Monday, April 8, 2013

A Day in the Life of the International School Teacher

As many of you may know, I have been doing my 16 week student teaching placement in an international school here. Since a number of you are teachers and since I assume most of you went to a school, I thought I'd share a little of what the experience is like in an international school. The school follows a British educational system so it has grades from Kindergarten to Grade 13. Supposedly, children who graduate from a system that goes up to 13 are better prepared to enter the workforce even if they do not go to university right away. In total, the student body numbers just under 200.

For the first 2 months of my practical, I taught in a third grade classroom of 14 wonderful students. Yes, class sizes are incredibly small compared to U.S. standards, and every class has a full-time teacher's assistant as well. Mine was amazing! You might be beginning to think this was a walk in the park for me, but let me introduce you to my students. I had 11 boys and 3 girls...tables already turned against me, so to speak. Only 3 of my students came from homes where English is their first language. Six of my students were still receiving daily support for English language learning. Two others received special educational support. Then, we can talk about cultural background: 4 East Asian students, 4 South Asian students, 1 European student, 2 Americans, 2 bi-cultural students, and one Canadian.

On some days I was dealing with who said what bad word to whom in Korean while I was trying to make a lesson have enough visual aids to support a child who needed it. At other times, I answered countless "What does ____ mean?" questions during a lesson on whatever that I thought would be pretty straightforward. I often contemplated moving students around the room to deal with behavioral issues, but at every possible arrangement, I had to think, "How is this going to affect that student?" Usually a move of any kind would disrupt the very delicate balance I managed to hold onto. Even though the idea of a small classroom sounds nice, I think there actually needed to be more "balance" kids in the mix. There were new challenges every day of this first half of the placement, but the kids were amazing to work with. I learned that teaching is no easy task. It can make even the toughest person weak in the knees and so incredibly aware of his/her inadequacy.

Now, I will make a confession. This was the first university course I have made less than an A in (I realize that I am ridiculously nerdy), and boy, did that sting. Nothing like snapping you from the daydream that you've had it altogether academically for 5 years so you must already be an awesome teacher. Guess what? Apparently, I still have a lot to learn, and that's what was abundantly clear from this experience. Yes, the environment is one that I know and live in, but attaining excellence is a process, not a single leap that I have overnight. You know what I learned most of all though? I need my Lord so much! How easy it is to fall upon our own strength for whatever it is that we do everyday. quickly we find ourselves impatient, snappy towards to the ones we love and serve, unwilling to budge, prideful and arrogant, and so much more. As I head in to the next 8 weeks of the placement, I know there will be some things I will do differently, but most of all, I will cling to the One most capable of transforming this inadequate human into His vessel of honor.

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