On the first day, the desks were neatly lined up, as if waiting for a spectacle to begin. The students took their places, their eyes anticipating the new face coming into the classroom. That’s when I entered, books and markers tucked under my arm in a mix of fear and wonder. I realized then that they were waiting for me, I wasn’t a spectator anymore, but the awaited star of the show.
I first heard about YSC, the Youngsters Summer Club at the GUC, from my English TA and again from other colleagues who had worked there and continuously kept recounting their exciting experiences. The YSC includes kids aged from 6 to 14, divided into different classes according to their ages. Throughout the course of one month, subjects like English, German, Critical Thinking, Etiquette, Earth Time, MUN, and Arcadia are taught. You’re given a choice when you apply to either be a supervisor or a teacher. So this summer, after many years of intending to but never actually taking on a summer job, I finally went for it and eventually ended up in that very classroom as an English teacher for kids aged 11 to 14.
And here I’ll try to share with you some of the things I’ve learned.
1. Teaching is not nearly as easy as it seems.
Pretty soon after I started, I discovered that all of this was far from an easy task.
Teaching is hard, for just like the quick-witted juggler at the circus, a teacher is expected to keep his audience entertained at all times. Like a maestro, you’re required to swiftly push your students to be focused on the task assigned and engaged in the fruitful discussions you direct. Your session is your time to make a change in the lives of your students. Whatever time is left, you have to keep your students on the line with you.
2. …But there are many things that make it worth the trouble.
Imagine a room packed with young kids all gathered around waiting to be fed, that’s lunchtime everyday. So, naturally, some days our stress levels would skyrocket, and the only thing that kept us all sane were these small moments that made our hearts melt every time. Like that one student who would always leave his line just to come and hug me really tightly, no matter how many times I asked him not to leave the line, or whenever a student comes up out of nowhere and says, “You’re someone I want to be when I grow up.” It just instantly removes any negative emotions you have knowing that at the end of each day you’ve made a difference.
3. Do kids really ever get tired? No, they don’t.
One thing I’ve learned is that kids have unlimited energy. I remember how we came back after a long, tiring trip to Kidzania, and we all expected them to be tired, only to find them running around playing fully energized, while we, teachers and supervisors, were exhausted to say the least. Eventually though, we learned to try and step up to their levels of enthusiasm in order to cope.
4. Sketch papers and colors are the new notebooks and pens!
I’ve learned a lot from my fellow colleagues at work, but I’ll never forget how my fellow Art teachers taught me the importance of being as creative as you can with your activities in class. As an English teacher, I used to enter my classrooms with sketch paper and colors, and the kids would just eat that up. So really, just be creative, these simple artistic touches really do wonders.
5. A teacher’s relationship with students is just as important as the material he/she teaches.
I’ll never forget how my team of kids and I worked so hard searching for clues while playing Treasure Hunt. We’d run through the buildings as if we were on an official mission.
Going to trips with the kids and joining them in many activities got me and the whole YSC team emotionally and mentally closer to them, it honestly made us better teachers and them better students.
6. The energy is contagious.
Teaching kids is a journey full of spirit and energy, there was a big share of dancing, singing, playing and running for us in the YSC team. It was hard being around all these kids without catching some of their energy, to be honest!
To sum up, for a month, I was disconnected from the world and connected to a place that added so much to me on so many levels. The final day at the YSC was a day of tears, saddening goodbyes and a day when our lovely ride finally came to a halt. But next summer, it all begins again with new faces and new memories waiting to be made.