False Alarm

This job is NOT getting ANY easier. Some days just…decide to be better than others. But sure enough, my class’s true colors come out eventually and then it’s mayhem.

My supervisors keep giving me vague advice about 10 minute lessons, enthusiasm, keeping calm, hang in there, plan your lessons thoroughly, plan, plan, plan. But what I need are specific lesson plans and an accurate list of my department’s job descriptions. I spoke with the school director tonight and he told me that my T.A. should be in charge of discipline – I should do very minimal disciplining. The school’s set up so that the teacher doesn’t have to deal with discipline, only teaching. Only the school administrators speak with parents, and T.A.s deal with manageable in-class discipline.


I’ve been doing all the class management for 2 weeks. My T.A. just stands there looking at the kids who are misbehaving, and when I tell her to deal with them because I have to teach, she says that there’s no point because they’re just bad kids. SO F***ING HELPFUL. I realized after speaking with the director that I’ve been doing most of her job, and the teaching has fallen by the wayside.

I spent this evening cutting up paper apples and oranges to stick on some paper trees I made so that tomorrow we can practice colors and counting. And I also planned out tomorrow’s lesson, minute-by-minute.

Geez, it pisses me off that the school director can talk me down from the ledge. He’s the one who offered me the job, who knew I was a 22-year old Classics major with no individual teaching experience. He’s the one who chose to stick me with 28 new kindergarten students and promised me proper training which turned out to be minimally relevant. He threw me to the wolves. And now he’s able to convince me to stay, and what’s worse, to be motivated again to teach the little bastards.

At 5pm I was on skype with my mom cursing and crying and telling her that the only options I saw were to either quit or have a heart attack, but that I couldn’t quit because I’d never forgive myself for giving up. I felt like I was condemning myself to misery the rest of the year. And I wasn’t going to tell you all how I was feeling, because your unrelenting support and affirmation of my capability would make me feel like even more of a failure if I quit. If the strong, smart, brave woman that you all see can’t cut the mustard in a kindergarten class, what does that say about her capability? She will have failed that much more miserably in proportion to how supposedly “capable” she is.

Having an impossible task is SO much harder when you don’t have an out. And having flown to nearly the opposite side of the globe for a job with some of the best compensation I could hope for at this point in my life – there are such high stakes for me that it feels like I’m stuck here. For better or for worse.

And now here I am, cutting up construction paper fruit as teaching aids for the little turds. And I’m planning on going in an hour early tomorrow to prep the classroom.

Pay day’s in two weeks. Pay day’s in two weeks. I can do this, just hang in there, if for nothing else than creating a healthy bank account. Whatever motivates me, at this point I’ve got to remind myself of it.

3 thoughts on “False Alarm

  1. Dear Rachel,

    My heart goes out to you. This must be incredibly challenging, especially when you are in a strange land and don’t have the customary forms of support. I hesitate to offer any advice, because I’m sure that I fail to understand all the issues, but I do want to be of help, so I’m going to have a stab.

    In my prior note, I tried to suggest that you make the kids your allies, that you become one of them. In a similar vein, I’d now like to suggest that you avoid thinking of a dichotomy between discipline (classroom management) and teaching. Your T.A. has been useless because of that dichotomy. Consider your lesson in colors and counting. Let it be a lesson in working collectively, and let the colors and counting be a means to get you there. You’ll never be able to get them to work collectively by chasing after the wild ones and insisting on collective work, but your toil in cutting up the colored fruit CAN pay off when you use those pieces of construction paper to make an activity so engaging that even the rowdiest of your kids wants to interact with the fruit. These kids are five years old, so what they really need to learn is how to work in a group. You can use colors and counting to build that group and make them want to work in it. Then the other kids will control the rowdy kids. Your T.A. needs to be on the entire bandwagon, grasping that the enactment of a compelling activity is the most important thing, with the content instruction coming along as icing on the cake. I suggest that you flatter the T.A. by making her or him a full colleague, another partner, for the unified enactment of classroom management and content instruction. When in even the slightest doubt, let content instruction be a decidedly secondary concern.

    I apologize if this is way off the mark or seems overly optimistic. I’m sure that I have no idea what you are going through. I have observed kindergarten teachers, though I’ve never taught kindergarten myself. One kindergarten teacher whom I observed impressed me enormously because she had gotten the kids on board for the communal project. Things went smoothly because she had made them partners, and they honestly looked to her for leadership, not for rule enforcement. A great kindergarten teacher is the greatest of all teachers, so you have a shot at the brass ring of teaching here.

    Please know that I am most impressed that you are doing this. I wish I could be there to buy you a beer and hear the full tale of a day in class. You go, girl!


  2. I think it’s really badass how honest, expressive, and articulate you are on this blog. Really. It’s awesome.

    *hugs!* I am determined to catch you on Skype on of these days. I have my phone set to tell me what time it is in Baghdad. But I know you’re busy. Happy New Year! I shall eat some honey cake in your honor.

  3. My Dear Rachel,

    Oh my, you sound so unhappy. *HUGS* I actually believe that you will succeed no matter what the outcome. I know you want to be a successful kindergarten teacher in a culture you do not understand using a language you do not know (but are learning!). Sounds like you are also receiving minimal support and understanding from administration. No surprises there, alas. Fun times, with “fun” definitely being an “F-word” in this context. I really can’t add much to what Dana and Leah have said (you seem to have some good friends in them) except to remind you to think of why you went there in the first place (in addition to the money, of course!). But I can say you do have, and will always have, my love and respect. Period. And you are most welcome in my home any time. But you knew that already.

    Love ya!

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