“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy … He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready” … these are some of the opening lines to Eminem’s Lose Yourself. But more importantly these are the words that were echoing in my mind right before I was about to teach my first lesson for Camp Fulbright.
It was about 1:30pm. I had just finished up Korean class for the day and skipped lunch to prep for the lesson and now I was sitting in the back of the class watching Riki lead her first lesson, feeling my anticipation grow as I waited. Finally, it was my turn. The students had a 10 minute break and then the floor was mine. I used the time to double check I was all prepared. I had already set-up my technology and organized my handouts earlier, nevertheless, this time as I moved the computer mouse the screen stayed black. I had a pit in my stomach at that moment. Everyone always warned me to prepare for technology failures. I looked over to the camp instructor who’s class I was teaching in, he grinned and said “Your going to need to restart the computer, but who knows if it will come back on. I didn’t respond and looked at my clock: I had 3 minutes before class officially started. I moved away from the computer giving it time to breathe, while running through alternative solutions in my head. It didn’t matter I decided. I began moving the students’ desks away from the center of the room. It was game time. I took one final glimpse at the computer and I saw light. The computer was working and now all I had to do was pull up the powerpoint. This sounds melodramatic, but in the moment I couldn’t censor my feelings.
Opening the powerpoint I first began with an introduction of who I am, which consisted of a variety of pictures that signify me that I hoped students would connect to, understand, and even laugh at. I always said one laugh meant the meeting was a success so adopting that mentality for teaching. Shortly after, I asked the students to get up and form a circle in the center of the room, at first none of the students moved until I walked into the center and motioned with my hands for everyone to stand up together. We began playing an energizer game called Wa!. I noticed some of the students were disengaged and not participating at times in the first lesson so I wanted to bring the energy. For anyone who’s played this game before knows everyone is supposed to be loud, but at most I got a meek yell. Nonetheless, we played for 5 minutes and the game fostered a few laughs and helped the students to feel comfortable. Next I led a step forward step back activity with a few questions including
- “Are you happy to be at Camp Fulbright”
- Is English hard for you?
- Have you made a new friend since being here?
- Are you afraid to answer a question wrong?
I ended the activity with explaining this class is a safe space and place to practice and participate because we are ALL teachers and students here. One of the student’s pointed to herself at that moment and said, “Me?” I nodded and answered “Yes” with enthusiasm. Now the core of the lesson began. I was teaching body language and I had a lot planned for the students. At times I was really impressed with the students control and use of English, but at other moments I could see the confusion on their faces. I decided to try and take it slow and make sure everyone understood each term introduced. I felt like I was finding a rhythm. But then again in classrooms the unexpected always happens and my first day was no exception. In the lesson before the students made stress balls using flour and unfortunately for me some of the students squeezed these balls to tightly ending in an eruption of flour and giving me stress in the moment. Thankfully, it caused only a sudden disturbance, I told the students no to worry and just run to the bathroom to clean themselves and the desk off. The students settled down and we were back on track. I continued to go through different body language poses and was pleasantly surprised with participation. No one was sleeping and I had volunteers for each question. But as the lesson went on and I began to talk more I saw students becoming more confused. Unknowingly until later in my evaluation, I learned I was speaking too quickly and using too many complicated words. I realized my language over complicated the lesson and ultimately distracted from the main objectives. This obliviousness ultimately effected me as I was translating into the game element of my activity when I looked back and saw that I had ran out of time. I let the students play one round of charades and tried to give a smooth, but what felt like a forced closing and said my goodbyes. Overall, my first day was filled with challenges and awkward moments, but nothing that I didn’t expect. What was most empowering about the experience was to know that the period ended and it was over and a new day would mean a new stage of opportunities. So ultimately, I felt proud of the day and was thankful for everything I learned and everything I did well.