Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Life as an English Langage Assistant Pt 2




Not long after I moved out to Germany I wrote a blog post about my initial experience as an English Language Assistant. I'd probably say give that one a read first, as this is going to be more of a follow up to that one, talking about what has changed and how my experience has developed. Click here to be taken to the first post.

I'm still in the same classes as I was last semester and my timetable is still the same, having both Wednesdays and Fridays off is both a blessing and a curse. Although initially it's amazing to have so much free time, finishing school every day by 1pm can leave you with a very long and free afternoon.

The children are really starting to warm to me, and I still am not tired of being swarmed in the playground by ten little kiddies all wanting a cuddle and to say hello. They still haven't all quite grasped the extent of my German listening comprehension ability and I am still listening to arguments about whether or not they can speak to me and whether I will understand them. In many classes, the level of English though has actually improved really quickly, and I have been really impressed and inspired by the dedication and their genuine delight in learning English. They are all so eager to show off the new words they have learned at home and it does make you feel like you are helping them. My German listening is also drastically better, it really is true that one of the best ways to learn a language is to speak to children. They are young enough that they don't mind when I make a mistake and love it when I speak German to them. Listening to their playground arguments, stories about what they are doing after school and just general weird chit chat that 10 year olds have, has really helped.

That being said, I still am not sure how much help I am in some classes. Lessons will be over and I will have just sat and nodded the whole time at what the teacher has said sitting at the side, not exactly a meaningful contribution. It can be a little frustrating going over the same things again and again, I feel this is so specific to a Grundschule simply because of the age of the children, which is of course expected. I really am not sure how different it would be in a high school, I think it just depends entirely on the teacher.

One major step which I did before Christmas was to take a whole class by myself without a teacher in the room. She asked me if I was comfortable doing it and she was outside the classroom door the whole time so I knew if I needed it, the help was there. Having prepared a lesson on Christmas and armed with hand drawn flashcards I actually really enjoyed it and I think the children did too. Then of course I was asked if I wanted to do the next lesson too and I decided it was time to introduce them to the absolute classic Christmas tune of Santa Clause is coming to town. I didn't think I could make the song last a whole lesson but in actual fact it took us two! Not only were they content to sing together, I was so shocked at the number of children who wanted to stand up and sing a verse alone. They just had absolutely no fear, and I think they were all amazing although I may be biased...

That being said, it's not an easy job however fun and amazing it may seem. It can be so frustrating and just plain irritating when you are staring at a class who have absolutely no interest in what you are saying and absolutely no intention of doing any work. From throwing things around the room to throwing themselves on the floor, some of the classes can be rowdy and it can be a struggle to maintain control of the classroom. This wasn't something I really thought about much before I came away, but with being told we aren't allowed to discipline the children and in some cases lacking the vocabulary to do so, sitting and glaring at them is all ineffectively all you can do.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, that you have to take the good days with the bad and sometimes it's just not going to work in the class. But when it does work, it actually gives me a little fuzzy feeling in my heart sometimes as most of the children are genuinely appreciative and excited to see you. If you're an ELA then let me know in the comments how you are getting on! I love finding out how everyone else is getting on because no two people I know are having the same experience!
XOXO










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