Teaching again

I was an English (as in a second language– or third or fourth) teacher for 25 years, but I had not taught in several years. However, recently I was substituting for a teacher who was not around to start his class. I was teaching again at a local university campus.

Beforehand, several people commented that it would be like riding a bicycle, but even that has changed and most of those people were not teachers. When I was teaching full time, I always had lesson plans and activities floating around my brain for those times when great activities weren’t or we had time to fill. I wondered if they would come back.

Planning a lesson is basically planning some hours of mental activity to help students get this frustrating but necessary language. It is sort of like taking care of kids. What shall we do now? I was not sure if my estimates of time would work anymore or how much we would use the textbook that they actually did not have.

It has been interesting. I always love the students and over the years there have been few that I did not like (usually those who thought they knew English grammar better than me, a mere woman). In this class there were seven Mexican students on a special program and one Chinese student who was born in Canada but was almost immediately taken back to Hong Kong. I spent the most time with her because three afternoons out of four it was only me and her. We talked a lot and I tried to help her fix her pronunciation and give her strategies for dealing with the language.

The thing I had not remembered about teaching is how it is always in my head. I think about things we can do in class, the problems the students have with the language, how to organize the class, something challenging for them to do. The class does not stop at the appointed hour– I take it with me.

I enjoy teaching and I like the students. However, having been retired for a few years after a lifetime of working very hard, I can say that I don’t like working. I don’t like having to be up at a certain time and on the road at another one. I always have two bags with me, one for me and one for the class. I have to dress better than when I go downtown and certainly better than when I stay home. For more than twenty-five years I spent many hours in class and outside of class thinking about lessons and students. As program and school director, of course I spent times thinking about curriculum and assessment and how to direct teachers. I left that all behind when I had my cafe, and then I left the cafe behind (literally). This program is rather ethereal, to say the least, and I find myself thinking of all sorts of way to help improve it. But – nope nope nope.

Now I remember what teaching was all about. I am glad to dip my toe in it again, but I sure do not want to do it full time. I love seeing these young people ready to open their individual oysters of life, but I don’t have to be a large part of it. Teaching is a wonderful profession, but I am now a retired lady and am happy to have my time to myself.

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