“I’ve got this!”
Walking into a year 9 English class, middle period of the day and just before lunch, on my first day Supply Teaching in the UK I thought “I’ve got this.” I have taught English for 5 years now, this lesson will be a breeze, year 9’s are cool. They were not – year 9’s are actually year 8’s here in England from what I can deduce by their ages and the extra year level (year 13?!).
We all know year 8’s are a loveable mix stuck somewhere on their adolescent journey between: still a needy child whom every time needs the instructions reread to them individually and the stage in which puberty’s claws have well and truly been attached for a while and they have now also discovered their new found distain for the world. As I sat at the front of the room the students filed in, and kept filing in- like they were emerging from the depths of Mary Poppins handbag- all 33 of them took their seats and I was gobsmacked. I know 33 humans doesn’t sound like a lot to a regular person. But this adds a whole extra 7ish souls into a tiny English classroom, a whole extra 4 tables of 2 students each table, a whole near 25% more students than I am used to. I mentioned “Gee there’s a lot of you” to which the students ears seemed to prick up and wait for more. As I got to introducing myself and explaining why I was there and where their normal teacher was the room fell deathly quiet, each kid hanging on my every word. I thought this must be a particularly well behaved lot, but also wasn’t tricked by this thought seeing as I was supply teaching in a public** school in good old industrial Birmingham, with its drawly accent and pitch invasions I had already experienced in person.
After the explanations a bold girl raised her hand and asked “Miss is your accent like from South Africa or Australia or something?” When I happily answered I was from Australia there were murmurs, giggles from the girls in particular and more hands shot up. One boy blurted out his question, with his hand still raised even thought I had not called upon him. A rapid fire succession of questions ensued ranging from ‘why are you here, like here in Birmingham’ to ‘have you ever seen a shark or a Koala Bear (bear?)’ to question about whether I personally knew some famous Australian YouTuber to asking me to repeat lines from the T.V show ‘H2O- Just Add Water’- which explained the giggles. After a good 5 or 6 questions, which I willingly answered because I was actually quite impressed with how inquisitive and interested in another country they were, I remembered that they are year 9’s (8’s) and were probably using this as a diversion tactic and I though- I can play their game. I started to speak and again the class was silent. I levelled with them that if we got through all the set work then I would select the students with the best work to choose questions to ask for the last 10 mins of class. This worked like a treat, we learnt about Henry VII (me as well as the kids- how many Henrys were there?) and then chatted about the similarities and differences of Australia and England in terms of school, animals, weather and such. In the end the kids weren’t rude, they were just eager for some interesting stories from a young teacher who’d come from a beach filled sunny dreamland to Sutton in Birmingham. I highly recommend using this tactic to your advantage, as a fun behaviour management/ reward tool. If you are just starting to teach in a foreign country don’t be afraid to capitalise on where you’re from, how you are unique and what different attributes you can bring to the table from your experience teaching and learning in another country. I had to feign my confidence at first, but once I realised kids are kids, they’re all the same across the world, I then found myself in that teaching groove again, just in a different country.
**The word Public school is used in England to denote private independent schools. The words state or government school should be used for public schools.
Produced By Jess Carson 04/08/2020 – linkedin.com/in/jessica-carson-b6b9a8a6