© 2016 Stephanie Prufer

Teaching is Hard!

Teaching is difficult. When you’re a student, you don’t understand why teachers sometimes struggle. I often remember complaining about a teacher because they weren’t as well prepared as they should have been, or because they had been rushing through material when they should have taken more time to explain it.

For the past three weeks, we have been teaching English to 12-14-year-old students for one hour a week. This has been the most challenging aspect of the trip especially since none of us knew that we would be expected to teach English to kids during this Duke Engage program, so it caught us all by surprise. Most of us had no experience teaching children before, especially such large classrooms. The twelve of us were split into groups of four, each responsible for one classroom of 15-24 students. We were each given a syllabus to follow, although most of the syllabus was vague and unhelpful, so most of us just used it as a jumping off point. For instance, one of the bullets we were asked to teach was “what is your occupation?”, which is a difficult question for a 14-year-old, and extremely difficult to pronounce when you’ve had limited English exposure.

Even though this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I feel like I have learned a lot about leadership, teaching and preparation because of this experience. First off, I’ve learned to really respect my teachers. Their job is one of the hardest. They are expected to pick the right material, present it in a comprehensive manner, ensure that the students have understood and retained the material, and make the class time as fun as possible. Second, I’ve learned the importance of preparation and dedication. Every Monday before our Tuesday lessons, we were expected to prepare a lesson plan for the next day. The one time that we did not plan every second of our lesson, we felt stressed and under pressure for the entire hour of teaching. It’s vital to keep a plan where the times for each activity are laid out in detail… Oh, and don’t forget a back-up activity because most certainly you will take less time than estimated on each activity. Lastly, I’ve learned why open and honest communication is so important. Since we were teaching our lessons with three other people, it was really important to know when each person was teaching. If expectations were not set a priori, the lesson would begin to get confusing and difficult to follow. Open communication was also important inside of the classroom after the lessons had begun. This allowed feed-back to happen tangentially to the class. For instance, if I was teaching, but someone in my teaching group noticed that the students were bored, it was important to notify me, so that I could switch the activity before the students got disruptive.

I can’t say I’m very sad that we’re done teaching, but I respect the experience I have gotten from it and I think this has made me more likely to teach in the future.

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