My first day of teaching happened to fall on the week of Halloween. Which is actually pretty fitting, considering all day I kind of felt like I was just dressed up as a teacher and not actually a teacher. Which is also kind of inconvenient considering I actually am a teacher. And I’m expected to teach these little humans English…even though they don’t really even know their names…or how to sit still for more than thirty seconds…or how to write their name.
Remember when you were little and you were getting ready for your first day of school? If you were anything like me, you took an hour to pick out your “first day of school” outfit the night before. You obviously had the coolest backpack to match. You made sure to get to school just after your friends so you knew you had someone to sit with. You had on a fresh pair of shoes. Your clothes were just washed. Your hair was in some sort of cool braid or something. And you did all of this, essentially, to be liked by your peers. Well, the first day of teaching in a Thai school is kind of similar. Except the people you’re trying to impress don’t understand a word your saying. Or they’re like four years old.
But that’s fine. You’re prepared. You’ve spent the last month preparing. Until, that is, you’re standing in front of a bunch of little humans and you have no idea what to say. Or you say something and you just get blank stares back. And thirty seconds later there are kids running everywhere and you can’t remember the Thai word for “sit”. You’ll try some sort of clapping game to get kids to listen to you and when that doesn’t work you’ll just start shouting out vocabulary words and holding up flash cards so you feel like you’re doing something.
I’m assuming some teachers will have an easier first day than I did. And I’m assuming they are probably better teachers than I am. However, if you want some free advice from an inexperienced, ESL kindergarten teacher, I’m your girl:
- Fake It Till You Make It: Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, pretend you do. These kids have no idea that you’re low key freaking out or that this is your first day teaching an actual class. So pretend like you’ve been doing this for years, and eventually, it’ll start to feel like you have been.
- Be Prepared: Prepare to not be prepared. All of the training and lesson planning in the world can’t prepare you for your first day of teaching. It can’t prepare you to have three kids crying while another student is climbing on your back, 15 students yelling “teacher”, and a group of boys wrestling in the back of the classroom (true story). Things are going to happen and things aren’t going to go your way, but the way you handle these situations will make or break your first day in the classroom.
- Enjoy It: Regardless of your reasons for teaching English in Thailand, chances are no one forced you to be here. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember why you came here, remember that you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and remember that you could be in a cubicle staring at a screen for eight hours a day (lol).
Being on the other side of the classroom has given me a new found appreciation for each and every one of my teachers. I’m sorry for being such an annoying child and thank you for not killing me. Shout out to Mr. Schwartzberg for being one of a kind, I hope to have even fraction of the influence in my students lives as you had in mine. Here’s hoping week two is easier than week one was.