Authored by:
Penny S.

MY 20th POST!!!!!  As my blog-journey turns 20 posts old, my teaching journey turns just over 6 months old/young.  Half a year! If I had one of those photo albums dedicated to “my new baby” (teaching baby, that is), well, the thing would be filled and I’d have to buy a new one.  I’m pretty sure I’ve taken at least 3,000 photos since arriving. At least. And I gotta say, I feel more confident as a teacher than ever.

This one class that I used to dread going to has been such a learning experience.  I realized that I was imagining the students to be worse than they actually are. They’re 1º ESO for cryin’ out loud!  Babies! If I go to class already feeling resistant to it, then it’s not gonna go well for anybody. Instead I’ve loosened up, and it’s felt much better.  I have fun with them and take advantage of my position as an assistant, dabbling in discipline when I feel it’s extremely necessary.

This week a teacher prepared an activity for me to lead in that class.  I read through pages of a textbook while the students listened and tried to fill in sentences with words missing.  I took the opportunity to practice public speaking: projecting, standing still, enunciating, taking my time. As someone who’s always had stage fright, I felt strong.  Like I said to my older students the other day, if you’re a shy speaker or a bit soft around the edges, boy, will middle-schoolers whip you into SHAPE. If they smell the slightest bit of weakness on you, you’re done for.  They’re like sharks: one whiff of blood… Unlike sharks (culturally speaking), they can be sweet and they’re still in such an in-between period of life. They may very well be obnoxious sometimes, but that can be molded. Thankfully they’re not already cynical adults stuck in their ways.

Speaking of public speaking, I’m coaching a team of five 1º Bachillerato students for a debate competition in June.  I had an epiphany the other day that a lot of the work I’ve done with writing is applicable to speaking debate-style.  I was given a handout that explains the organization of the debate (introduction, rebuttals, etc.) and realized that the emphasis on how to structure spoken arguments is not that different from structuring written ones.  When introducing a point, it helps to illustrate it with examples from real life--just like backing up a claim with evidence in an essay.

I thought of the debate training, though, because it is yet another chance for me to work on speaking skills--confident speaking skills.  When I explained to the students that they’ll need to pay attention to their body language, tone, volume, eye contact, clarity, I was practicing all of those techniques myself.  I whispered and shouted, raised my voice at one point and lowered it at another, stared at a student (to show what not to do)... One of my favorite things to do in classes is perform body language that is ineffective: leaning against the wall, playing with hair, laughing at a co-presenter.  After this, they really get the picture (for the most part...undoubtedly some students will continue these habits).

If you’re reading this, future auxiliar, just know that there’s a plethora of opportunities to learn and grow beyond how to be teacherly.  Whatever profession you end up in, these skills will be of the essence. You’ll need them at the very least for job interviews! The other stuff, like letting go of a resistance you may have based upon something imagined, applies to everything.  

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