We are a month and a half in people! (48 days if you’re wanting something more specific.) If you’ve been wondering more specifically about what I’ve been doing with my life while overseas WONDER NO MORE MY FRIEND! This is your complete* guide to what it’s like teaching children who don’t know English (yet) and teaching them without knowing their primary language (yet). Everyday starts at 8:00am with exercise. For you educators out there, this is like fun “dance breaks” at the beginning of the day. It’s goofy and high energy and most of the songs are in English. Imagine my surprise when on day one, I started dancing to the “KidzBop Shuffle” (<–aka Cupid Shuffle) and “Uptown Funk”. They throw in some songs in their own language as well, but still, it’s hard to resist a good Western Pop song amIright?? (Also – just learned that one of the catchier songs in their language is basically just talking about washing your hands. The motions make so much more sense now.)
Then the school days starts and the students go to their classrooms. I teach the youngest students first. The three year olds. If you have ever taught a group of three year olds for 30 minutes at a time, then you know the struggle. Now imagine that those three year olds don’t really understand you. Yeah. You know what that means. We’re thinking the same thing. Say it together.
The best way I’ve dealt with the absurdly cute and cuddly 3 year olds is to sing and dance and sing some more. Are they not repeating what I’m saying? Take a dance break. Is someone crying for a reason unknown to me? Let’s sing ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes’ again. Oh we need to learn a new phrase? I’ve got a song for that.
It’s. So. Fun.
Next we get to the 4 year olds. They’re a more familiar breed of child to me, and it’s amazing what a single year does to a child’s brain. They communicate better, repeat things more, and sing WAY louder than the 3 year olds. Not because the 3 year olds are quiet (I’ve gotten a few headaches from the three year olds non-quietness), but the 4 year olds are louder because there are more of them singing and “getting it” at the same time. We dance our way through the English language and then practice some basic phonics games. Mostly beginning sounds and listening skills for now. We’ll get them ready for sight words by January. (Probably definitely)
Then come the 5 year olds. My people. Once upon a time, I would have said that teaching 5 year olds is really challenging because they’re so young. That was before I taught 3 year olds. Now, when the 5 year olds come it’s a game changer. We still sing and dance and read books, but they write letters and do listening activities everyday in a work book. It’s fun to see them progressing and learning so quickly, and really starting to communicate with the few simple phrases that they have in english. We repeat, repeat, repeat all the time, and my hope is that when they’re thirteen and in english class at their school they’ll remember the songs we sang over and over again!
You’ll notice from the pictures that everyone sits on the floor, me included, which has been fun and less challenging that I thought it would be, especially with workbooks (though I did have to practice sitting in the traditional skirt-real talk). The students wear uniforms when they arrive and when they leave but change into regular clothes when they take their daily nap everyday. Also, we don’t wear shoes inside, that’s definitely cultural, and we don’t need socks because it’s warm outside almost all year. I’ve been told it will get chilly in a few months, and the sun sets at 5:30 like winter in the States, but it’s still pretty balmy. Think of those warm fall days and that’s what the weather is like here. Absolutely gorgeous and breezy in the morning and a little hot in the afternoons.
But even teachers overseas have weekends and evenings that are free! That means cookie baking and waterfalls and walking trips! I’ve had a really fun time hanging out with my roommates (here they are-did you guess right from the last post?) and they’ve been gracious enough to teach me how to make Papaya Salad and Cucumber Salad (actually both are made in basically the same way) while I taught them how to bake cookies.
Teaching overseas has been eye opening about people/children. I don’t understand everything that the children say, but MAN kids are the same everywhere. I have a few that like to push the rules and see what they can get away with and some others are the sweetest gentlest children in the whole entire world. They laugh when I give them high fives and pretend that they’re so strong they hurt my hands. They give me hugs and show me the snacks they brought form home and they grin when I tell them they did a good job that day. Sometimes they cry for no reason and throw tantrums to get what they want and look sad when they make a poor choice. They’re kids. In America or South East Asia there are so many similarities. I should have known that and assumed that. It wasn’t that I was expecting something different, it’s just such a pleasant surprise to actually see that it’s true. People are people everywhere. Kids are going to want to eat candy for breakfast no matter where you live, people. This is a truth that can be universally acknowledged.
I love that teaching english is familiar and I love teaching here. It’s like I was able to take some of my favorite parts of teaching and put them into one job. It’s not always easy and I still have a lot to tweak and learn and grow in, but teaching is a process and I’m ready to keep learning!
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