As I mentioned before, the school I was hired at gave me absolutely no guidance as to how I was supposed to teach. They basically threw a textbook at me and said, “Teach something.” As a brand-new, baby teacher, this was terrifying. It took almost an entire day of lesson planning before I figured out that their lack of concern meant I could do pretty much whatever I wanted.
During my first lesson, I learned that both of my students were taking this class to improve their English for work. After flipping through the textbook and trying to find something business-related that applied to them, I decided: “Fuck this textbook. We’re going off the rails.”
Fortunately, I already had some business-related material from all the over-preparation I did the night before, which meant I was able to calmly organize my lesson and get a good night’s sleep.
That would have been the sane thing to do. Hedgehog never does the sane thing.
Even though I already had several hours of material, I still managed to stay up until 3 am planning it all out (is–is this my life now?). When I woke up three and a half hours later, I was ready for my lesson.
Fooled you again! I really, really wasn’t. I wasn’t using the textbook for this lesson, so I needed to print everything out. Since I’d been an unemployed immigrant for the previous four months while I was trapped in immigration limbo, I hadn’t bought a printer. And the school that hired me didn’t have a copy machine. The day before, I found an internet cafe just around the corner from the school and was able to print everything I needed for my first lesson without a hitch.
This led me to believe that I don’t have to stress out about printing my lesson materials when I don’t own a printer. It led me to believe that even though my entire lesson depended on things that didn’t yet exist in the physical world, I could trust the respectable establishment next to my school.
Now that I had let my guard down, the respectable establishment shoved my trust into the dirt and kicked it in its sad, trusting little balls.
I got to the internet cafe about 30 minutes before my class started. I happily plugged in my flash drive, hit Ctrl+P, and went over the lesson in my head as I waited for everything to print. I went to the register, paid, and then went over to the printer to get my stuff.
Nothing had printed.
I told the guy running the register and he apologized and restarted the printer. About five minutes went by. Still nothing.
He went back to the computer, scrolled through some of the documents I had printed, and then opened up the printer and started tinkering with the insides. At this point a few customers came in. He closed the printer, restarted it again, and went to help them.
The printer turned on again. For all intents and purposes, it looked like it was ready to print. The little green light was on, blinking at me. Mocking me.
There was a line at the register now, and the guy didn’t so much as look at me. I glanced at my watch. I was supposed to start teaching in 20 minutes! I stood in the corner to let the people walk by, quietly trying not to freak out. Several agonizing minutes later, the guy rang up the last customer and came back to the printer. Hooray!
He opened it, poked at something, grunted, and slammed it shut, saying, “I don’t understand! Why won’t it work?”
This did not make me feel better.
He apologized and restarted it again, just in time for a new batch of customers to walk into the store. At this point, the responsible adult in my head took over. I called the school and told them I might be late, and then quietly thanked Cthulhu that I’d put the textbook in my backpack on my way out. I flipped through the pages and tried to form a backup plan, resigning myself to another mediocre English lesson.
Finally, with 10 minutes to go, he came back and checked the printer again. That infuriating green light was still on, still blinking as it cheerfully held my English lesson hostage.
The guy apologized for what was probably the hundredth time and restarted it again. I looked at my watch and decided, this is stupid. I’m out of time.
I asked for my money back and headed to the school, inwardly cringing at how disorganized this lesson was going to be. When I got to the office, the woman running the front desk asked what had happened. The great news: When I told her, she said I could print from the office computer. My lesson was saved!
She was less enthusiastic about helping me when she found out that I needed to print 17 pages. She grumbled and said that’s too much, but she’ll allow it this time. I didn’t hold it against her. If this crappy school can’t afford a copy machine for its teachers, all its other resources are probably limited, too.
I thanked her and got everything organized, vowing to buy my own damn printer and find another school to teach at as soon as possible.
Despite the drama, I was really, really happy with how my lesson turned out. The fact that I had customized this lesson and made sure it was useful to my students gave me so much confidence. I wasn’t gonna be the teacher who drags their students through an outdated textbook just to kill time. Maybe the school didn’t give a shit, but I did, and I wanted my students to get the most of their time with me.
It turns out that teaching grammar is REALLY fun. Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone, but the linguist in me loves to dissect that mouth-watering syntax. I was that teacher who got really excited and waved her hands in the air while she was explaining and scribbled all over the board like a crazy person. By the end of class, both whiteboards were covered in pictures, formulas, and examples. I was very happy with how well the students responded to my madness.
When class ended, I was so happy I could have hugged my students, which is a big deal (as I’ve mentioned before, touching people is not my favorite). I was ecstatic. After they left the room, I closed the door, peeked out the window, and closed the curtains. Then I did a celebratory happy dance in the middle of the classroom.
For the previous four months, I’d been working my ass off to get a work visa so I could legally teach here, while simultaneously dreading the idea of having to teach. What am I doing? I constantly thought. How can they expect me to be in charge? I have no idea what I’m doing!
After my first lesson, I knew I could survive, but I didn’t feel great about it. I wondered if I was in over my head.
After my second lesson, I decided: I FUCKING LOVE THIS AND I WANNA DO IT FOREVER.