Teaching, Trials and Tribulations

“Do you speak German?”, “Can you say Oachkatzlschwoaf”, “Do you like tea?”, “Does it rain there?”, “Do you know the queen by the way?”; just a sample of the many questions I’ve encountered over the past few weeks as ‘Katie’ aka. ‘the english one’. 

Before embarking on this teaching venture I was not sure quite what to expect. Many people had told me before about their own experiences, yet I still struggled to envisage how it would be for me, because I had never done any teaching before this. For that reason I thought I would collect together a few trials, tribulations and experiences from the past few weeks to advise future assistants, for memories sake and purely for the hilarity of some situations.

  • Be prepared to introduce yourself..fifty times over..

Firstly, I’ve lost count now of how many times I’ve walked into a classroom and done the introduction routine. Some teachers may want you to go straight into a topic or not take up too much time but whatever happens, one way or another you have to introduce yourself. I teach thirteen classes a week in two schools (week A and week B) and plus a few extras that have been swapped and changed on occasions, so I wouldn’t hesitate to say I’ve done the ‘Hi, my name is… and I come from…’ routine at least thirty times. My drawing of the UK has gone from bad to worse; to the point of some students questioning, ‘what is that exactly?’… which provided some amusement at the very least.

  • Prepare to be interrogated..

Students are curious. Very very curious. About just about everything in your whole life. There was no way I could have possibly prepared for some of the interrogations concerning everything from hobbies, pets, family, languages, rain, tea, royals to english butter, boyfriends and brexit. Truly I feel I’ve heard it all!

  • A chance to learn..

As the school system is different here in Austria this means that many things vary in the types of schools and their curriculums. Students can choose from a younger age what focus they want on their studies, which means that some high schools have different focus areas and specialities. For example my schools both have a business focus, which means that some topics are somewhat unfamiliar! In the past few weeks I’ve covered all kinds of topics, from advertising and branding to business ownership models (the one time I wished I remembered anything from GCSE business studies..) and marketing. This means that I’ve had to do a fair amount of work and research to make sure I’m informed enough to be able to then discuss a topic thoroughly enough with the students. Obviously this has proved challenging in some cases, but actually it’s good that I get a chance to learn some things too!

  • Expect the unexpected..

There is sometimes no way to prepare for the everyday trials and tribulations that teaching throws at you, and sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and deal with whatever gets thrown your way. Things can’t always go as smoothly as you would hope. Especially concerning technology..when you plan a lesson on tourism and want to show a video, then the sound doesn’t work be prepared to provide a voice over commentary.. yes this happened, but I’d like to think my commentary did the Welsh tourist board justice! Aside from that there are many things that have been sent to try and throw me off guard; whether that’s rowdy students or the casual attitude towards swearing in the classroom, some things can come as a bit of a shock at first. Once I asked a class what they would do if they were a millionaire and one student shouted ‘I’d spend it all on drugs’.. needless to say my facial expression perfectly encapsulated my response. Not impressed.

Overall these past few weeks have been quite the rollercoaster! I’ve surprised myself with how much I’m actually enjoying it all; yes it is daunting at first to stand up in front of a class of 15-19 year olds who think they are too cool for school and be presented with the task of motivating them, but in fact once you get on their level and don’t take things so seriously, they will respond eventually! Honestly most the time you just need to make a bit of a fool of yourself, make them laugh, be real and make them feel comfortable enough to talk to you! It also really helps if you can get them talking about topics relevant to them and something they identify with; the other day discussing cultural differences with an A-level class I asked them if they had any tips for dating in Austria and I couldn’t get a word in edgeways, worked a treat!

I feel so lucky to be here and have this opportunity; feeling like I actually might have some direction in my life! Schau ma mal… 🙂

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