Teacher stories: from nightmare to greatness

Teacher stories: from nightmare to greatness

Just last month I wrote a piece about my teaching experience and today I thought I’d continue my teacher stories. Having been a teacher for nearly 10 years, comes with many memories. Some are good memories and some are bad. Most of them involve students in one way or another of course and that is why I have always been hesitant to share them. However, I thought trying my hand at telling you about some of the events that have stuck with me. I will not name any names and if you’re reading this and you recognize yourself and would like me to take it down: feel free to let me know.

My teaching life started with teaching NT2 or Dutch as a Foreign language to expats when I was still a student. I have plenty of stories to tell about that, but my most memorable stories most probably come from my brief yet intense stint at a secondary school. I got hired at a secondary school for my second ever teaching job. I had not yet obtained my teaching degree and rather than doing an internship, I decided to take on a job. Getting a job straight away meant being thrown in from the deep end and that led to many hilarious and painful situations.

Oftentimes I didn’t know what I was doing for the first few months in my new job. I kind of just winged it and 9 out of 10 times it went well. But not in my very first week. In my very first week, I ended up teaching one particular group of students, aged around 14. All my classes that week had been going well and I was a new teacher so I took everything on with stride. I learnt the hard way that you cannot always win when it’s 30 against 1.

This particular group had a knack for trying to get their teachers on the fence. They also tried with me. It all started innocently enough: a few girls at the front of the class were giggly and noisy. No matter how hard I tried, they just wouldn’t keep their mouths shut so I could teach the lesson. When they noticed that, they decided to take it one step further. One by one, they started to bang Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ on the table. Quickly, their classmates followed suit.

So there I was, in my first week of teaching, with 30 students banging away on the tables and nothing for me to do about it. It was so loud that trying to shout over the noise was simply futile (and always a bad idea). So once they decided they had had enough and quieted down, I decided to try and teach again. But of course they didn’t just stop there. It didn’t stop until I send out the 3 ladies who had started the whole thing and made them do detention.

It was my first experience having to tell students off and it was by no means a pleasant experience from my side. And I wasn’t the only teacher in the school who struggled to keep this group of students in line. Many of my colleagues dreaded their lessons with this class. But I just figured: I don’t want it to be like that and I don’t think they do either.

Since I had only just started, I decided to ask my colleagues who I knew were good at doing these things what their magic touch was. They told me about their tips and tricks and I slowly but surely started to apply them. Within weeks this one difficult group became my favorite group to teach. Why? Because once you found out the right way to work with them, they were willing to work for you.

Granted, they still got a bit rowdy at times, but that was easily solved by a firm, yet kind reminder of the rules and for the next 2 months they would be a joy to work with. By the end of the school year, they even asked me to join them and 2 other teachers for their year outing and when I fell ill the year after, they were the first group to send me a card and wish me well.

What started off as a nightmarish experience in my first week got turned around in a pleasant and constant working environment. By showing the students that I had my wits about me and sometimes giving them the space to scream their heads of if they liked, provided a balance that allowed me to work with them in a very pleasant way. It ended up being a great experience and I often still use some of my tactics I used with these students if I run into a new difficult group to teach. In the end, they were the best learning experience a beginning teacher could possibly have.

Did you enjoy my little snippet into teaching? Would you like to see more?

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