Thoughts on teaching kids

I’m exhausted, and I’ve never felt more motivated in my life.

This morning, I taught a group of 10-11-year-old French students who are visiting Bath, and taking classes at my school for just two mornings. We were given prepared materials, but being my stubborn self, I steadfastly insisted on my making my own, with the intention of using Comprehensible Input and TPRS techniques to teach in a scientifically-rigorous way.

Oh, and also to have fun. Lots of fun.

As a teacher, it almost feels like a taboo to say you find it fun. Inspiring, motivating, hearthwarming, yes, but never fun. The thing is, though, my best teaching is when I’m having a blast, bouncing off the energy of 8-12 students (the ideal number, in my opinion), loading them up with comprehensible input and my own zany touches.

Based on today’s experience, I have narrowed down three criteria for my ideal job:

  1. Teaching 8-12-year-olds
  2. Teaching class sizes of at least eight (it’s just hard to get a flow with less than that)
  3. Teaching 20 hours or less a week

That last one might seem surprising – if I love teaching so much, why don’t I want to do it full time? The thing is that teaching is exhausting. But teaching well, well that’s absolutely mind-bogglingly draining. Teaching languages full time for me would be a one-way ticket to burnout town, and then I’d be getting mad at kids and helping noone.

So often I hear other teachers positioning the students as the enemy. They’re things you have to “deal with”, problem causers, reasons to watch the clock as the minutes pass by painfully slowly.

I’m not denying that these situations exist, and there are plenty of classes which I would be incapable of teaching with a positive attitude. But I’m always amazed at the lack of optimism, the dreary cloud that hangs over much of the profession. A lot of it is to do with the current state of education in the UK, but the main problem is that education is, at its core, fundamentally rotten. It was designed as a way to teach the working classes basic numeracy and literacy skills so they could work in factories, and to instill obedience to them, while they were at it.

I can only be so optimistic as a teaching because I insist on bucking the system, doing my research, finding the most ethical and methodically-sound ways to teach within a broken system. I’m not trying to boast, because I’m certainly far from perfect, but it is the joy from classes like today that motivates me towards bettering myself.

I’ll write more about education in future posts, I’m sure, but for now I’ll just say the following: young students aren’t just humans with their own lives, problems, and interests. They are collaborators in mischief and joy, agents of change, and just a great laugh.

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