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!”