Photo illustration: Novita Eka Syaputri
This article is part of the Teachers' Notes series on unpleasant teaching experience.
For a beginning teacher, the first teaching experience must be memorable. For myself, the experience is my reference to whether I have become a good teacher.
My first teaching experience made me feel like I failed as a teacher. I was assigned to be a Grade 1 primary school teacher. I did not handle my students well at the time. There was no improvement in sight. Every day felt mundane and as a beginning teacher, I was crushed.
Teaching Grade 1 students was a difficult challenge and I did that when I was starting my teaching job. Explaining a concept to an adult was a lot easier than to these students. They needed a long time to grasp the meaning of a concept.
I am not patient. I am always anxious with my students' inability to comprehend my instruction. I want them to immediately understand the concept I’m teaching.
I often discuss my anxiety with other teachers and the school principal. They keep reminding me how Grade 1 students are and that I need to be patient with them.
They said Grade 1 students would eventually understand the concepts I teach them if I continue with my instruction. My colleagues also remind me not to set a deadline for the students to comprehend the lesson and to let them learn according to their respective abilities.
Facing Complaints from the Parents
I also had another problem with the parents. Some parents frustrated me because they kept complaining to the school and other teachers outside of school hours. Some parents complained about the school policy, which had been agreed upon. Not all parents were like that, but it was disruptive nonetheless.
One of the complaints was about the student attendance system. It had been agreed that if a student comes late to school three consecutive times, the student will be sent home. The parents who complained objected to the policy.
The teachers suggested the parents talk directly to the school principal. However, the parents kept complaining after they failed to receive a satisfying answer from the principal. Teachers then decided to let them complain until they stopped.
Consulting with Other Teachers
To prevent my problems from getting more complicated, I always consult with other teachers and the school principal. Meanwhile, to contain my anxiety towards my students, I try to find solutions outside the school hours. I hang out with teachers from other schools and do other activities to freshen myself up, which helps me find the solution for handling Grade 1 students.
I am fully aware of my shortcomings and abilities in handling the students. The experience of teaching Grade 1 students made me realise that I am impatient with them and incapable of handling them.
I still don’t have the confidence to become a Grade 1 teacher. If possible, I prefer to teach older students in Grade 5 or 6. I think I am more confident in teaching them.
*This Note was written by RY, a primary school teacher in West Java.
**All articles published in the Teachers' Notes are the views of the authors. They have been edited for popular writing purposes and do not represent the views of RISE Programme in Indonesia or RISE's funders.