We all have them, right?
Lately, perhaps brought on by stress, I’ve been questioning everything I’ve done in the classroom since getting here and fearing that any mistakes I’ve made so far will come back to haunt me later on, when the kids are less enamored with me and English is just another boring subject.
There are so many conflicting opinions about the best strategies for teaching ESL in Korea, and reading all of them has caused a downward spiral of doubt in my mind.
Use PowerPoint games and pictures to make it fun… stop relying on PowerPoint for everything… the co-teacher is there to help you… you’re a worthless teacher if you have to rely on the co-teacher for translating… your class is an opportunity to let the kids have fun while learning in an otherwise rigorous academic environment… your class should teach them grammar… your class should skip grammar and teach them practical usage and pronunciation… these are the rules you should have in your classroom – no, these are the rules you should have… you should use a point system… you should use a stamp system… you should reward them… you should punish them… you should… you shouldn’t… should… shouldn’t…
I’ve been torturing myself with fears that I’m not doing a good enough job of teaching these kids. Comparing myself to what their previous teacher must have been like. Doubting that I’ll be able to actually make progress with them. Kicking myself for hardly knowing any of their names yet. Worrying that my lessons will be too dull (and lose the kids’ interest) or “too” fun (and not actually teach them anything)… too easy or too hard… that the day will come when they’ll simply stop listening to me.
There are so many facets to consider. Personally, I’m leaning towards the side of make it easy yet engaging, make it accessible, make it fun. These kids have really stressful lives, and many of them aren’t from the best home environment. They’re in school for 8 hours and then they may spend another 1-6 hours taking classes at hagwons (private after-school academies). Many of them don’t get enough sleep or enough fun for a 14 year old. So why not make this one class a week something they can enjoy?
The problem is balancing that with discipline so that things don’t get out of hand, and avoiding overusing the games and fun activities so they don’t get bored, and making sure to teach the content that my co-teachers want me to, and trying to make it understandable for the low level kids and still engaging for the higher level ones…
Hence the never-ending, torturous circle of doubt.