I love Saturday! I hate working 6 days a week, but at least on Saturdays the lessons are so much fun.
Slowly my kids realize, the longer they have me, that I really love being silly. I hate playing disciplinarian, even though it’s vital to classroom control. Slowly, but surely I crack jokes with all my classes, in whichever language I need, sometimes all 3, until the kids start to understand: Miss R. has a really low disrespect and bad-word tolerance level, BUT any and all forms of silliness is allowed, ESPECIALLY in English. I lose them for a few years when they are insecure teenagers and too cool for school and deathly afraid of standing out. 12-14 years old, not my faves. I get it. I have lots of patience for all these moods swings. I’ve been there. In fact I can’t help but love them more with all their ridiculous insecurities and posturing. Oh but how it makes the lessons seem twice as long.
Not on Saturday though. The first lesson is the ideal lesson for an early morning. We all wake-up together. (Although these days I’m wide awake at 9:30 even on my days off. Which for a night owl like me is hard to believe) It’s my fave age level, right before they’re teenagers, old enough to understand more sophisticated humor, but young enough to still enjoy the sensation of giggling hysterically. Last week they came up with the phrase “school-haters” and screamed at me, “We’re school haters!”, while I feigned being completely shocked and refused to accept it. Although they’re all such good little students, but like any child they get a kick out of saying things that might be “cheeky” or “bad”.
That brings up a short conversation I had with my boss this morning. One of the girls had transferred into the class, from another much more noisy “cool” group. Since she’s been in the class she’s actually put her cleverness to good use. From the time I knew she would transfer, I was quite pleased, because she was the leader of all sorts of distractions in class and I was hoping a new setting would get her to pay attention more (and calm down her old class). I told my boss as much today. She was pleased because she mentioned that earlier she just wanted to transfer out.
I should mention that I split all my classes between my boss and a third teacher here. It’s better for the kids (they get native English speaking skills at least once a week) and for us as well. Since if a class is a bit troublesome, they might behave better with one teacher if not the other, or one of our strengths might make up for a lack in the other and hopefully all the kids will somehow move along. For the kids it also means they might get less tired of me. Gotta stretch out whatever charm I have for as long as I can. Eventually they will all resent you at some time or another!
Basically though this little girl thought the other teacher didn’t like her and my boss told her, I won’t even hear it. Which was right of my boss to do. You can’t do anything else. The other teacher is a professional. Not a professional teacher, none of us are (although my boss would give every teacher in the world a run for their money). It’s after school help Greek style. But even professionals have feelings. The kids are a lot smarter and sensitive than adults give them credit for.
The first week the girl transferred my co-worker mentioned how the nice classroom dynamic was totally wrecked and went on to say “she’s a bit of a spoiled diva expecting to be catered to”. I remember wondering how she expected anything else, she’s the youngest in family with only boys and she knows how to charm her way out of anything. Those are survival skills. That’s not bad character, that’s environment. And I saw how my class reacted when she came sauntering into my classroom half an hour late with only the barest attempt at an apology. Shocked at her daring one of the boys fell headlong into a crush and suddenly started acting out, cracking jokes left and right. Nothing more adorable than little boy puppy love.
And she spoke only Greek to me, because she was the first one of all my students to realize that I knew exactly what they were all saying. “Why aren’t you using German?” they exclaimed. “Ms. R.” she asked me in Greek, “do you mind? Does it matter?” No dear, but English is better,” with my best expectant teacher look. And the thing is I had a super easy English class where everything in the book was enough and the kids were eager to just tell my about their lives. But it was quiet. And now my little shy I. has discovered the joys of sitting in the back of the class with the new girl and being cool (even though they both asked me for permission. Like I said, I love it when they’re still kids.)
It’s hard, especially when you’re a new teacher and you have to make sure you have that respect. It’s hard when little kids call things out as they see them. It’s hard when your co-worker is an Ami that the kids love, just because they still think all Amis are cool, even those who read a lot and assign them stupid homework. I don’t think the kids are shy about expressing their preference and that is hard on me too. I do think there was a bit of resentment accurately felt, even if the reason wasn’t interpreted correctly.
But it’s easy to get kids wrong too. Case in point another little girl in the class used to copy homework and her vocab words a lot and I thought she was not a good student. But slowly I realized she had just never been told she was a good student. I told her one time her writing was really good and that her writings were always good and I still remember the “me” she squeaked out and how her face went red for the whole lesson. And since then she’s never tried (hard) to sneak anything by me and I’ve tried to keep in mind to praise her when fitting. (I remember EVERY TIME one of my comments have hit home with the kids and their faces lit up at being seen for who they were.)
But see my co-worker works best with the smaller kids because her better command of Greek and German can control them better. And I do have a soft spot for the cheeky students. Making fun of them until they realize their behavior isn’t up to my standards. I definitely think I do neglect my really well-prepared students from time to time, at least in terms of classroom time. So I’m glad we split it. I’ve definitely seen it as a good thing that my students now have a good example of someone who’s really integrated into German society (imho she’s more German than Greek) and good role models are always hard to find. Reason #1 why I get my butt to church as often as I can even though sometimes it kills me that I have to see Greek faces every day a week.
My job is quite interesting. I learn just about as much as I teach. I’m lucky I can say that.
Anyway I do want to say that my second class today is full of girls that not 6 months ago couldn’t stand each other and I have slowly teased them into getting along. They have conflicting personalities and used to make fun of each other seriously, but since I started joining in, but setting the tone in a “fun only” way, they’ve followed my example. We get mixed up in all 3 languages and cultures. Case in point: “Daniel Craig will be immer noch xalia!” (Daniel Craig will still be awful!) as I tried to convince them that the new Bond is attractive! They are so silly and so creative and wonder of wonders thanks to a game of pass-the-story that I played to try to loosen them up, we’ve discovered that they love to write. Well more correct, they love to finish each other story ideas with shocking endings that bring us all to tears of laughter. When a group of 14 year old girls beg you to let them write a story in class, hey hey, that doesn’t happen often. And they all file out asking me if they are the best story writers. Ha no contest I tell them and the little grins on their faces make me so proud I could burst. I had something to do with their English development. That fills me with wonder.
And so on Saturday I feel like I’m a good English teacher. Despite the other nonsense and the ups-and-downs of the week. I end on a high note. A language is many things: a certificate, a skill, a passion, an expression of art, a set of grammar rules, funny accents, a must, but I hope it’s not just another boring class. As I tell my kids, “hey are you calling my language boring! Well thanks I guess you mean me too. Can I come into your living room sometime and sit down rolling my eyes telling you how much Greek sucks?”
Kids are pretty good at seeing through hypocrisy, even their own.