Czech Republic, Teaching, TEFL, Thoughts and Ramblings

What I Love (and Hate) About Teaching ESL in Preschool

I didn’t come to Prague expecting to teach preschool. I wanted to teach kids, sure, but I didn’t want to go as young as three or four. And I certainly never expected to be doing it with no Czech speaking co-teacher. But here I am, almost five months later, and I haven’t pulled my hair out (yet)! There are some days where I absolutely love the environment, but other days when I really question my sanity. There are definitely aspects that I love and hate about teaching general ESL preschool.

I love how eager the kids are and excited they are to go to class. Of course some (most) of that is probably due to the fact that they get to go to a new classroom with different toys, but some of it has to be that they like my classes, right?

I hate when they are clearly making fun of me in Czech. It’s settled down now, as much because one of the ringleaders has been absent for a few classes. She and one of the other girls love to make fun of me. I don’t know what they’re saying, but you can tell by their tone. Or maybe I’m being too paranoid.

I love that even after a rough class where no one would behave, no matter how hard I tried, that one student can completely turn my day around. After one particularly challenging class, I was walking the kids back to their main classroom and one of the kids refused to walk back unless she was holding my hand. Day made.

I hate that I can’t adequately help them. It’s preschool, so there are going to be a lot of hurt feelings while they learn how to treat their classmates with respect. There are also going to inevitably be kids with problems at home. Some might be having a bad day. Others might be hungry. They do their best to communicate what they need with me, and I do my best to try to comfort them or discipline the perpetrator, but without a native speaking teacher to translate, the best I can do is nod along and say soothing sounding things. I have one student who will be happy and bubbly, but then if I don’t give her my full attention, she will shut down for the rest of class. Once, when we had a classroom switch, she refused to come in the room and stayed by the cubbies. It was very hard not being able to talk to her to try to get to the root of the problem.

I love when they try to argue with me about an answer. This might seem weird, but often times it means that they are trying to use the English they know and that they have an understanding of what is being said. I was playing Simon Says with the kids one day and said touch your nose. I touched my knees. It was actually by mistake, but I played it off as trying to trick them. One of the two remaining kids saw through it and touched his nose. The other saw the action and touched his knees and tried to argue he was right. Of course he wasn’t, but he actually was able to form some short sentences and was really trying to explain why HE was the winner.

I hate that week after week I still have to tell them they can’t use the little ride on car in the classroom. Every week the same student goes for it and every week I put it out of his reach. Sometimes I find him trying to climb to get it. Maybe he thinks it’s amusing to do this week after week, or maybe he hopes he’ll get away with it one week. Who knows, but it’s super frustrating.

I love seeing the moment when one of them grasps a concept, especially one of the kids that struggles. At this age, much of the English they are using is just mimicked. Most of them just repeat back what I say, even if that’s not what I wanted. But sometimes, there’s a moment when they realize I’m asking them a question and they know the answer. I think any teacher would agree that those are the moments you live for– when a student visibly understands something for the first time. Those are the best moments, whether it’s in my preschool class or my adult classes.

Will I teach general pre-school again next school year? TBD. While I don’t hate it, and some days I do love it, it’s very challenging for classroom management to not have a co-teacher who speaks Czech. Plus the classes are pretty tiring and I tend to lose my voice after them. But it’s not a definite no, either!

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