Teaching the teacher

I’ve begun to hate the English language. Day in day out, I’m explaining the different rules and ways of speaking English over and over with very little effect. It is especially painful because my end goal was always to learn Spanish. Now, I spend all my time teaching English to people of all ages, planning lessons in English or else in the little free time I have, speaking English. Unsurprisingly I am too tired and ashamed of my terrible pronunciation (and order) to even give it a go when I’m asking for my Soya Chai Latte with a shot of espresso (It’s acceptable in winter ok?).

In reality, I am usually bluffing every time I answer one of the many reasonable yet complex questions of one of my students. Because, from what I can see, the English language has many, many rules for no good reason. And just when you think you’ve discovered a pattern to base it off, there is one big fat exception to the rule. Or worse, your student points out that exception and you are left stammering like an idiot to try and make it seem like you might know what you’re talking about and they are not paying a silly amount of money (which I only get a percentage of) to a company that gives its teachers complete free will over how they teach.

I come home every evening mentally drained from trying to explain why why means why because the word why is the only way to explain what why means. I seem to have an amazing talent of describing what a word means by using an even more difficult word. On top of explaining and learning rules in a way that makes sense to me, I then have to explain it to someone who I barely know in a way that makes sense to them without them being able to explain how they learn best.

And I know you’re thinking that as a teacher this is literally what I’m paid to do. And you’re right, this is what I am paid to do but it is so exhausting. I used to think being run off my feet in charge of the standard of service for 25+ tables for 10 hours was exhausting, but this is like a 60 hour week of work during floor service, on my brain.

Before, I would finish off the shift with a few well deserved pints. Now, after a shower and dinner I am nearly asleep by 10. I feel like instead of the coffee kicking in at 6pm before a busy night shift, I now turn into a zombie by 7pm.

There is that 5 minutes in every lesson where the lightbulb goes off and I feel like they are getting it and I am doing a pretty good job and getting the hang of this teaching thing. And then the next day its gone again and I feel like I’ve imagined it.

Every day I feel like I am battling between the two perspectives. Is there such a thing as a bad student or is the teacher always to blame? Am I a complete hypocrite considering I can barely string a sentence together in the native language of a country I have been living in for nearly three months?

For once I have the answer to my own question. Instead of ending the post with my pondering thoughts, the answer is a simple ‘yes’. At the end of the day they are doing their best to learn a second language which is more than I can say. I need to buckle up, learn the rules of my language, work on my patience skills and pick up a goddamn Spanish book.

Un café latte con leche de soya por favour?

(yes I googled this to double check)

And to all my fellow teachers out there, I feel like a bad teacher all the time too. (I probably am but lets pretend I just need to feel like I’m not the only one)

3 thoughts on “Teaching the teacher

  1. I taught English in China and to be honest I didn’t know any grammar rules or anything. I couldn’t explain why this sentence is different to that sentence. When I was asked ‘Why?’ I always just replied ‘That’s just the way it is’. It is very difficult to explain grammar. I’m the same, I’m learning Spanish and I’m always asking “Why can I not say this?” and the answer from my fiancé and his family is “Don’t ask why, just learn that that’s how you say it”. But I really do think that half the job is the teachers but also half of it is the students. At the beginning I was very frustrated that they just ‘couldn’t get it’, but at the end of the day they have to go home, do their homework and just try and remember it. (Even if they don’t understand why) Plus many didn’t care at all what I taught. I felt like a bad teacher but when the students don’t try to understand, then there’s only so much the teacher can do. Unless you explain the whole grammar every day for the next month, and even then I’m pretty sure they still won’t understand. I’m learning phrases in Spanish and I don’t why the ‘lo’ is here or whatever, but I still say it even though I don’t understand why I’m saying it that way. I know it’s right but I don’t know why. I suppose the students should think that way too. I think when I know more spanish grammar, then I’ll know 100% why the ‘lo’ is in the sentence. Haha I’m sure your name is pretty hard for your students to figure out it’s pronunciation. Mine, Aisling isn’t too bad!

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    1. Haha! Very true I think I will just start to tell them that there is no point in asking why, that’s just how it is. I just hate that look in there eye when I know they don’t understand and want a better explanation! Oh well there is only so much I can do as you said. And yes my name is so difficult for them, it breaks my heart when I’ve had a student for like 3 months and I think we’ve bonded and then they say my name completely wrong! To be fair I never bother to correct them because I am so used to non-Irish people saying it wrong!

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      1. I think maybe just say to them that when their English is better, then they will understand it better. In my old university where I taught one girl chose my name as her English name, but she spelt it wrong. So now there’s a Chinese girl with my name written completely and utterly wrong. Very sad for me!

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