An hour in the life of an ESL teacher

An hour in the life of an ESL teacher

 

You did it! You have created the most awesome lesson plan. It’s packed with great games, songs, you’ll bring some realia to the class to show them, they’ll even have a mini-party at the end of the class since the target vocabulary is “party items”. I mean, you don’t want to brag or anything, but it’s a pretty cool lesson plan. You feel giddy at the thought of how much fun the little ninjas in your kindergarten group will have.

The day comes, and here you are, at the door, greeting both the students and the parents.

“Hi, Teacher!”

“Good afternoon, Anna!”

 

“Hello, Teacher!”

“Hello to you too, Patrick!”

 

“Hey, Teacher, did you know that I have the new Ultra Dragon Lego Ninjago and I can’t wait to go home and play with it!!”

“That’s fantastic, Peter! You are very lucky!”

 

“Excuse me, Miss Cristina? Rebecca had a little bit of diarrhoea this morning but she’s much better now. Just so you know, in case she wants to go to the bathroom.”

*Oh dear Mother of God!* “Don’t worry! I’m sure she’ll be just fine. I’ll be here to help her in any case.”

 

Finally, everybody is in the classroom and you get ready for the ‘Hello song’ when Paul starts whimpering gently.

 

“Oh dear, what’s the matter, Paul?”

“I forgot my coloured pencils at home!”

“That’s alright! I’m sure your colleagues will be more than happy to share their pencils with you.”

“But I want my pencils!! *more whimpering*

“I’ll tell you what, Paul! Just this time I will let you use my pencils, okay? They are the teacher’s pencils so they are pretty special. Yeah?”

“Uh-huh.” *nodding with the cutest toothless smile*

 

“Right. Is everybody ready for the ’Hello song’?

“Yeeeess!”

 

You all happily sing and greet each other as you do at the beginning of each class. You then tell the students to take their pencil cases and books out of their schoolbags. The little twinkies know the routine very well so by the time you finish giving them the instruction, they already have most of their things on the desks. Then, in the relative silence of the classroom, the sharpest sound of an object hitting the floor can be heard. Katie’s pencil case, which is made of some kind of metal, falls to the floor, sending all its content in the 4 corners of the classroom. *Unbelievable!* Some of the students try to reproduce the sound, others giggle and a few jump off their chairs to collect all the scattered objects.

*Slightly raised voice in order to cover the all the excited little voices* “Ok, everybody! Please sit down and be quiet in 5,4,3,2,1!  Now, Delia and Sam, can you help Katie gather her things? And while you do that also listen to Teacher, OK?” Surprisingly quickly, they manage to put everything back in the metal pencil case.

 

You take out a big bag full of objects from under the desk and tell the students that it is Fluffy’s birthday today (Fluffy is a cat hand puppet who’s been the class’ mascot from day one). As you look around the classroom you see curious faces staring at you from behind the desks.

You go on with the story of Fluffy’s birthday and how all the students are invited; you go on to present the target vocabulary by taking the party related objects out of the bag and prompting the students to repeat their names. *Smooth sailing so far*. Next, you take out a big hula-hoop from behind the desk (wouldn’t fit in the bag) and ask the students to repeat chorally and individually. Then, it’s Sasha’s turn, a curly-haired, bright-eyed little boy whose pronunciation is not always spot-on.

“Hula-hoop”, you say.

Sasha breathes-in and with untainted enthusiasm says “poola-poop”.

*You hope with all your might that the other students haven’t picked up on that.*

Giggles can be heard throughout the classroom and you realize the foolishness of your hope.

“What did he say???” one student asks.

“POOP, he said POOP!!”

The word emanates simultaneously from 12 amused little mouths. You know that you quickly need to extinguish this wildfire and draw their attention elsewhere.

“Who wants to play a game with Fluffy?”

“Meeee!”

*Phew! Chaos mostly averted.*

You and the little munchkins play a flashcards game with the new vocabulary, everybody is having fun and most importantly, everybody seems to have forgotten about the ‘hula-hoop’.

 

Next, you announce everybody that it’s time to sit on the cushions and listen to a song, activity which is eagerly greeted by everyone except Peter who remembers his Lego and starts crying because he misses it. After a 2 minute negotiation, Peter agrees to sit on his chair and listen to the song from there.

It’s an easy and upbeat song and before long, all the students join in singing and even Peter decides to come and sit on a cushion. They are even more excited about the ‘Musical Statues’ game that follows and then the mini birthday party you’ve organized for Fluffy. Everybody is wearing party hats (which are more or less the same but this doesn’t stop Erika from wanting Clara’s hat), there are colourful balloons around the classroom and each kid has a party whistle (thinking about it now, this probably wasn’t the brightest idea as the sharp noise gave you a fantastic headache).  Judging by the levels of decibels, the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

 

There’s not much time left, so you tell the students to go back to their desks and open their workbooks so that you can solve an exercise together from the ‘Party things’ unit.

You instruct them to open the books at page 23. You also write the number 23 on the whiteboard for everybody to see.

“What page?”

“Which book do I have to open?”
“Teacher, I can’t find my book!”

“Teacher, how long before we go home?” (Peter was still thinking of his Lego game).

“I am going to the park after this.”

Finally, everybody has their books open at the correct page. You give simple and short instructions on how to solve the exercise, make sure that everybody has understood and invite the students to start working.

After a few minutes, Adam puts his hand up.

“Yes, Adam? Have you finished the exercise?”

“Teacher, what do I have to do?”

“But I’ve just expla…never mind.” You go next to Adam and explain again.

 

“Teacher?”

“Yes, Rebecca?”

“I have to go to the bathroom!”

*Sweet potato, no!!*

“Ok, pumpkin. Does your tummy hurt? Do you need help?”

“No, I think I’m good.”

Without even realizing, you exhale louder than you would’ve wanted. Pure relief.

 

Everybody has finished the exercise just in time to quickly check it. It’s the end of the class and you ask the little muffins to pack their things and make a line in front of the door. As they put their belongings in the schoolbags, you hear the inevitable “Teacher, I can’t find my green pencil/book/pencil case…”

Finally, everybody is lined up nicely in front of the door and you sing the ‘Goodbye song’ as you do at the end of every class.

 

You open the door and step out of the classroom, all sweaty with messy hair and a twitching eye. Each child is warmly greeted by a parent.

“What did you learn today, my love?” you hear a mom ask.

“Poola-poop!”

 

*Of course! Out of all the things we discussed today…poola-poop it is!*

 

Suddenly, you feel a little tug; it’s Amelia, a shy little girl with beautiful brown eyes.

“I liked today’s lesson, had so much fun and I can’t wait for next time! I love you, Teacher!”

 

*Yes, it’s all worth it!*

12 thoughts on “An hour in the life of an ESL teacher”

  1. This is so nice. It takes a special kind of patience to teach such young ones. I was a substitute for a few years and at the end of the day subbing kindergarten, I don’t think I was ever more tired in my life…yet I couldn’t stop smiling as they all enthusiastically said goodbye to me and gave me hugs. I couldn’t agree more, totally worth it 🙂

  2. This is such an awesome approach to teaching. Getting kids to think and be inspired by learning are great ideas.

  3. My guess is this has to be so challenging but very rewarding in the end when progress is made. My grandfather used to do this. I respect everyone who feels called to this.

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