Getting to grips with being a TEFL teacher
Three weeks into my internship and I feel that I’ve really settled into the routine of my school and I’m thoroughly enjoying every minute of it.
When I started out at the Ikhaya Labantwana creche in Masi, I had a class of 21 students; a relatively reasonable number in comparison to the younger class downstairs of about 50 children. However, some from downstairs have moved up to my class and we’ve taken on some completely new students taking the total up to 33.
To help learn all their names I spent my first week writing all of their names on their worksheets and going around the class every morning testing myself. The the kids found this pretty funny, especially when I’d pronounce their names incorrectly or mix them up completely! The likes of Natasha, David and Anita were pretty easy to get to grips with, but when it came to Simamkele, Ncubeko and Hlumelo I needed a little help from my teacher (or Missy – this is what all the kids call her, so I’ve adopted it too). I’ve found that it’s essential to tweak my accent in order to correctly pronounce most of the Xhosa names as the language uses clicks and different sounds not found in the English language.
All present and correct
My role every morning is to take the register and go through the date and the weather with the whole class. The class stand in a circle and one student first counts all of the girls, then the boys and finally the total number of boys and girls together. The class count together in chorus and then practice how to write the number in chalk on the floor. One girl in particular, Natasha, has very advanced English ability for her age and is always the one to lead the group and tell me the correct date. I do try to elicit the correct answers from other students before I get to Natasha however, to avoid any kind of favouritism!
Working the room – TEFL style
I spend the rest of the morning helping out each table with their tasks for the day. Depending on the daily curriculum they have maths games and puzzles to do, letter-writing practice, colouring, painting and role play activities. It can be really hard to dedicate any length of time to one student in particular as every child is highly demanding of my time. They are so keen to show me their work and to have me help them, but I have to try to make sure I get around the class the best I can.
Sssh! Quiet time
Storytime is easily one of my favourite parts of the day. The children understand that they need to be quiet and pay attention while I’m reading and I absolutely love to see how they respond to my storytelling, even if they don’t understand every word. The day soon wraps up when lunch is served and finally the class all settle down to a nap until their parents collect them later on in the afternoon.
This week I worked on a little project to improve their ‘Helpers Chart’. The class helpers are different each day and all help to tidy up, distribute fruit at break time and organise hand washing after the toilet routine. I decided that the helpers chart needed a little more colour as it was just simple black pen on white paper and the children showed great enthusiasm when I presented them with the finished result!
Bring on Monday!
Already I feel this experience has been incredibly rewarding. There’s nothing quite like that feeling when you get through to a child and see an improvement from the day before. Although these guys can be quite a handful at times, they have very quickly stolen my heart and every weekend I look forward to Monday to start another week with them.
If Ross’s tales of teaching in South Africa have given you some food for thought why not take a look at our South Africa TEFL Experience and live the dream yourself!