By Christopher James Downs

The first time I heard about the opportunity to teach was at a briefing for the International Experience Project at AAU. It immediately grasped my interest, because my father and grandmother are teachers and they love the job so I thought I would like it too. However, that is when it struck me; I have never taught kids before. The thought of me standing in front of a classroom full of children scared me to death. I began to question myself: “what if the kids don’t like me or respect me?” But I understood this project is supposed to test us and take us out of our comfort zones, so I decided to take on the challenge.

Expectations were rising, hearts pounding, and fear had a firm grip on my throat. These feelings overwhelmed me when I and my companions exited the tuk-tuks and stood in front of the large school grounds. Passing through the entrance point was harder than I thought. While it is true that I was excited about meeting the children, the thought of rushing to the exit crossed my mind. This feeling got stronger when we began passing the classrooms which were full of surprised and smiling faces. I had my suspicions that showing weakness would be a huge mistake, so I prepared myself to be a firm and strict teacher.

Upon entering a classroom, filled with third-grade students, we were greeted by laughter and waving hands. Suddenly the stress was gone, and the only thing that came to mind was: “It’s show time!”

Sri Lanka

Our first goal was to teach the adjectives: tall and short. My colleague Michael and I used ourselves as teaching tools – we would squat and jump to demonstrate the words and tell the children to name or repeat them. This quickly turned into a shouting competition where the kids competed to scream the loudest. Furthermore, we taught the children the coconut song which our group hates because we sing it all the time. After the lesson which lasted 30 minutes, we were surrounded by little kids who started asking about our names and where we live. The most amusing part was when we wanted to take a picture with them. The children, especially boys, would make weird and funny gestures.

Teaching kids turned out to be quite the adventure; they examine you with a solid poker face, once you start talking a smile erupts on their faces, and the showing off begins. The boys tried to prove their strength with an arm wrestling match with me, unfortunately, they still have to eat a lot of spinach. The girls, on the other hand, kept making fun of us: they would start talking Sinhalese, and once I didn’t understand they would burst out laughing. Furthermore, when you ask them a question, they start blushing and laughing without actually answering your question.

In the end, I was sweating, my throat was sore from all the shouting, and my hands were hurting from the high-fives, but it was definitely worth it. Witnessing the excitement and happiness in their faces totally paid off, and I was ready to take on the class once more.

teaching SL

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