The First Day of School - Confessions from an English Teacher

6 Sep 2018 | Veronica

Who’s heard that being an English teacher in Asia is easy?  Lots of holidays, often only minimal experience needed, being with cute kids all day. Should be a breeze, right?

Now picture answering the phone the day before you’re meant to start work because another school needs a cover teacher that day and your agency is wondering if you can do it. “Of course”, you say jumping out of bed, wanting to give a good impression as a dedicated employee.

So you walk into this new school at 9:20am, knowing nobody, are shown to a classroom of 2-3 year olds and are told “Okay, so at 9:30am it’s the English lesson for 20 minutes. Here’s a storybook you can use”.

I didn’t realize how long 20 minutes could feel until that moment, in front of a class with a very, very short attention span and any pause in distraction reminds them that their mom isn’t there so they should probably start crying, loudly.

I started with “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. Then, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”. Then, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Then “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. Any song I could think of from my childhood. Damn. Only 7 minutes down. Read the book – Oh! there are balloons in the story. Balloons…birthdays….sing Happy birthday!

Somehow, we got through those 20 minutes and it wasn’t a total disaster. Looking back now, with a few years of teaching experience under my belt, I see how disjointed that lesson was. I now know how to make any one of those songs into a 20-minute activity alone. 

But it was a steep learning curve to get there.

Being an English teacher is a job just like any other – there are difficulties and challenges. But a whole lot of rewards, too. Would I change anything about that first day? It was being pushed into the deep end. It was also the start of a lot of learning and growth and amazing memories. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

And at the end of that first day, kids I had just met that morning waved “Goodbye Miss V” with smiles to melt your heart.

To the teachers out there – what stories do you have about faking it till you make it? Would love to hear your confessions!