Friday, 15 October 2010

You are the headmaster

"Mother, I don't want to go to school! The teachers are nasty, the kids bully me, the food is horrible. I don't want to go to school!" "But you must - you are the headmaster".

Is it just me who admits the agony of the first week of classes, are everybody just pretending? This first decisive hour of meeting a new bunch of students: will they like me? Will they respect me? Will I be exposed as a bluff who doesn't really know all those things I claim to know (apparently a very common feeling, even among the most confident public figures)? Will they notice that I missed my hairdresser appointment and my hair looks like a crow's nest (and will they notice next week that I have had a haircut)? Are they scrutinising my jacket rather than listening to my explications? Do they think my ear-rings are ridiculous? Do they wish they had never chosen this class? Do they feel my anxiety? Do they realise how vulnerable I am? Are they irritated by my gesticulation (get something to hold on to)? Are they disturbed by my accent? What if I start talking to them in a wrong language (has happened)? Monolingual people have no idea how tiresome it is to speak a foreign language all the time, even if you've done it for forty years. Still more two foreign languages. Do they hate my jokes (never try to make a joke in a foreign language)? Are they making fun of me when I am not looking? Are they just being polite, suppresing the desire to shoot pencils at me? Are they relieved when we finish?

The week is over. Whatever I've done wrong, whatever the impression the students now have of me makes no difference. You either win or lose, nothing in between. So the agony is gone.

1 comment:

Cornelia said...

Oh the agony, the agony! I know exactly what you mean, have been through it for the past two weeks (the first two weeks of our winter semester), and I have at least the advantage of being able to teach in my native tongue ... I once participated in a didactics workshop that used impro theatre exercises to practice feeling comfortable even in highly unforeseeable, exposed teaching situations, a uniquely helpful experience. Maybe I should do that again.