Do you ever have one of those days where anything that can go right does? I feel like today has been such a rare treat.
It didn’t start promisingly. I woke up on time, felt like I had had flagrantly insufficient sleep, but hauled myself through the process of showering and breakfasting before setting off for my 9.00 lesson.
Worrying about being late, I set a brisk pace, despite the combination of a heavy book-laden bag and a sweat-inducing early morning sun blast. I had downloaded some new (old) tunes last night and was hoping one of them would pop up on my playlist, but it didn’t happen. In the event I arrived 5 minutes early and the shutters were still down. This is not uncommon, so I just put down my bag and enjoyed the sunshine while I waited.
One of my students arrived. Shutters were still down. Another student arrived. Shutters were still down. 9.00 arrived. Shutters were still down. My last student showed up. Shutters were still down. I tried to call the school – no answer. I tried to call the manager – no answer. So I explained to my students I could see three choices here. We could either wait, and hope someone came along, or we could walk to the main office, about 5 minutes away and try and cadge a room there. Or we could just do our lesson in the park..? My subtle psychological manipulation worked, and they all agreed to option 3. We found a bench, I got out my books and lesson plan and started teaching. I had a view of the door so if the shutters moved, I would know about it.
It was an enjoyable lesson, we talked about jobs and places of work, I had my students miming being a miner, or a scientist. I could see another class (actually one of mine that I teach on a different day) facing the same dilemma I faced, and another teacher leading them to another part of the park. I had set a trend!
I found an exercise where I could leave the students to work by themselves for a couple of minutes and called the school again – this time I got through. They didn’t know anything about the office being closed, and sent someone with a master key to open the door for us. We did a bit more of the lesson then seeing the shutter finally opening, we packed up and headed back to the school. There was a little delay as the manager they had sent did not have the alarm codes so didn’t want to open the door, but eventually they were communicated to her and we all got into our classroom – just in time for the audio and video parts of the lesson. I managed to get through all the material just about within the lesson time, even taking into account the time waiting around for doors to open!
So the score so far:
An outdoors lesson in the park – WIN
Being the cool teacher who does that – WIN
Heroically alerting the school to a problem – WIN
Setting the precedent for other teachers to follow – WIN
Completing a full lesson plan in the face of exceptional difficulty – WIN
I went to the centre to prepare some of my afternoon lessons – there were a couple of losses here as the printer jammed and then there was a power cut just as I was almost finished adapting an old edition lesson plan into a new edition lesson plan, so I lost all my work. But these were small details. I went back to the now-open school room for my Russian lesson. The managers had now arrived and told me that there had been a miscommunication about who was supposed to arrive early to open the school that day. They were apologetic but I explained it actually all worked out rather nicely for me!
Just before I left, I asked about one of my students who had not appeared on my schedule this week. I like the guy, but I have two lessons a week with him where I have to come in to the central office in the morning, before heading off to another office later in the day. They confirmed that this student has been transferred to Wesley, so my getting-up-early time and my travelling-between-offices time has been greatly reduced. Win! In addition, Wesley is taking on my late-night Wednesday and Friday classes, so I can get home a couple of hours earlier – and next month he will also take on the Saturday afternoon class that I have to trail into the centre for in between two clusters of lessons at Voroshilovskiy. Win and win!
So, on to my afternoon schedule at Voroshilovskiy – I had 5 lessons programmed, one fully prepared and 3 where I had printed some material out but not finished (due to the power cut and having to go to my Russian lesson). I arrived about an hour before the first lesson and the computer terminal was free (win!). I was working on my first couple of lessons when one of the managers told me the evening lesson had been cancelled. Fortunately this was one of the lessons where I had not completed the plan – this would save me some work! Win!
I went into my first lesson – I love these guys, a boy and a girl who are always bickering at each other in such a way that I can tell they really like each other. The lesson had one of my favourite songs in it – California Dreaming. I have never been able to get any of my students to sing along to a song, and I remember when I was writing the programmed task “sing along to the lyrics” in my lesson plan, laughing to myself that this was really wishful thinking. But the girl volunteered to sing it, the boy went along with it, and I’d been humming it to myself all lesson anyway so I figured I might as well join in. It wasn’t the original Mamas and the Papas version, but it is still a lovely song to work with as material.
My second lesson was with four cheeky boys – well, really three cheeky boys and one quite quiet, shy boy who joined the group a few months ago but seems to really enjoy the lessons. I have other students who mess around when I am trying to teach them, but these guys do it in a charming way, and when I say “Right, exercise 2…” they knuckle down. They are really fun lessons, and I appreciate the fact that when they are being silly, they make a point of being silly in English. They get both the win for having fun and the win for learning.
I came out of that lesson to another cancellation – I had prepared the lesson already but it is still a win because I saved the Russian teacher the job of converting an old edition lesson plan to work with the new edition books. So I just had one more lesson – an individual student who isn’t really all that committed to learning English but comes because her little sister is also learning at our school.
After that lesson I was free to go home but I needed to think about tomorrow. I have another school competition judging task in Tractorniy, but I had been told I needed to go to Sovetskiy afterwards to do the last two lessons of my usual schedule. Tractorniy and Sovetskiy are at opposite ends of the city so that is a long distance to cover in less than an hour. I took a look at the lessons and realised I had a problem – the students had finished the programme and I didn’t know what we were teaching them next. The last lesson I got away with a few of the communicative games from the programme that we hadn’t used previously (it actually turned out to be a fun, effective lesson) but I couldn’t just keep doing that. And I wouldn’t have time to prepare the lesson by the time I got there tomorrow.
So I emailed the Russian teacher to check what to do and she emailed me back with a touch of surprise, she had sorted out all the lessons for tomorrow and I did not have to go to Sovetskiy at all. It was not what I had been told, it was not what my schedule said, and I had been sent a new schedule only a couple of hours earlier confirming that.
But you know what? None of that matters. No lessons tomorrow. I’m going to just take the win!