April 20, A Hard Day

Today made me want to quit.

I had to emotionally check out and put on “autopilot pleasant teacher mode”: in these situations, I don’t get angry or try to lecture the class. I simply slow the lesson down and let nothing bother me. I’m rubber, you’re glue.

5-6 was rude: the three usual boys and the two chatty girls. 5-5 was rude: three boys who couldn’t pay attention and held the class up.

I mentioned offhandedly to Jack that 5-6 was a little rude and asked if he has similar behavior issues; I imagine this will probably make it back to the 5-6 homeroom teacher which I’d be lying if I said wasn’t my plan.

6-2 was fine and then 6-1 was more boisterous than normal on top of arriving late due to a baseball game.

It didn’t help that between fifth grade classes, the 5-4 homeroom teacher, who you know as the one who likes to be involved in class and click through the PPT, sat down next to me in the teacher’s lounge.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Hello,” she said and kept looking at me. “For fifth grade, it’s boring for the students to repeat the sentences. You should try making it a contest between boys and girls.”

I was completely caught off guard but luckily still engaged in “emotion protection mode”. I couldn’t even remember what I had done last week with her class and what she was referring to so I looked at her in confusion. Not to mention this was also culturally out of left field.

“Sorry, what do you mean? Which phrases? The reading part?” At the beginning of each class, I have students read our five or so target sentences. Was this the boring part she was referring to?

I suddenly reconsidered why she wanted to be so involved in class. Was there an element of control to all this?

She didn’t seem to know how to explain which part of class was boring for her students but iterated that making it a challenge would be more fun. I deployed “autopilot pleasant teacher mode” and said pleasantly, “oh okay. I”ll try that.”

She seemed to shift in discomfort. Me, too, lady!

I continued, “thanks for the suggestion. I have to get to class now. Have a nice day!”

She caught me on the stairs a minute later.

“I’m sorry, was that impolite?”

Yes.

“No, thanks for the tip! I’ll try that with my next class.”

Autopilot Abigail does not get hurt. She does not feel betrayal. She simply learns and moves on.

I did try having students read in boy versus girl but 5-5 seemed as glib about it as any other warmup. But both fifth grade classes seemed bored and distracted so maybe she was right.

I’m sensitive and I’m working to take criticism better, so I thought about how I can improve class so that students aren’t bored during review.

But I also got irritated—review by reading our target sentences is maybe five minutes of class total. Students are most challenged by reading and I want to confirm that they can at least associate the words and sounds.

I also only see class once a week, and have no idea if the other teachers review target sentences with them. Honestly I don’t trust my students’ retention very much so it’s a check for me just as much them.

Is it so bad to have students read our target vocabulary before we start the lesson?

We also review the target sentences with activities in the warm-up section of class before going more in depth in writing or speaking.

It also made me feel cruddy in the sense that I’ve somehow overstepped my place. Am I just supposed to be the fun game teacher? Does anyone care about my teaching skills or philosophy? Am I trying too hard? If the class isn’t one big game am I shirking my duties as the native teacher?

I wonder if she tells other teachers their class is boring. Or is it only me? It’s possible there may be a more nefarious element; time will tell.

People can disappoint but for now I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless of motivations, today was a hard day. I’m going to drink mix coffee and listen to my favorite podcasts and relax until I have the distance of mind to reconsider everything.

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