Monday, 2 April 2007

Those that can't...

Apologies for not updating this blog for a while, but I haven’t had internet access. Since my last entry, Ankie and I have moved from her mother’s place, and now living in our own flat.

I’ve also started working as a substitute teacher at the International School. The place seems really disorganised. Last Tuesday I got a phone call, and with only 30 minutes notice, was asked to take over some classes from a sick teacher. No interview, no request for my CV, and no background check. Despite having no previous experience or training as a teacher, I was put in charge of 30 teenage kids. It didn’t help that the teacher I was taking over didn’t have a chance to leave a class plan. Karin, the woman responsible for finding substitute teachers, suggested I just ask the students what they were studying, and take it from there. The problem with this plan of course is that students know it is not in their interest to inform me of what they should be doing.

As any one can remember from school, kids see a substitute teacher as someone to take advantage of. I tried asking them what they were up to, but naturally they claimed they didn’t know. Most of my time was spend just getting them to sit down, turn off their phones and keep quiet. When I finally calmed them down, they just looked at me expectantly and asked what they were supposed to do. When all I could do was shrug and say I didn’t know, they just started talking to each other again.

At first it was quite stressful, but part of my problem was that I assumed I was expected to take over from where the regularly teacher left off. I thought I would be accountable if classes didn’t progress through their normal curriculum. In short, I thought a substitute teacher was expected to actually teach. However, after a couple of days I came to realise I was basically a glorified babysitter. Karin and the other teachers couldn’t care less what I did with the students, as long as I kept them in the classroom, and kept them quiet and occupied. As Karin said to me herself, “If you don’t know what their doing, its not your problems. Just wing it.” With this in mind, my last few lessons were just spend playing hangman and celebrity head. Another great trick was having a quiz. I’d get each student to write a question about the class’s topic, accumulate them together, read them out to the whole class and have a competition to see who got the most right answers. This kept students occupied, and gave the appearance of doing something educational and relevant. When I was in school, whenever the teachers broke up the day with a game of hangman, I saw it as a rare act of benevolence. I now know it was always out of pure apathy.

It’s an interesting experience, and a pretty easy way to earn some money. The only problem is the irregular hours, as I can only work when someone else is sick or away on holidays. At most I might do 3-4 hours on any one day, but often spread over a 6-7 hour period. Breaks are never long enough for me to do anything in that time so essentially its full-time hours, but with part-time pay. And of course there will be no work during holidays, with summer holidays lasting two months. It will be fine short-term, but I’m still going to need some other work.

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