Young Learners’ (YL) Summer School 15/07/13

I_Am_The_Teacher_funny_education_photographsAs previously mentioned, I had some trepidation about teaching kids again after the troubles I’ve had in the past. Stress and stuff have kept me from the Writing Challenge (stay tuned for that), but I want to talk about about the class today.

Firstly, it differed because there were three adults in the room. That helped a lot in a 20-strong class with monitoring and discipline. There were no actively aggressive or misbehaving children in class; just a bit of giddiness. My plan worked quite well, and I had no real problems getting students engaged and involved in the whole thing.

Firstly, students played a story writing game where they write one part of the story, fold down the paper then write the next. The five sections were labelled “Who” “What” “Where” “When” and “Why. This got them warmed up and giggling when they read the story, though some students did struggle with which one was which.

Next, they went to look at a number of pictures dotted around the room which related to the week’s theme (the sea) and had to come up with a story relating to it. After that, they put it into a newspaper plan when given a format.

Finally, they walked around and made a decision about which was the best story plan. Tomorrow they’ll start writing it up in a newspaper stylee (as per the week’s ultimate goal).

All in all, I was very pleased with the way it went, developed a rapport and a way of doing things that seemed to work out, and all in all it really boosted my confidence with the whole YL thing. Maybe I was just unlucky with previous classes, or maybe I just needed this extra year of developing as a teacher before applying that to a younger class. Either way, I’m feeling quite positive about the whole thing. And none of the dread I felt yesterday.

Note: If you are a teacher and you’d like any of these materials, please drop me a message and I’ll pass them on to you. We’re in this together, right?

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Facing a Teaching Fear

I find it very easy to teach adults. After all, teaching is just a conversation – and I converse exclusively with adults. It gives me the chance to practice. Of course, there’s theory, methodology, grammar and whatnot, but I truly think that the core of teaching is having that conversation.

The thing that I think makes me a good teacher of adults is also what gave me such trouble with children last year. As a person I’m chaotic, silly and a bit disorganised. I think adults respond to that because I’m quite fun in class – I make jokes and silly analogies – but also because it means I’m never patronising. I’m not an authority figure in those classes. I’m a guy telling them some stuff.

This of course doesn’t work in regular kids’ classes. If you’re the fun teacher then that’s what you are. In a well-behaved class that can be great and a lot of fun. In others… see for yourself.

The funny thing is, I didn’t have the same experiences at the start of my career – back when I exclusively taught kids in UK summer schools. With almost exclusively Italian students from age 8-18, I was a bit hit. Students loved my fun classes and wanted to be in my team for the other activities. I really enjoyed it too. The kids were fun, opinionated, playful and entertaining.

I realise that International summer schools are different from long-term daily

I've used this image before, but it's terribly appropriate.

I’ve used this image before, but it’s terribly appropriate.

teaching, but it did come as a blow when I couldn’t rely on being the fun teacher – on being myself – as the only tool in my arsenal. Unfortunately, by the time I had realised this my authority and discipline had already eroded to nothing. I tried all the tips and tricks of other teachers, but they didn’t work. The students didn’t respect me, despite how I tried for the next nine months to regain it. The failure hit me quite hard, and brought me quite low.

Now I’ve been asked to try teaching children again. Needless to say, I’m nervous after the miserable experience I had last year with 3*C, but I also remember how much fun I had in those summer schools that taught me I wanted to be a teacher.

I’m assured that it won’t be bad; that the students are coming to ‘my turf’ in the school, that we have a fun syllabus planned and that there’s lots of support available. I trust the people who have said those things, so I will try and hope for the best.

I don’t really have a conclusion prepared for this blog. Last year was hard for me for lots of reasons, and it’s difficult to separate it into all the constituent difficulties. During last week’s YL* training, I felt a hard lump in my chest, and with it flashes back to those classes, that year and how it all turned out. Nevertheless, this is something I think I can do. And I really need to let that year go. So cross your fingers for me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Thanksgiving

I’m British and therefore not a follower of this holiday. That said, sometimes it’s good to think about the good things you have in your life. Doubly so if you’re a crazy person like me. So, here we go.

I’m thankful that I’m losing weight. I realise it’s shallow, but I used to weigh around 300 pounds. I’ll take every ounce I can get.

I’m thankful for the friendships and social life I’ve developed in Mexico. Much as I sometimes churlishly complain, I wouldn’t change them for anything.

I’m thankful for living in Mexico. I’m living a life far from where I was born; experiencing, eating and doing things I never could at home. It’s easy to become blasé about it, but that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I’m thankful my DELTA application was accepted, so I can keep moving forward in my career, while enjoying Mexico for 12 more months.

I’m thankful for Doctor Who. Judge me or not, I don’t care. 😛

I’m thankful that I have tentative plans to go to ComicCon next year. My point on judgement continues. 😛

I’m thankful for my life – even when I don’t or can’t remember to be.

Happy thanksgiving.

Racism?

Yes, it’s a cliché to open with a definition. So sue me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about racism; about what is or isn’t acceptable.

In my job, you meet a lot of people from a lot of countries, and also a lot of people who have visited a lot of countries. Needless to say, this means that my colleagues and I see a lot of cultural diversity in almost everything we do. Is it entirely wrong to comment on it, or only to do so with malice?

Amongst my closest friends here I have Mexicans (obviously), a Frenchman, a Texan, a Hungarian, a Welshwoman, a guy from the Czech Republic (if memory serves) via well to so Middle England, and others. I am from working class South Yorkshire. We often joke about cultural differences and stereotypes (discussions often but not always instigated by me), and I wonder where the line is amongst friends. I think all my friends and colleagues here are friendly, warm, likeable people, and it would hurt me greatly to think that I’d offended them. That said, I don’t think I have. I think these issues are easier amongst people you know.

On the other hand, there are third party observations that ESL teachers are also guilty of. I’ve heard (and said) things like:

– “If you think it’s corrupt here, you should see XYZ!”
– “Yeah, Mexicans walk slowly, but ZYX walk slower.”
– “Mexico’s problem is just how disorganised it is.”
– “I hated ABC. Everyone was so rude!”

These points are asides from all the things we love about a place, of course. As teachers, we have a tendency to moan. British teachers doubly so. Mexico is here as an example because that’s where I am right now.

Anyway, when you’re at home amongst people who share a culture (even if it’s not your whole ethnic make-up) it’s a little easier to draw the line, I think. In Britain, there’ll always be the middle class fear of offending someone, but broadly speaking, you neither badmouth people who are different nor discuss the ways they are different, save on an ideological level. Out in the world where you’re living the cultural differences, it’s almost impossible not to discuss them. Particularly when you come across the rarity which is an accent that matches your own.

At the risk of mentioning Jeremy Clarkson in two posts in a row, the Mexican Top Gear scandal from a couple of years ago particularly comes to mind. In the episode (see below) Richard Hammond and co. compare a Mexican car to the bigot-approved “facts” about Mexican people as smelly, lazy, stupid desert-dwellers*. This is a perspective from men who leave their country only to mock others while simultaneously living up to the worst possible white Westerner stereotypes. This is racism, and outside of irony with friends, far from what I would ever allow to genuinely pass my lips.

I suppose this is more of a question-post than an answer-post. When you see cultural difference every day, when you travel to places where ideals, processes and habits are different: is it wrong to say so? I’d love your opinions on this.

*I have to say here that since I’ve been in Mexico, I don’t think I’ve met a lazy Mexican. Certain none lazier than me. Though I’ve seen some corruption (and even benefited from it) and a few ripe-smelling people on the tightly-packed public transport, these are certainly the exceptions rather than the rule. Geographically, there is so much varied landscape to see in Mexico without a grain of sand in sight. From a non-native Mexican inhabitant, Clarkson is an idiot.

30 Days Challenge: Day 18: A letter to someone you miss

To My Family:

Hello from Mexico! I just wanted to let you all know that I’m doing fine (as you know from my weekly calls) and all is well.

Sorry I seem to have spent so much of my time running away from you. I love you all. I love being with you and I miss you so much when I’m away. The problem is, the lives you live are not what I want for myself. Not yet, anyway. I need to be myself, even if it means I can’t be a part of the family in the ways I’d love to.

I hope you can all understand and forgive me. I’ll always be part of you, even from far away.

Lots of love,

Andy.

30 Day Challenge: Day 4: About your family.

Okay, let’s see. My family at present is as follows:

  • Mum
  • Mum’s fiancée, Graham
  • Dad
  • Dad’s wife, Karen
  • Dad’s mum and dad – my Nanan and Grandad
  • My brother, Micahel
  • His long-term gf, Simone.
  • Karen’s daughter, Sam
  • Sam’s husband, Russ
  • Their son, Brendan
  • The “Wakefield lot” being the family sprouting from my mum’s sister, with whom I’m not very close.

Let’s start at the top, then. My mum is lovely, silly and emotional. I think I get a large part of my personality from her. It’s always easy to just turn up and spend an hour or two together without anything having changed.

With my dad, it hasn’t always been that easy. We’ve always been very different people, and I think that when I was younger he was disappointed by that. We’ve come to terms over the years, and I really feel like he’s there for me, and supports the choices I make  (even the stupid ones).

Graham I don’t like. I think he mooches off my mum and has no intentions of helping her pay the bills long-term. Nonetheless, mum loves him and he makes her happy. I try to respect that whenever he’s not undermining me personally.

Karen on the other hand is lovely. She’s gentle, strong and caring. She really feels like a member of my family who really cares about me, and I her. She’s a wonderful person I’m glad my dad found.

Sam and Russ are great and I have a lot of fun hanging out with them. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much chance to get to know Brendan, as I seem to fly in and he’s grown another foot. He may be looking into a career as the next Jolly Green Giant. Regardless, they’re very much a part of my extended family.

Mike and I get on fairly well. As previously mentioned, we’re pretty different, but we have fun chatting, drinking, talking about girls or playing Call of Duty together. I know it’s always been my mum’s fear that we wouldn’t be that close together in childhood, just like she and her sister grew apart (before growing back together later). I think with the choices I make it’s inevitable, but there’s no enmity there.

I had great fun hanging out with Dad, Russ, Mike and Russ’ friend whose name escapes me just before I came back. We had a laugh and some drinks and fell asleep on Nanan’s sofa as soon as I got home.

Now, my Nanan and Grandad. I spent a lot of years living with them and being raised by them – all because of some family politics I wasn’t old enough to understand. Nonetheless, on Nanan’s insistence, that’s where I live when I come home to England. Nanan is a typical matriarch. She takes a vicious pride in taking care of her family. She over-feeds me, buys the thinks I like and loves me unconditionally. My Grandad is funny, good at word-games and has lots of opinions he’s likes to repeat. He does what Nanan tells him to do because he’s not stupid.

Lately, I’ve been a little worried about my Nanan. Last year she was in a car accident. The car was rolled, and though she was only cut and bruised a little, her friend (the driver) was killed right in front of her. She spoke to one mo her closest friends in her dying moments. She’s lost some weight and is more fragile than I’ve ever seen her, so I’m trying to send her only good news and stay in touch as much as possible. It’s tough, but I’m sure she’ll straighten out. She’s getting stronger, she was glad to have me home and she’s a scary Northern mother. She’ll be fine.

I’d like to end on a picture of my dad and I from my visit to England in April last year.

Thanks for reading. Next post is coming soon.

On Teaching Teenagers

You might want to start here.

Anyway, here’s my thinking: bollocks to teenagers. Really, 8 out of 10 of them are just fucking awful. That’s how I feel right now. The only blight on my otherwise-awesome first week in Mexico City is a group of uncivilised, privileged monsters out close to Metro Polanco. I can’t get them to settle for a proper lesson, so I compromise with lessons that involve little more than vocab. When I’m observed, that’s an appalling decision based on the little angels’ sterling behaviour – that being with two high-ranking school officials in the room, of course.

All of my adult sessions have been great – I’ve developed a great rapport with my students, and I genuinely think I’ve taught them something when I leave the class. I have a good time, they have a good time, they learn something, I don’t feel like taking a nap on the Metro line.

Sigh. So, yeah. The decision I wasn’t willing to make a few months ago in the face of depression? I’ve made it. I’m going get out of this one contract and try with tooth and claw not to teach screaming semi-developed simians ever again. Job done.