Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Two Weeks In

"Taking steps is easy, standing still is hard," You've Got Time by Regina Spektor.

So I've been in school for a little more than two weeks now. I have finally assumed the role of Mr Anwar, the primary school teacher. Mixed feelings, man. Mixed feelings.

During my four month break, I took on a corporate-ish nine-to-five (six, actually) job and entered a world that was totally new to me, and I grew to like it. I handled social media, mostly, but I was also involved in diplomacy and got to meet with a lot of great and passionate people who are out there to make a (positive) difference through their own means. They wanted to help people. They wanted to do good things. And I admire and respect them for that.

I also got to experience what a 9-5 kind of job entailed, for real, and, to me at least, it takes up a really huge chunk of your life. And if you find yourself in those kinds of jobs, doing something you dislike is very unhealthy. But that's a different story altogether.

Anyway, I'm in school now. Teaching Standard 3 students English. And I gotta tellya, it's been a roller coaster ride, and I don't expect it to stop anytime soon. The teachers in the school are great. They're friendly and are always open for a chat and a laugh. They're also very helpful, alhamdulillah. It's the students that I find challenging.

Over here, the proficiency is mostly low. Most of the students have very little exposure to the target language, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that their English teachers are their only source of exposure to English. Keep in mind that I'm only talking about the students that I teach. To most of them, English isn't a second language, it's a foreign language, so I have to adjust my teaching as such. But, like I said, it's challenging. To get a room full of students to calm down and listen to you when they don't even understand you most of the time is challenging. To have to find a balance between exposing them to the language and being understood is challenging. To be interesting enough to them, to make lessons that are engaging enough to them, to help them when you need help yourself, is challenging.

There have been times in class that I just sit down, not knowing what to do, staring into blank space, knowing that the plan I made was rubbish and the students aren't learning anything. I smile to my fellow teachers while concealing the self-loathing I harbour within myself. I find myself wanting to sleep just so that I don't have to think about the task that awaits me in class. Me? A teacher? Please.

But there has also been times in class that I accidentally skipped in front of the students because I was so happy just being there. There have been times that I found myself revelling in the fact that a student who didn't know how to read "we" can, after a little help from me, sight read the word and even pronounce it correctly. I have found myself patting a student on the head for doing a good job because I couldn't hug them. Heck, even when the student asked me a question I already answered five times in the past minute, I can still find it within myself to smile about it.

Of course I am terrible. I've been teaching for, what, ten days? You're no superman, Anwar. You're weak, just like everybody else. And just like everybody else, you'll get better with each failure. Cry now. But persist. These kids need you to help them. And you do want to do that, right? Help people? Do that, and you'll be fine.

May peace be upon you.