Consistency is Key

This is a common phrase I’ve heard throughout my 13 years working with children.  Be consistent in your discipline strategy, be consistent in your routines, just simply BE CONSISTENT.  This is my trouble.  I am one of 4 full time teachers at an international school.  I have no one to turn to for advice, ideas, or help.  I don’t even have the support of a principal ESL or Sp. Ed. teacher.  I have teaching blogs, pinterest, and what I’ve learned in my past experiences. It would be an understatement to say that I’m struggling in my current situation.

I’m not sure where my patience, kindness, and dedication has evaporated to, however it has left me.  I constantly find myself angry with the students about things that I would have let slide the day before.  I recognize that I’m doing it however I find it really difficult to stop and acknowledge it at the time.  I’m planning on taking a course this summer to hopefully get myself back on track.

I find myself wondering if maybe I was never that great to begin with.  Maybe the positive feedback I’ve received in the past was simply for show.  I find myself wondering whether, if left in the class on my own for longer than the 3-6 weeks I was there for my studies, I would have continued to be the patient, positive, caring teacher I thought I was.

I’m in two minds as to whether I want to “scrap” the rest of this year and use it to test things out for next year.  Maybe that is what June is for, once my report cards have been finished and handed in.  I’m just finding myself almost in tears when I walk into the room to see my students doing cartwheels or my TAs on their smart phones rather than helping the students.

I’m lost and I’m not sure whether I will be able to find myself again.  I see myself forgetting routines, not finding time to do learning centers, scrapping PE because our circle time runs too long.  Everything I seem to be doing seems to be whatever the day brings, and that includes my state of mind and the children’s behaviour.  I know I should be more consistent and I tell myself every morning.  I just can’t seem to push myself to do it.

I need support.  I need resources.  I need help.

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It’s Tough With a TA- or 4

Having done various placements in kindergarten classrooms during my teacher training, I had come to respect the role of a volunteer or TA (teaching assistant) in the classroom.  There is so much prep. to be done and so many students who could benefit from some extra attention that using a TA seems to just make sense.

No one really ever explained how difficult it would be.  They ask you in your interview about your teamwork skills and your ability to work with others, which you answer without really knowing (at least for your first position) how important it is for these skills to be highly developed.  Especially when working with TAs who have many years of experience.

When I taught in Korea, I had one TA in my classroom.  I will say that I was “lucky” in the sense that although I did all of my prep on my own, I wasn’t responsible for communicating with the parents and my TA was very relaxed.  Of course she had her own ideas of what should be done as she had many years of experience at the school, but she rarely imposed on my teaching strategies unless they were clearly not effective.  She followed my lead which meant much less strain on our relationship in the classroom.

Here in Cambodia I have 10 students, and 4 TAs.  It is great that I can have one person stationed at every center activity and an extra to do some prep.  Or, I can be free to float around and assess each activity throughout the period.  However, the difficulty arises when 5 people have 5 different ideas about how to “help” the students complete their activities.  Personally, I like to give the instruction, demonstrate the activity, repeat the instructions, have the students tell me what I want them to do,  then give them the opportunity to try on their own.  It becomes difficult when you hear those who are supposed to be helping you doing things their own way.  I get it.  We all have different opinions especially when I am not familiar with what growing up in this culture is like.  Maybe in this situation my TAs know what is best and I should just ignore it.  After 8 weeks of school, however, I am finding that my students still cannot follow a simple instruction.  “Make a circle please” ends up with the TAs physically moving children into the right places, rather than the students doing it themselves.

Unfortunately as the weeks pass, I am becoming more outwardly impatient and frustrated.  I find myself becoming quickly irritated and can see it coming out in the way I am dealing with the students.  This is not OK.

Of course, the best way to solve this is to open the lines of communication and to let my TAs know what I am expecting from them and the reasons why.  I just hope that this truly is the reason for my impatience and frustration so that I can get back on track.  I also hope that they can understand the logic behind my madness and that they can relax and give the students more independence.  Being wrong is okay, it’s not trying that is a problem and at the moment I see a lot of learned helplessness and how it came to be.

Real Teachers Don’t Need Resources

One of my favourite things about being a teacher is, oddly enough, planning.  I love to find new and exciting activities to do with my students.  I am also a sucker for mounting things on bright coloured paper and laminating them.  It is also well known among my co-workers that I enjoy re-creating worksheets that I find online to make them more appealing to the eye.  Some would say I waste my time.

While I quite enjoy making my own resources, I never truly grasped how important it was to have store bought resources available to me as well.  In Korea I would look through files of resources used by previous teachers, look through the books in the library, ask those around me for games and activities that they may be hoarding in their own classrooms.  I finally understand why schools put so much money into buying resources.  It’s next to impossible to teach without them.

I walked into my classroom on August 18th with no idea what to expect.  I hadn’t even been given curriculum documents to look at, let alone planned much beyond establishing routines, learning names, and becoming comfortable in the atmosphere of the classroom.  I walked in to a bookshelf full of every Jolly Phonics resource you could possibly imagine (including the music program) and a box of Lego.  That was it.  That was my “Welcome to St. George’s” teaching kit.  Not one story book, plastic doll or puzzle.  To top it all off the fans, windows, doors, and air conditioner had yet to be installed.  I almost cried.  What on Earth was I going to do?  We didn’t even have a printer!

Well, I made it work.  I am still trying to figure out how to get through Jolly Phonics (as all of the students have purchased 3 workbooks each) without boring the socks off these poor kids.  Not only do I feel extremely jealous of those working in well established schools, but I have a new respect for resources when they are supplied.  I am doing my best to use every resource to the best of my ability.  I will no longer take any resources (useful or not) for granted.