First Day of Teaching EVER—what could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been

While the level of freakiness of being a new teacher depends completely on the school you’re working at, there is one thought that goes through all new teachers’ heads the night before your first day: what did I get myself into?

The night before my first day teaching was a whirlwind of emotions. I had just moved into a Spanish home as a live-in English teacher and gotten a job offer at a random school just the day before. While the school was nothing to brag about, I took the job quite seriously anyway.

My first job was through a company that had a school based in the center of Madrid, but I was a commuting teacher who taught business English in a business’s building. I had pretty much mastered the metro system there by that time, so that was off the table as far as adding stress to the coming day. However, I had never taught a classroom of students wanting to learn English before. Oh my God. What was I getting myself into? Up until that point, it was just something I told people I did, not something I had actually tried myself before.

Needless to say, I took what little material and lack of direction the school had given me and tried to create my first lesson plan. This is definitely something I had learned how to do in my TEFL class, but the idea of making a lesson plan for a classroom of real students as opposed to an online discussion board makes for a tad more pressure in the planning process. It was a late night for me.

Considering I had never met my classes before and I had no idea what their actual level of English was, it was hard for me even to zero in on a book to use for the class. So, I used the first class as a day to get to know everyone which seemed easiest to do as a large discussion. My first class was an hour, which for someone who has never taught before seemed to be an eternity, and my second was an hour and a half (talk about a long meet-and-greet).

I reviewed my notes and exactly what I wanted to say to each class about 150 times before I actually walked into the classroom—which finding was a task in itself, but that’s a whole different story. As soon as my students started arriving and looking to me for guidance, I immediately reverted to my second grade shy face and turned beat red. Great. Now I am the timid teacher. Couldn’t have shown a smidge of confidence on the first day, could I? I can be pretty hard on myself…

Explaining my activities took a good two or three explanations before the class grasped my vision, but even after they nodded their heads a mile a minute meaning they understood me, it went completely differently than what I had planned out in my head. Life lesson number one as a teacher: preparing too much is pointless because no activity ever goes according to plan. No one mentioned that on my TEFL discussion board.

Side note: has anyone noticed how teaching seems to be way more like giving a speech to a classroom of confused faces than it is imparting crucial knowledge to people who really care? Half my students always seem to be terribly above the class level and the other half well below. Talk about interesting lesson plans. Anyhow…

Ok, so one activity down, three to go. That should fill up 60 minutes, even though my first activity only mustered up a good 8. Please God, let these activities take longer, I can’t end a half hour early on Day 1…

Sadly, my activities went by so fast (possibly because my students were fond of not answering questions and giving me a unified, glossy-eyed stare), that I had to think of something to fill up the remaining 15 minutes in question. Everyone had always told me I was pretty creative, this should be a piece of cake, regardless of the fact that it took me two hours to plan this lesson. Crap. To this day I don’t know how I filled that time, but I have an inkling it could have consisted of some forced conversations and reaching questions. Whatever. Day one, class one, check.

My next class was a tad more relaxing because I figured I had just experienced the worst. Which, it seemed, I had. Class two was wonderful in the sense that it was my longer class and all my students showed up 20 minutes late and loved talking in their broken English. Hallelujah!  The day is over!!

To the moral of the story: Teaching in general is pretty freaky, especially for me being someone who would rather not give a terribly long speech as part of my daily routine, but it is rewarding. I can’t say that I saw that on the first day, but over the past few years, I have.

So, to all you about-to-be teachers out there: Day one is rough and if it’s not, then day 2 will be. Regardless, enjoy the mess-ups because that’s what makes you learn (cheeseball I know) but more importantly, it gives you pretty funny stories to share with your friends after work (because no one likes to hear how perfect your day was).

If you have any great first day stories or advice, do share!



About whimsicalnomad

Recent grad still searching for life's "it" factor and traveling the world to find it.

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