I came to Paris to teach French kids English. Remember when I went to journalism school? Heh. I had no idea what I was doing. But throughout these nine months, I definitely learned a thing or two:
Don't overprepare. Kids are weird. They can be really smart one day and really stupid the next. They can concentrate magnificently today and be spilling their pencil cases everywhere, climbing under their desks, trying to jump out the windows tomorrow. There's no way to tell what kind of day it was going to be. If I put too much time into planing a lesson, there was a 50%-100% chance it would be wasted work. So I put a limit on prep time.
But be prepared. A classroom of 30 nine year olds with no lesson plan? I don't even want to think about it.
Get over it. Sometimes I would have the crappiest classes. Seriously some of those kids effing sucked. I would leave so frustrated and angry that they were such little punks. But I would really have something to be depressed about if I let some 10 year olds get the best of me. I learned to get over those horrible classes within 30 seconds of the bell.
Don't take it personally. If I had a quarter for every time a kid was impolite to me in class? Well then I'd certainly not be working this low-paying job. And if I got upset every time a kid mocked my French or my accent? Well I'd be pissed off until next October.
Interwebs. I can't draw stuff. I can't even write in a straight line. Even knowing this, for some reason at the beginnning, I actually tried to make my own worksheets. Terrible idea. Google images does it so much better.
One idealistic American can't fight the system. I find the French school system much too academic for these poor little kids. And I wanted so badly to show them that learning could be fun. That we could play games and learn via interactive activities, and hell, even color with markers!!!!! But when it comes down to it, even the youngest kids have adapted to this dry, creativity-stiffling method of learning: every school day spent copying off the chalkboard, not questioning the answer given to you, and always underlining the date, in red ink, using your ruler. So I had to toss my off-the-wall fun learning games out the window quite often. The kids just didn't know how to deal. If I had more energy, I would have pushed more upbeat, move-around-the-classroom lessons. But I was tired of trying. The system doesn't work like that. And I learned that I couldn't change the system in a 45-minute lesson period.