Teaching Moments: When Everyone Decides to Go Cray

Sometimes I think teaching has literally made me insane.

Or perhaps I was simply insane to decide to teach in the first place.

Sometimes my students are great. Everyone comes on time with their books prepared and pencils sharpened, having gone to the bathroom and drunk a satisfactory amount of water. Whatever candy or toys have been brought on the premises are respectfully kept hidden inside their bags. Everyone’s homework has been done, tests have been studied for, and an enthusiasm for learning has been stirred up.

Just kidding.

That never happens.

No matter how many times I chastise my students for not bringing a pencil, inevitably someone doesn’t. No matter how persistently I remind them to study for their tests, no matter how many study strategies I offer them, about half my kids these days seem to come to test day utterly unprepared.

“Test today, Teacher?” they say in shock, as if we don’t have a word test every single Friday, as if I didn’t give them a practice test as homework the day before.

Today, however, was extra special.

First, there was the food incident. The same two girls who I have caught eating in class every single day this week had suspiciously bulging cheeks again today, and I discovered that not only were they chewing gum, but ridiculously huge pieces of gum they initially tried to break in half (so they could continue chewing some)––as if I wouldn’t notice. I’m not sure how many more ways I can think of to say, “Eating is not allowed during class.”

Second, there was the copier incident. As usual, a few kids came without books, or with secondhand workbooks that had already been filled out by previous owners. So I had to make copies in the middle of class. And bring three of the antsiest boys along with me for the ride. “Stand there! No, sit! No, stop talking! Shh! Stand here! Don’t move! Come back!” .. That was fun.

Then, there was test time.

In every single class today, it was painful. I can’t say exactly why.

Was it the inexplicably high amount of spontaneous whistling, humming, and singing that broke out during their five-minute prep time? Was it the ridiculous amount of times the same students insisted I re-check their practice tests, only to be told for the third time that they had spelled the same word wrong? Apparently they thought shoving papers in my face was the only way to get my attention today––shoving them on top of their classmates’ papers and then yelling about it in my ear for double measure.

Perhaps it was simply the sheer amount of chaos filling the room––that’s the word for it: chaos. At one point during break time, I looked down to see a boy lying curled up on the floor, rolling around in some fashion. I have no idea why. I’m pretty sure I made some effort to tell him that he should get up, but not sure he heard me.

This is me. Running in the opposite direction of wherever my students are.

Tomorrow is another day.

I don’t have any profound conclusion to my rambling, except to say: Thank goodness today is over. Sometimes teaching takes me to my breaking point and it takes every ounce of my strength to kindly ask the student sitting in front of me how they are doing. But deep down, I actually care a great deal about these crazy kids. And though I may not always have the energy or wherewithal to give all of them the attention they need or want, I do hope they know that. And I do hope they are learning some English. That would be nice, too.

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Elizabeth is an American living in South Korea who believes in destiny, miracles, and living life intentionally. She holds to simple faith in a complex world, values the beauty of the everyday, and strives for vulnerability with other imperfect humans. She is always learning, laughing, and finding herself in awe of grace.

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