Being a teacher is rewarding, but it’s also extremely challenging. Here’s an idea of some of the obstacles I’ve been faced with (some I’ve managed to overcome, and some I’m still trying to figure out):
1) 6th Graders – Sixth grade is my least favorite grade to teach. You see, since the 6th graders are the oldest students in the school, they think that means they “rule the school”; therefore, they are “too cool for anything.” Also, 6th graders are entering puberty, otherwise known as that awkward, middle school stage none of us would ever want to relive, so that really doesn’t help their attitudes when it comes to, oh, you know, EVERYTHING. For instance, when I announce to the students that we’re about to play a Mario bomb game in class, they get this “Whatever, teacher. We’re too cool for games” look on their faces even though I know they secretly love Mario bomb games. But then halfway through the game, they’re smiling, laughing, and having a good time! Sometimes I just want to say to them, “You’re 12 years old. Get over yourself.” (In a sweet, endearing tone, of course.)
2) Teaching a Math and Science Class – Once I started my job, my boss announced, “Surprise! You have to teach a Gifted Students’ Math and Science Class!” Um, excuse me? I’m an English teacher; I don’t do math and science. In the beginning, I had absolutely no idea how to go about teaching this class that had been dumped on me, but over the months, I’ve managed to figure out a game plan for it: remember all the science-related things I learned about when I was their age, and teach that. Essentially, my lesson planning for this particular class involves my Google-searching topics like the solar system, robots, insects, etc. Having to relearn all of these topics has been tedious, but it’s also semi-interesting at times. Did you know that a queen ant can live for up to 20 years? Neither did I until I started teaching this class.
3) Classroom Management – This is my first teaching job, so when I started, I didn’t know the first thing about classroom management. And if you read this post, you know that Korean students are harder to manage than American students. When I started teaching, I never wanted to discipline my students when they were misbehaving because I wanted them to like me and think I was a nice teacher. But now I’m to the point where I’m so tired of them getting out of control in class, I’m starting to put my foot down more. They may think I’m strict at times, but they’ll respect me more for it in the long run. And having my students’ respect has become a lot more important to me than having their approval.
4) Not Being a Softy – I love to reward my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students with stickers when they do well in class. Because I do this, they know that I keep a stash of stickers in my desk drawer, so during lunchtime, they like to come into my office and ask me, “Teacher! Sticker please!” These students are ridiculously funny and adorable, so at first, I would give them stickers when they asked because I couldn’t say no to their cuteness. However, these last couple of months I’ve developed a backbone because I realized I had turned into a human sticker dispenser, and I don’t want to be that kind of teacher.
These challenges have been quite the learning experience, but I know that they’re going to help prepare me for when I become a high school English teacher someday*.
*Well, probably not the math/science class; the only thing that’s going to help me with is– well, probably nothing.