Friday, 28 May 2010

I thought I was the teacher....

...but I learnt a lesson this evening!

I've been teaching here for over a year now and, until recently, had, by choice, stuck with adult students. However, 3 weeks ago one of my students asked me to teach her 8-year-old son (who shall remain nameless, despite the many names I feel like calling him, none of which are the one he was christened!) She told me that he hates English classes at school and she wanted someone to make English fun for him (I resisted the temptation to tell her that, generally, I also hate something - children!) She told me that since I seem so bubbly and friendly (which, considering I teach her at 8am, was a surprising opinion) she thought I would be ideal. Maybe I was swayed by the compliment, maybe I just thought it was about time I gave it a try. Whatever the reason, I said yes, and 3 Fridays ago I started classes at 6.15 on a Friday evening with him.

Week 1 went pretty well, I thought. He showed me what he'd been doing at school, we went over a few basic verbs, some vocabulary, played shopping games with my newly purchased plastic vegetables and some fake money, and the hour flew by.

Week 2 was a little more difficult - in my bag of "toys" was a small, soft football which he found very early on. We played with it, throwing it to each other, with him shouting out the next number in a sequence, or giving me the next letter in the alphabet. More games with the plastic veg and some animal flashcards seemed to go down well, and 3 days later, his mum told me that he was very happy and that he'd said I was "muy simpatico"! So far so good.

Tonight was our 3rd class. I was actually pretty geared up for it though I won't go so far as to say I was looking forward to it. It's my last class of the week, but I was determined not to let that affect it. However, he's a kid. It's his "end of the week" feeling too. He gets home from school at 6pm, probably looking forward to his weekend. But no, he has English class. Tonight was a trial - for both of us. When I arrived, he got out his box full of foreign money to show me. I guess he thought I was just going to look at it, be impressed, then do whatever he wanted. Oh no! I was determined, so we divided it up into the different currencies, I explained the difference between coins and notes, then we starting listing how much money he had in each different currency. Good practice for: numbers, names of countries, and the verb "I have got....." Great for about 20 minutes, then he lost it completely. He threw the money back in the box and told me, in no uncertain terms, that he didn't want to study, or work, or speak English. He only wanted to play with the football. I tried everything - "How about 5 minutes study, then 5 minutes football?" I said, hopefully. "No." "5 minutes football, then 5 minutes study?" "No." Whatever I said, he said no. Then he sat in his chair, turned his back on me and sulked. I felt like doing the same.

"Aha", I thought, "everyone tells me that silly songs and stuff work with kids". So out came the felt-tip pens, a picture of a rainbow and my best rendition of "Red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue..." etc. Cue him nicking my coloured pens, scribbling pictures of something inexplicable all over the sheets of paper, and refusing to join in with the song. Then he put my pens back in their box and tried to put them in his school bag. I retrieved them. While I was doing so, he dived into my bag of props and pinched the packet of stickers that he's only supposed to get when he's done well. I got those back from him, after a tug-of-war with them! I can't remember what prompted it, but at one point I actually found myself saying "Am I going to have to go and get your father?" That worked for a bit and he concentrated, vaguely. For the last 5 minutes, we were back to the "throw the ball, say the next number...." game. And finally it was over.

I have never felt less in control in my life! I have no idea what to do with him, say to him or how to deal with him at all.

This is why I didn't want to teach kids in the first place. 4 more classes with him til I finish for the summer. The question is, do I agree to continue with him in September? I don't like giving up on things - I'm just stubborn like that. But there are some things that I'm just pretty sure I'm not cut out for, and teaching kids is (and always was) one of them.