Last Monday I had to go back to the training center for a follow-up training on teaching kids classes. Though I was going to a full-day work meeting on my day off, I was practically giddy with excitement. Here I would finally learn all the Jedi mind-tricks I have been lacking, and I would at last become capable of holding the attention of a room full of 7 year olds. Sadly, it was not to be. The trainers started off by telling us that they had no “magic bullets.” Turns out they didn’t have so much as a magic sling shot. I would have settled for a spit wad and a straw. Maybe a magic toothbrush that I could whittle into a shank? Instead, we were given some “do’s and don’ts” and some imaginary scenarios to discuss amongst ourselves. I was disappointed, but I listened to the advice I was given and made plans to follow it diligently. The most meaningful tidbit seemed to be the suggestion that we be very careful not to think of any one of our little angels as a “problem child” because that child would pick up on the body language and certainly not react positively. No, the proper approach is to be MORE friendly to that child than the others….talk to them in the lobby and get to know them. Find out what they like. Praise the living heck out of them every time they so much as appear to think a thought in English. Or, praise them for listening, if there is nothing else.
Back at school the next day, I was determined to use these new positive tactics to gain control of the hyena pack. (Is it negative that I am calling them hyenas?). I said my sweetest, sunniest hello to my nemesis – or, rather, the non-problem child in my class. I went out of my way to give her attention, engage her in activities, and praise her every blink and sneeze. If she and the other kids didn’t want to play my games, I tried to make what they were doing into a game. I thought we were getting along pretty great. I’m thinking we are buddies now. Then at the halfway point of the class, I had this child and one other kneeling on the floor with me reading flashcards (2 out of 4 ain’t bad), when devil-child decides that she’s going to pull up my skirt and look under it. Clearly, I have been deceived. Led on. Betrayed. I deflated like a balloon. She made at least 3 attempts and managed at least once to get my hem to a significant height before I snatched it down and said “please don’t” in the most serious voice I could muster. I was trying to be stern, but I suspect that what I actually managed was hurt and defeated. Spawn of satan then got up and ran to tell the other 2 kids something about “sensei.” I’m pretty sure I know what it was, even though I don’t know the Japanese words for “pantyhose” or “striped underwear.”
The other 7 year old who was sitting there looked at me with what I’m pretty sure was pity. I’m trying to make light of this incident, but it’s actually a bit difficult. It honestly hurt my feelings. At training they said not to take anything the kids do personally, but I don’t really see how that’s possible. I know that this person is 7, but I still can’t think of any other time in my life when someone actually set out to attack me and humiliate me in front of others. If I ever had the respect of any of the other students (which is doubtful), I certainly don’t have it now. The rest of the class was a blur. I managed to get them to scribble some letters, I believe, but I don’t really feel like much in the way of learning was accomplished. We went out to the lobby to show the parents what we had worked on that day, and I could barely look them in the eye. I think I am going to have to “grow a pair” and start being mean teacher. I have the class again tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes. This coming week is “parent observation week,” where parents can sit in on the class to see what we do. I was hoping and praying that someone would sign up to observe this class, because I can’t imagine they would be that wild with a parent in the room, but so far I have had no such luck.
Lest you think that my teaching career is starting off as a flaming disaster, I would like to mention that many of my other kids classes are going swimmingly. I do have one 5 year old who thinks it is fun to snatch vocab cards out of my hand and fling them across the room — that is, when she will actually come into the class and participate at all — but for the most part, my youngest students are pretty adorable and mostly attentive, if a bit “energetic” at times. They like singing songs, they have fun playing vocabulary games, and they think a high-five is the best treat in the world. Even my other group of 7 year-olds is pretty good. In any given class, half of them hang on my every word, while the other half run around screaming and yelling. Fortunately, I can often get them to scream and yell out vocabulary words in the process, so I consider that a win.