As a ‘kind of fun’ short term ‘filler’ in January, I picked up a 3 week gig teaching ESL English as a Second Language in a high school “immersion” program. That’s 4 teaching hours per day, every day of the week. The kids are high school level, and from Brazil.
No, not going to make a bucket of money. (It’s about 1/3 of my low rate per hour, and about 1/6 of my more typical rate, and only 1/2 day paid). The idea wasn’t to make a lot of money, but rather to make some “lunch money” during the typical dead time that happens from Christmas to a week or two after January 1.
I’ve taught a fair number of times, but always in an ‘industrial’ setting (classes to folks at HP, Amdahl, Apple and a few other companies) to adult learners; or at the Community College level, again to adult learners. The material was always very familiar (computer stuff) and the process was “stand up, tell them what has to be learned, explain it, quiz on it, explain more if needed, test on it”. Along with the usual reading and exercises / projects outside of class.
This has been far different. My major revelation is that teaching High School level is very hard.
My spouse, who has K-12 and learning disabilities / Special Ed credentials, is enjoying greatly my coming to her and saying “How do I …?” on various things. Like “How do I keep them on task?”…
This is an intensive immersion program in ESL. These are kids who’s folks have spent a bucket of money to have them in the USA for a month or so. An optional week in either California or New York for cultural immersion, along with 3 and a bit weeks in Orlando with nearly non-stop “activities”. Orlando Magic tickets one night. Trip to Tampa Bay for a Lighting NHL game. Close Magic Kingdom one night, then at 9 AM, in seats for grammar. So one of my questions was “how to keep them awake?”…
There’s likely enough time for enough sleep, IFF they didn’t stay up late talking about all the things they did that day. But how can you possibly get a couple of hundred High School age kids settled down that fast? So it is quite reasonable that, especially in the second week, many of them are starting to show some wear and short sleep.
Still, the program is effective. I’ve done, typically, two or three verb tenses and a chunk of vocabulary, along with a “cultural immersion” segment each week. The kids are actually speaking understandable English now, and it’s getting better.
They will certainly go home with the “experience of a lifetime” and a much better understanding of The USA and the culture of English speaking areas.
Out of 10 students, I’ve now got 3 of them with some sort of sniffles or headache or just feeling a bit ill as of last Thursday. I, too, have managed to “get what they had” and only today have managed to ‘throw it off’ enough to feel more energetic. (Mostly a mild sore throat last weekend, then some occasional cough this week, along with a major energy deficit.)
It is quite typical for a new class to ‘pass around’ something. It is also quite typical for travelers to pick up new bugs. Here we have both. I expect most of it to be over by next Tuesday (when we next get together after the Monday MLK day off).
Having a load of “on the road” 14-15 year old kids (my class) to 17 ish (other classes) in the hallway in a new place, away from family and all their usual social order, has a high social load. Everything from folks finding a new persona in a new place, to folks finding new folks to date, to folks who know the one they are with taking a bit of break time to kiss near the snack line… Pretty much closely ‘mingled’ (but it turns out Brazilians are very ‘touchy feely’ folks anyway). I’m getting used to “high fives” and the occasional hug from students headed out of the classroom. (Takes some adjustment for a USA “mandatory sexual harassment class for all, over-indoctrinated ‘saying your hair is nice’ gets you canned” sort…) But I’m adjusting.
They tend to speak English VERY softly (Portuguese not so much ;-) and I’ve had to encourage them to get louder so I can hear the details of their pronunciation. That, or I sit close while they practice.
It definitely takes a good hour before class to set up, organize, make sure the lesson plan is clear and I know what I’m going to do. It then takes a good hour after class to clean up, pack up, and plan for the next day. Those two hours are not paid. (Even the spouse has complained about this in public schools. It is the norm.) Not only is the pay ‘not so much’, but then you get to donate some time.
Kids can be very ‘brittle’ about what they like. Do the right thing for a cultural immersion, and they are alert, engaged, participating. Miss it by a little, they are checked-out and sometimes sleeping. The Teacher must bring the drive, awareness, and interest to the classroom, and must be ‘exactly on’ or risk losing them. Not so in a C.C. or J.C. (Community College or Junior College) where students are self motivated or gone. In this setting, that is not an option. Keeping things “lively” and on target takes a fair amount of stage craft and awareness.
Not having homework or a language lab with tapes is an added challenge. I provide the interactive exercise, not a tape. It’s all live all the time.
After 6 hours of nearly non-stop prep, on stage, and standing up / running around, I’m more tired than after 10 hours in an office chair at a computer. Teaching is hard work. Teaching High School is harder work.
I can still learn. Nice to know. In just the first full week, I changed my style and approach, learned a few new methods and tricks, picked up several ‘new ideas’ from other teachers, and implemented them. Many thanks to my spouse and to the other folks in the program who’ve done this a few times (and to some of the other newbies like me who shared things that worked, and that they had the same issues as I had.) It was also a relief to find out that even the experienced teachers had the same things happening in class. Especially the kids who just fall asleep. “It wasn’t me!”.
One thing that was a ‘big hit’ was that I brought in the Chromebox and had it playing a Pony League (their age) baseball game while I made hot-dogs and chips. They had to learn some baseball words, listen to “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”, taste Cracker Jack, and ask in English for a hot-dog on a bun with condiments by name. (Mustard, Ketchup, Relish, etc.) Yes, I had to pay for the dogs, buns, soda, etc. Brought in my own hot plate and pot. But we “went to a baseball game” without ever leaving the class.
One thing that didn’t work was Spanish in America as cultural touchstone. Any Spanish things caused a slump of attention. I asked the program director. He thinks it is due to the constant pressure of Spanish all around Brazil. They get tired of being pushed toward Spanish and push it away in response. So next week I’m going to do a cultural segment on Portuguese in the USA. (Katy Perry and Tom Hanks, along with John Philip Souza for starters). These kids don’t think of themselves as Hispanic, but as Brazilian Portuguese. At least for cultural touchstones. OK, I learned again…
It is the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had while being a big challenge and way underpaid. More on that below.
I’m about 1/2 way through. I’ve not had nearly as much “free time” as I expected for a 4 hour a day job, and it has impacted my posting time (though I’m catching up a bit today with some of what I was thinking about, but not typing ;-) and job search time. I don’t regret a minute of it, though.
At the end of one day, I stepped out of the class as students were leaving and came back in to find “We love you, Mike” on the board along with a heart. How can you put a price on that? In my entire career to date, I’ve never ever had anyone come even close to that level of positive feedback. Sure, a lot of ‘good job’ and ‘thanks, that made it clear’ and sometimes a few ‘you did the impossible and got it done’. But never such an emotional ‘hit’ of reward. I made them learn, and like it. That day, I made learning fun. (Grammar not so much ;-)
In the midst of all the strife, violence, and frankly, just plain crap in the world, I made a bunch of folks better people and we all had fun doing it.
Given that, who cares if I get my next job a couple of weeks later, or if I have to hit the IRA for the house payment next month (I’m at the ‘take it out’ no penalty age anyway). Or even if I have to spend an hour reminding myself just what is the difference between the simple past, past progressive, and past progressive perfect… or finding that’s the same as the past perfect continuous. Who cares if I have to drop a couple of bucks on ‘stuff’ to make the cultural immersion segment that much more fun.
Beats the pants off the slander and malicious attacks one gets for defending truth and advancing understanding in the face of all the Global Warming Propaganda Machine. Besides, I at least get a small bit of pay for teaching, where the climate stuff is pretty much pro bono.
It is a strong drug to be actually appreciated for doing something to make someone’s life a bit better and happier, and to help them progress in ability and understanding.