making a drinking motion and saying “Coca-cola, Coca-cola”. He immediately brought me to the school to meet everyone, and then to my apartment.
The next day was training day. I had spent most of Tuesday morning looking for something edible and was dog-tired when I arrived there that afternoon. Training consisted of watching other teachers learn on the job. By the time 7 o’clock rolled around I had no idea what I was hearing and told them I had to go home and rest. “Great, so you’ll be ready to teach tomorrow then, right?” I thought it was a joke but they didn’t laugh when I did.
So the next day I went in to teach, not quite 48 hours after I had stepped off the plane. Fortunately I like kids and work well with them so it went fairly smoothly but physically I was wiped out. I was saved by a typhoon the next day and finally got to take a rest and get over the jet lag.
The next seven years after that have been a breeze.
One thing that helped me a lot in the beginning was reading a couple of books on classroom management before I arrived in Taiwan. The advice in them was mostly solid, and knowing you have a few tools to handle difficult situations is a real confidence booster.
Another lifesaver is having some games ready that you know how to teach and can use for any material you like. Again Hess were really good about that, teaching us some and using them themselves during our training to help us get the idea. You could certainly find out about some on your own though, if you’re not sure how much help your school is gonna be. Then if things are getting too slow or you’ve forgotten what you’re supposed to do next, you can keep them occupied for ten minutes or so while you figure it out
Oh, and one that took me a while to get the hang of … practice speaking really slowly.
My first day in a classroom to “observe” was 2 hours after getting off the plane on what was still 9/11/2001 in the states. Images of planes crashing into the WTC on airport business lounge TV’s at CKS were front and center as well as a very strong desire to just go back home and be with family and friends. Spent that evening trying my damdest not to nod off from exhaustion whilst “observing.”
A few days later Typhoon Nari hit and I was in Shijr which was hit hard. We had no water, no electricity, no nothing for weeks. Water was up to the bottom of the McDonald’s sign across the street and it wasn’t until a few days later that my boss, who I was staying with, ventured out in the still flooded streets to check out his school.
Said school was flooded to shit. Spend 2-3 days sharing a water pump with neighbors to pump out the basement classrooms what were flooded to the top of the stairs on the first floor. Spent a day hauling out desks from that basement classroom to wash off in the streets and a few more hours peeling puzzle pieces off the ceiling, washing and salvaging lamanated flashcards, and itching from the one hell of a rash I got from wading in waist-deep water.
Once the school was able to re-open I was handed 4 folders worth of lessons plans and told to “do my best.” I was freaked. I had NO idea about anything… how to explain grammar, how to water-down my English so the kids could understand, etc… It was a bloody nightmare. It was hell for about 6 months. My self-esteem was shot and the kids walked all over me. But, I stuck it out and now 5 years later I’m a pretty damn good teacher. I learned a lot from my boss at that school (was there for 2 years… been at my current school for 3.) I’ve had great foreign bosses/owners, have never had the luxury of a Chinese teacher in my classroom and I’ve been pretty lucky… I think. I wouldn’t do those 1st 6 months again if you paid me… but it was one helluva fantastic learning experience at the age of 23. Or as my dad would say, all part of life’s rich pageant.
It was sheer hell. The kids were monsters with serious behavioral problems. I wish I’d done some reading on classroom management before walking in there. The kids saw that I was nervous and had a field day. I never really was able to manage them after they saw how much fun it could be to make a grown man feel powerless.
Second year was better. I survived.
First day,week,month,and year was pure hell.I felt like packing my bags almost every goddamn day. My bosses, previous Chinese school teachers, thought English should be taught the traditional way.They would burst into my class to scold,humiliate,threaten, and sometimes beat the the kids in the midst of my lessons.They would of course do the same to me(minus the beating).It was rough. A few teaching seminars and ten months later,I took the initiative and told them in not such a nice way that I would not finish my contract.To make a long horror story short,I moved to a different city and got a job at a much better school and have never looked back.
Learn from your mistakes,take a few seminars(ie Oxford university Press),get advice from other teachers,try to respect your employer and never give up,would be my two bits worth of advice.
Thanks for all the advice guys, it’s a great help. It’s also nice to know that it’s a challenge for a broad range of people, not just those unused to teaching.
I think I will definately read up on classroom management and look into some seminars. I had thought about doing a short course on teaching, but I don’t think I can afford that. my girlfriend is an English teacher so I think she can help me out a lot too!
Oh, that was week three for me. I was getting used to my students and into the swing of things and couldn’t figure out why the Chinese teachers had suddenly taken an interest in what part of the US I was from. When they kept asking if I lived in New York or had family there, I assumed they asked because people assume that if you’re from the states, you either live in New York or California. Then I couldn’t figure out why the president was giving a speech on international news radio about a plane crash in Pennsylvania. Or why people kept asking me if my family was okay. I spent the entire morning oblivious to what had happened until we had a teacher’s meeting at 3:30 that afternoon, someone asked me again if my family was okay and when I irritatedly asked why, they asked me, “Didn’t you hear? They attacked the World Trade Center,” and then thrust a newspaper with the second plane crashing in a huge photograph on the front. I went into shock and had to handle a class of 1st graders who wanted to ask questions when I myself was completely unprepared to think about the events, let alone answer questions. I had an uncle who worked in the World Trade Center who would have been on his way to work, an aunt who was a stewardess based in Logan Airport, and a cousin who worked at the Pentagon. And the attempts I made to call home after I found out, were blocked because all the lines were busy. And to put icing on the cake, I was just talking to my roommate’s mother the night before about how I marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade the year before…the last one before 9/11…and showed her a picture that I had taken of the skyline during Thanksgiving dinner. I was the only American at my school, the only one who’s life was directly affected by it, and I was marched into my classroom, still in shock after finding out what happened 30 minutes before class began, and was expected to still teach without anyone offering to give me time to recover.
Typhoon Nari was a much needed break.
Is your girlfriend a teacher or an ELT teacher? I know from experience that ELT/TESOL programs give you very little in how to run a classroom. They teach you methods and teaching ideas, but little to nothing about classroom management.
My current reading - Positive Discipline: A Teacher’s A-Z Guide by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D. et al - has been eye-opening to say the least. I am already seeing results from the few ideas I’ve adopted from it and it’s only been a week. It also is amazing in how much I’ve learned about the motivation behind some of my students’, former and current, behavior and how to deal with it in a positive way. Another highly recommended book along with Harry Wong’s First Days of School and Mazlish and Faber’s How to Talk So Kids Can Learn.