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Teaching is a marvel

Teaching is a marvel. I’ve always been told that, but I’ve never had the chance to live that marvel, to be in the shoes, and wear the profile, of a teacher. But I just did, I literally taught a class (though jointly with other co-teachers and with a nasty bunch of insanely annoying students). In this reflective narrative I will try to pen the particulars of how that went and the mixed feelings I was drowning in throughout that tiny experience. 

In matters of teaching and what counts, I’m always skeptical. To be honest, I don’t really know what’s the source of that skepticism. Maybe I don’t feel ready yet to assume that huge responsibility of being involved in shaping the future of a generation of so many students. Or maybe I don’t see myself as a person who is capable of managing a (real) classroom where coexist a melting-pot of different people with different mindsets. Or maybe teaching is well above my intellectual station. These skepticisms really had a negative impact on me, as it made me believe that I’m not the person for that profession, and so I distanced myself from anything related to teaching. While my colleagues were so enthusiastic studying for the profession of teaching (studying things like teaching methods, curriculum development, classroom discourse, etc.) I was so reluctant in such matters and considered that needless knowledge that’s not going to be of any practical use to me since teaching was an off-the-table career to me. However, quite recently, I came to grasp that I was seriously wrong, like way off. There is nothing I would rather be than a teacher; every career is off the table now but teaching. After this reconciliation (which was a result of so many circumstances that this reflective account can’t detail), I undertook the journey of unravelling the mysteries of teaching, and this journey is getting funnier and more interesting with every day that passes. All my insecurities concerning the teaching profession are still there, but I can live with them now, and I can stare them in the face and ready to face them off. Besides, there is no fun in doing something if one doesn’t feel insecure; insecurities are indicators of a good adventure that is waiting down the road. With this healthy attitude towards teaching, I was always looking forward with enthusiasm to practice teaching. And so it happened that ‘Teaching Practicum’ was scheduled for this semester, and you have no idea how comforting was that to me (though some skepticism was still clinging to me out of its demeaning stubbornness). 

My turn to teach has finally come, and I don’t know where to begin. I was lost in a train of thought that seemed endless, especially when I was told that the students I’m going to teach are supposed to be true beginners (I was like: you gotta be kidding me!), because it was an unmet challenge to me to simplify things. My task was to take care of the warm-up and the wrap-up of the lesson. My first concern was how to get those lousy students to shut up, I already witnessed how their irritating noise interfered with the effectiveness of the previous lessons, so I was worried about that, big time. But I had a thought that can hush them, at least during my part. Because they were students with a good sense of reason, I thought it would be sensible to compel them to submit to their reason, so I told them that we were some really harsh teachers in front of whom students don’t dare to move a muscle, so this should mean to them that every noise or trouble they make will not be justified and will be completely unreasonable (so I though, and so wrong was I!). No sooner had I started the warmer than all hell broke loose inside the class. People were making all sorts of sounds, many languages were chaotically spoken, and students throwing stuff at each other. Luckily noise and chaos were not liabilities to the warmer I prepared. After I double-checked students’ revision of last week’s supposed class, backing that up with some pictures of sports, I gathered students in the middle of the U-shaped class and told them we’re going to play a game. (they shouted out of ecstasy at the prospect). The game was against all expectations; it was called ‘Guess the Corner’. I adapted this game to the surroundings of the classroom, normally it was suggested as a wrap-up game. The game was played in a very simple fashion: I blindfolded one student and asked him/her to find one of his colleagues. To show his location, the student should freeze in his place and shout ‘here I am’. Relying solely on his sense of hearing and how he remembers the class is arranged, the blindfolded student should find the target student. My original (thought far-fetched) intention was to play with all the students and then the last one that remains hidden and couldn’t be found by the blindfolded student wins, but I was under a great pressure of time and wound up playing it only with three or four students, but it was fun anyway. Altogether beyond all my hopes, the students showed great collaboration and made smooth the realization of the game (lackaday!). 

After I was done with getting students warmed up, I took my seat and sat waiting for my second task to come. During this interval, conflicting ideas made a big fuss inside my head, questions like ‘how did I do?’, ‘where did I go wrong?’, and ‘did I leave something undone or unsaid?’ were echoing in my ears. At the same time, I was nervous about the wrap-up that still lies ahead, and the fact that it’s a wrap-up made things look bigger because it is what’s going to seal the lesson and so it MUST be appealing and well done. This confusion caused me to ignore totally the parts delivered in between (Karima’s and Soukaina’s). This ignorance came with strings attached; I didn’t know how Soukaina ended her part and that put me in a difficult situation as I didn’t know how to make the transition that would enable me to initiate my wrap-up. I cooked a transition, and I don’t really remember how I did it, and in I went into my wrap-up activity. It was yet another game; it was called ‘spin the bottle’. In this game, students are gathered in a circle, and inside the circle a bottle is placed. One student can be picked at random and asked to spin the bottle. When it stops spinning the student it is pointing to has to answer a question. Since the lesson was about using ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ to express ability adaptation to the game was deemed necessary. The person to whose direction the bottle was pointing was to answer a question of ability (something he has the ability to do, e.g. ‘can you breathe?’), this question is asked by the student in the opposite side of the bottle. After he answers with ‘yes I can’ he/she then goes ahead and asks the other student on the opposite side of the bottle about something he/she can’t do (e.g. ‘can you touch the sky?’), then, in turn, he/she answers with ‘no I can’t’. And so on and so on until the students get bored. This, in summary, was the wrap-up activity I planned and enacted. And from the gleeful look on the faces of students I can say that it was fun; fun for the students as well as for the teacher. 

In sum, I’d like to say that despite the artificiality of the class, despite the on-purpose-made noise, and despite everything that wouldn’t allow the class to seem like real, it really felt so real to me. And if teaching a real class was like this, I’ll embrace it with a welcoming heart. I was really indulged into teaching, and for the first time I really felt like a teacher. I was watching my language all the time and was afraid students might not understand what I was saying. To all my colleagues who acted as my students: ‘thank you’, and to the person without whom this couldn’t have happened, my professor Renata: ‘thank you so much again’. Allow me to say in my last remark that, teaching really is a marvel, and I sensed that in this micro teaching experience today with all my senses unexceptionally.