Group F

I like all the groups that I teach: the little ones, the middle-schoolers, and the adults. I admire the adults the most, however. This venerable group shows up twice a week for their two hour lessons of their own free will. I admit to spending the most time on their lesson plans because I want to ensure that they get something out of the class, and I want them to see how much I respect them for trying to learn something new in adulthood. 

There is one student in the adult class, I’ll call her Amalia, who rarely speaks out and has low confidence in her ability, even though more often than not she knows the answer. In the beginning I wondered why Amalia was even in the class if she refused to participate. How much can someone learn if he or she doesn’t participate and just silently takes notes the entire class? 

The adults, group F, need as much speaking practice as possible, so I made a game out of basic introductory phrases. The previous class we had gone over introductions like “Hello, my name is___. I am from___. I am ___ years old,” etc. etc. etc. So I made name cards with new names, nationalities, ages, likes, and dislikes. I then put all the name cards in my hat and had the students pick a card from the hat and introduce themselves to the class as that new person. I had fun making the cards, (my personal favorite was Gregory, the one-handed and two year old man from Germany, who likes his grandchildren and dislikes teenagers and stairs) and the students seemed to genuinely enjoy the absurdity of introducing themselves as wildly different people. 

Amalia introduced herself as Brad from Brazil, a laid back surfer dude who liked yoga, reggae, and the beach, and who disliked bad vibes, his mom, and responsibilities. After “Brad” introduced himself the class was free to ask him any introductory questions, and someone asked “Brad, what do you do?” 

Amalia couldn’t think of a fictional occupation fast enough, so she said “nurse,” to which the whole class laughed. I thought the joke was that Brad, being so lazy, would be a terrible nurse, but it turns out that everyone in the class knows each other, and thus know that Amalia is actually a nurse. 

It then made total sense to me why Amalia was taking this adult English class. 

Cynics hold that man is essentially morally bankrupt, and only out for self-gain and pleasure. I don’t see any of that in Amalia, group F, or in any of the groups I teach. 

Teaching 

I had never taught English to kids before, let alone kids of a different country who grew up speaking a language totally unlike English. So, I prepared a lesson plan and I prepared for the worst.

I dreaded having to keep up an air of enthusiasm around the kids, but when they walked in the classroom any fears of mine vanished. This small group of middle school kids were quite fluent in English, and their unembarrassed enthusiasm took me completely by surprise. These kids were here because they wanted to learn English. The way this particular Workaway host operates is by having volunteers from all over the world come and teach these little Moroccan kids English. As such, these kids have been exposed to countless cultures and ways of life. They aren’t embarrassed by their interest in the world outside of Morocco. 

I was expecting the apathy I remember from my middle school days, and when it wasn’t there I realized I could talk to and teach these students with ease. I had written out discussion topics as a part of my lesson plan, and I feared that I would run out of topics (I teach them for two hours straight through,) but running out of things to discuss became an impossibility just twenty minutes into the class. There were non-stop rapid fire questions about the U.S.—what do people from the U.S. know about Morocco? What is the biggest state? Where is Hollywood? And how do you pronounce Connecticut? 

I really was expecting the whole process to be like pulling teeth, but the two hours sailed by and I had a great time. This was of course just a positive first experience and in no way telling of education and teaching as a whole (my mother could tell you plenty of stories that make teaching seem awful—plenty of stories that make it seem incredible too). But first experiences are so important for anything, and I’m just glad my first exposure to teaching didn’t leave me with the bitter cynicism of Argus Filch. For reference I recommend re-watching “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” wherein Filch, played by the inimitable David Bradley, says “there was a time when detention would find you hanging by your thumbs in the dungeon. God I miss the screaming.”