I got a message sent to me this week by another ILP member that is teaching in another foreign country. It was such a kind message about how reading my blog felt so real and she felt like she could relate. You see...we were told the same thing. Everyone in ILP tells you how amazing teaching is, and how much you love the kids. While you can have days where it is that way, most days aren't. Most days are draining, hard, and easily make you lose your mind. The ILP teaching method is hard to learn, and does not come easily. It is hard work. Lesson planning is hard work, making sure your students are learning is hard work, and keeping the students engaged is hard work.
When you are first looking into ILP all you hear are the good stories. You hear about the lifelong friends you will make, how much you miss the kids, and how you miss living and teaching in a foreign country. You are told that it is easy, and rewarding. Who wouldn't want to do that right? So of course you sign up and you are so dang excited. You go to training, which is only a day and a half so how hard can the teaching method really be right? Wrong. The ILP teaching method is unlike anything you would think. It is hard, and doesn't come as second nature at all. But you shrug it off, because you're moving to a foreign country in a month.
So here's my story.
It took my group 34 hours of travel time to get to our school in Thailand, the next day they had us teach. How stressful is that? I had just been on planes and bus rides for 34 hours, I am in a foreign country with a 14 hour time difference and I have only had 1 day of training. I was terrified, and to be honest I flopped. I had no idea what I was doing and that was the first time I regretted my decision to come to Thailand. The next week, I felt like a complete loser. I couldn't teach, my students never listened to me, and I was feeling insanely discouraged. Right off the bat they begin to evaluate you on your teaching, which feels like an impossible grading system. I was getting 1/5 most days and I was feeling like a total failure. That was one of the hardest parts. It was like being told twice a week how terrible I am at teaching. It sucked. I was calling my mom, crying, telling her that I didn't know how to be good at this. See, I have always been good at everything. Most things I try, I succeed at, but I couldn't teach, not how ILP wanted me to. I just sucked. I felt like a terrible teacher and like I was going to hate the next 4 months. It felt all consuming.
After a couple weeks, I started getting better. I was getting 2.5-3.5/5 and I was feeling like I could do this thing, but I wasn't loving teaching. In fact, I dreaded teaching. Everyday I woke up and dreaded walking down to the school to teach. Even now I don't necessarily like teaching. It's really hard. It's hard because it's almost opposite of how we teach in America. I felt like crap. I felt like I was doing something wrong, or like I was just a bad person or teacher. I was confused as to why everyone but me was LOVING teaching. I was reading blogs of other ILP volunteers and how much they loved teahcing. How much they loved their students, and how amazing teaching was for them. I finally talked to my group about how I was feeling and we all felt the same way. We all felt like teaching was ALOT harder than we were told, than what we expected. I think that is something ILP doesn't really tell you about their program, that it's so hard. To be honest, they should tell you. It's shockingly different than you've heard.
I don't want to scare you. It has been so worth it! I have loved living in Thailand. I love my students. I am incredibly happy with the decision I made to come here.
Now, I can say that I understand why people say those things. I LOVE MY KIDS. I love when they're crazy. I love when thy're happy. I love when they call me "Teacha Hannah". They are seriously so cute and I start to miss them on our long trips. Most days, I get more stressed out about how much I am going to miss them when I go home than the people I actually miss from home. They are so cute and eventually teaching becomes less awful. They make me laugh every single day, and I seriously would take a couple home if it was allowed. They really do just love you so much, and you love them. Do I still hate teaching? Yeah. Do I still have mental breakdowns about being a bad teacher? Yeah. But would I choose not to come knowing what I know now? No. Teaching has taught me so much and I am so happy that I moved here and experienced living here. Teaching is a learning experience, but in the end it's worth it.
So for those of you ILP volunteers out there feeling like you are a bad person for not liking teaching...you aren't. The majority of the people I have talked to hated teaching. You're not stupid, teaching is so freaking hard. Keep going, it gets better, you'll get better. It's ok to have mental breakdowns, it's ok to hate certain kids, and it's ok to not enjoy teaching, hell I still hate it.