Tricks of the Trade

By Brittany Rose

I felt ready; my ensemble was well-pressed, my hair was on point, and I brought candy to bribe all 750 students into liking me. I looked like a professional teacher; but there was one problem, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

By the end of the day I felt completely ill-equipped to be an actual teacher. And then I heard the voice of an angel. Well, it wasn’t a real angel. It was actually the other foreign teacher that sat at the desk next to me. A veteran teacher from England, he had lived in Thailand for seven years, practically an eternity compared to my three whole days.

He looked at me and said prophetically, “You’re going to do great, give it time.” I smiled but couldn’t hide my self-doubt. Then he gave me some advice that would change the course of my career, “Just do these few things and everything else will fall into place.” He proceeded to give me three career changing hints that may seem like common sense, but have been the downfall of many used-to-be-teachers.

The Spreadsheet: Thai schools have so many holidays and our classes have up to 50 students in each class. Multiply that by 18 teaching hours a week and it’s easy to lose track of anything that has taken place in each class. He told me to keep a spreadsheet of what I taught every class and a brief description of how the lesson went.

My spreadsheet is now my bible! I could not function without it. Sometimes I’m teaching a different lesson to every class that week, there is no way I’d be able to remember anything if it weren’t for my class cheat sheet.

Adjust the curriculum: Each class has its own culture and the more you can understand that culture the easier it is to design and adjust lesson plans for each class. I make notations (in my beloved spreadsheet) such as: one class loves games, one class gets too rowdy and does better with copying information from the board, a class was bored with the lesson, or a class loves singing. These insights help me tweak each lesson for each class and that makes all the difference in the world in how the students learn. Also, it changes how you, as a teacher, can make your day run smoother.

Every Student Is The Favorite: We’ve all been there; it’s hot, the kids are rowdy, and there’s always one student that decides to scream out obnoxiously while running around the class. It’s so frustrating to prepare a lesson and have one, two or even five students just ruin it all.

I have found that my most wild, rambunctious and least studious students are actually the smartest and the most loving. What my mentor recommended to me was, “Don’t hold a grudge, all the kids love you and want you to love them too.” And he is right! It’s ok to discipline and have consequences, but remember it’s done to help them learn.

I find that when I can get the rowdy student’s attention, they will keep the other students in line. My most hard-hearted little boys are the ones that end up hugging me the most. One of my most wild classes has about 5 boys that I cannot control. One day, one of the boys asked to race me back to my office. I won, but it was the only time I won. Eventually we worked out a deal that if they finish their work, then we will race back to my office.  Almost every Thursday at 1:30pm you will see me running behind several second grade boys and girls. It’s so much fun and everybody wins.

Teaching can be really difficult; but the more tricks you employ the more your students will get out of you and the more you will get out of them.

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