Thursday, March 6, 2014

New classes, new enthusiasm

I'm now in my third year of teaching.  I've been at a different school for each of those years, but still, this is my sixth time beginning a new semester. By this point I know that there is always a honeymoon stage that comes with new classes.  Teachers and students alike begin a semester putting in their very best.

I think most of us have experienced this honeymoon stage, even (especially?) as students. For example, take the beginning of a new semester during college.  It's the point when you don't hit your snooze button, but instead wake up early and eat breakfast before arriving to your 9:10 AM class at 8:55.  It's the point where you come to class with your reading assignment completed with important sections highlighted and ready for discussion.

It's not until later, when everyone gets comfortable, that you figure out what the semester will actually be like.  It's not until later in the semester when you decide sleeping in is way more important than eating breakfast.  It's not until later that you begin to push your snooze button more and more each morning.  It's not until later that you begin to crawl out of bed to run to your class, only to arrive around 9:08--only moments before your professor begins class. 

This week I've definitely found myself jumping in with full force into the "new school year" mentality.  Yes, the one where I make thorough lesson plans complete with agendas and written objectives. It's this"new school year" mentality that allowed me to map out all my units for the writing class I'm teaching. It's this mentality that has allowed me to feel like I might actually be able to learn all of my students' names.   And yes, it's this "new school year" mentality that has made me incredibly optimistic about this semester.

Oh, and even though I don't have to be at school until 9:00, I've been arriving around 8:45.

Ok, so some of this enthusiasm is natural with a new semester, but there are other changes that I feel particularly good about.  As I mentioned last time, this semester I am primarily teaching the first year girls.  It's not even Friday yet, but I don't think I can adequately convey just how absolutely adorable these girls are.  Since students travel from all around Korea to go to my school, I really have some stellar pupils filling the seats in my classes.  Since I've started teaching them this week, I've been greeted and pulled aside for many conversations in the hallways. It's pretty easy to tell when you have a good group of students (even during the honeymoon stage), and I just feel really great about these groups of girls. In turn, it's motivating me to be a better teacher for them.  I don't know if I'm ever going to get a group of students like this ever again.

I'm also liking seeing all of my first graders from last year, who are now second graders.  It's been comforting to see some familiar faces. And of course it doesn't hurt that they keep clapping when I enter the classroom  Clearly their winter classes must have been really boring to make them that happy to see me!

It's been an all-around completely exhausting week (teaching 6 classes in one day?! Really?!), but I'm feeling re-energized by new faces and my new schedule.  Even though I know my energy will drop eventually, I'm really going to do my best to keep this motivation and productivity in line.  I'm fully aware that this could be the last semester I really get to teach for quite a while.  Since I can't stay at a high school next year, I could very well end up at an elementary school next year if I decide to stay in Korea.  And then who knows how long it will be before I get back into a teaching job back home in America. So, I'm ready to make this semester the best it can be because I honestly couldn't have less of a clue what is going to come next, or when I am going to have an opportunity to really teach again.

Another reason I am feeling good about this semester is that I feel much more prepared than I did last semester. When I came into my job last semester I was really thrown into everything at once--I didn't have a clue how things worked, what I was supposed to be teaching, or how I should even teach English as a foreign language.  Ok, I still don't know the answers to many of these things, but at least I have experiences to work with now.  I think my uncertainty about what I was supposed to do last semester made me a little lazy, or at least I don't think I was the best teacher I could be.  Well, it's a new semester and I'm ready to change that this time around.  I have no idea what lies at the end of this semester, so I'm ready to make each day the best it can.


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