Learning To Accept My Fate

In my previous post, I addressed the problem of my dreamless students. At that point of time, I knew that I had to work harder and harder. But that shocking revelation was just the beginning of a subsequent unlimited number of shocks to which I wasn’t totally prepared.

Generally speaking, when you’re a beginner, you’re probably naïve, you have no knowledge of the administrative tricks and intricacies, so you try to discover as many work related things as possible. Also, you might tend to accept your situation without nagging about its inadequacies, and if your director makes a request, you’d probably take it as an order because you want everyone to notice how hardworking and serious you are, and also because you don’t want to give a bad impression. No one wants to screw up at the very beginning of his/her career, anyway.

A few months after I’d started working at our school, I learnt that this attitude was a rookie mistake! …And I learnt it the hard way.

I’ll start by the first main shock I received at the school. This happened when I was told that I’d be the only teacher of English in the entire school. Actually, we were two teachers of English but they had a shortage of English teachers in the neighboring high school, so they decided to send the other teacher there and make me the only teacher of English at our school. This meant two things to me: longer working hours and taking responsibility for more than 540 students in my first year as a teacher!

This was huge for me. I didn’t know how to react to it as it was too overwhelming. On the one hand, I didn’t like it because having a more experienced teacher in the same school was kind of comforting, I thought he’d be my guide until I settle down and get used to my new students and life in the countryside. On the other hand, I couldn’t come out of the closet because I didn’t want to have troubles with my director or anybody else in the school. So, I just had to accept my fate.

My second shock was when I learnt students got to pass from a level to the next without really having mastered the curriculum or having learnt anything! I thought this was crazy so I asked about it and I was told that there is a “roadmap” that tells schools the percentage of students who need to pass regardless of their school results. Therefore, I ended up with students who couldn’t write their names in their L1 (first language)! “How am I supposed to teach English to such students?” I wondered, but this time, I got no convincing answers. So, I just had to accept my fate.

Now with these developments, I thought that I had to work harder with my students in order to catch up a little bit of what they had lost. Therefore, I decided that in order to better manage my classes, I’d insist on bringing notebooks and writing the lessons on a regular basis . (I understand that this might seem strange to readers from other parts of the world who take it for granted that students always bring their books and notebooks and write their lessons regularly, IT’S NOT THE CASE HERE!). I even threatened that I wouldn’t accept any student who shows up without his/her books and notebooks or who doesn’t do his/her homework.

To my surprise, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to ask any student to leave the room under any circumstances. This means that a student has the right to attend the class even if he/she doesn’t bring his/her books or notebooks, doesn’t write the lessons, or is misbehaving and causing troubles inside the classroom…And that was when I understood that they didn’t want me to teach…They just wanted me to babysit! I understood this, and I had to accept my fate.

In short, I had a tremendous pile of responsibilities but wasn’t empowered enough to deal with them and this made me feel so powerless and tied up. Nevertheless, as I was a newly appointed teacher, my will and dedication were, and still are, stronger than any obstacles. I still remember telling myself the following:”Hey, you! You love challenges, don’t you? Here comes a really big one. Can you take it up and live up to your, your family’s and the society’s expectations?” Then, with a sigh, I replied:”Oh, yeah!”

–Rain Dancer

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12 responses to “Learning To Accept My Fate”

  1. Lynne Diligent says :

    Knowing you personally and what a good teacher you are, I am just so happy you made it through your first year of teaching, and into your second. I really can’t imagine having too much harder of a year than you had, except maybe teaching in a dangerous ghetto. As I was reading, being a teacher myself, I kept just feeling OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG!!! My advice is you can’t help everyone, but just keep in mind you might be that “special” teacher, who for a few students, actually changes their lives or steers them in a certain direction. I am sure you are making a difference in at least some students’ lives.

    To what do you attribute the fact that so many students are now passed through? I know that it used to be that in North Africa students who couldn’t keep up were asked to repeat, and that if they repeated two different years, they were asked to leave school. Of course we all want students to stay in school as long as possible, but when the teacher becomes only a babysitter, then it drags down education for those who are at the right level, and who want to learn. I hope your students are behaving this year.

    Could you clarify? If I understand you correctly, these are a substantial number of secondary students who not only don’t know how to write their names in English, but in any language at all!

    • RainDancer says :

      Thank you very much, Lynne,

      I’m really flattered by what you just said about me.
      Well, concerning your first question. I think students are allowed to stay in schools because of many reasons. The most important reason is to “look good” statistically speaking and to justify the money the education department gets in form of loans and aids. Also, the government thinks that by “forcing” kids to stay at school we will avoid a lot of negative social phenomena like delinquency.

      Yes, it’s sad but it’s true. There are some students who can’t write their names even in their mother language! I believe that this is due to the idea of making everyone pass. I think that this “No child left behind” approach is leaving EVERYONE behind! Sometimes, I just feel sorry for some excellent students (A minority), who are willing to lean but who are dragged behind by the weak majority.

      Yes, this year my students are behaving. I think this is attributed to 3 main reasons; first, most of my 18+ year old students left the school (They either succeeded, or were fed up and left school for good). Second reason is that instead of sessions of two straight hours, we now have two sessions of one hour each, so students don’t get bored. Third, I think I succeeded in building a respectable reputation at our school. You know that students talk A LOT about teachers and I guess my last yea’s students made it clear for the new ones that I wasn’t the kind of teacher to fool around with 😀

      Thanks a lot for passing by, Lynne.

  2. stcarriescenter says :

    Interesting blog 🙂

  3. Ikram Benzouine says :

    Very straight-from-the-shoulder! I could relate to most of the shocks you’ve been through. Your reflections have driven me to the first time I wore the teacher-suit, and adopted the teacher-attitude! I honestly had cried in the first week because I feared that stage, I feared to let myself down and thus cause my students to fail! So many gobbledygook was running in my mind at that time! As I read through your last paragraph, I was again reminded of the inner cheerleader in me that made me pull myself together.
    If there’s something I’ve learnt from this first experience: Life doesn’t always give us that cherubic smile to our faces, but it still can’t be a motive behind being this —–>> a QUITTER!

    In short, Encore!

  4. Chris says :

    Great blog post!

    As an English Teacher in Thailand, I experienced exactly the same: “…students got to pass from a level to the next without really having mastered the curriculum or having learnt anything!” This also was a shock for me in my first year here. The main reason here not to retain students for another year is “ECONOMICS”. Nobody here can afford it, with already classes of 40 or more students! And more recently I was told that I couldn’t ask any student to leave the room under any circumstances, even if the student was misbehaving and disturbing the whole classroom. When asked why I was doing this I replied: “To protect the good students.” And that was the answer they wanted to hear.

    Now I don’t worry if the students learn or not. I relax, or rather, I work smart not hard.

    Good luck

    • RainDancer says :

      Thank you Chris,
      Well, I guess that your situation and mine are pretty similar. There are over 40 students in each one of my classes as well.
      Let’s just hope for a better future 🙂

      Thanks again.

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