I went into the classroom the first day, walking tall with my head held high and a jumble of nerves on the inside. I was told to introduce myself, introduce the syllabus, and then give the first brief lesson. I skipped introducing the syllabus altogether. I later went back to it, as though that was my intended technique. Professional as always!
Luckily, I bounce back quickly from bad experiences. I managed to go on teaching and get good reviews from my supervisor, but, it was not an easy journey for me. I struggled with getting some students to take me seriously. Being young and female made it hard enough, but the fact that I actually look much younger than my actual age was an issue. I was 26 at the time but looked about 17. A few students, one in particular, spent several classes not paying attention to my lesson and instead trying to pry my age out of me with questions like, “Miss, how many years have you been working?” and “Miss, what year did you graduate?” Finally coming to the conclusion that I was born between 1979 and 1981 – I neither denied nor confirmed and went along teaching without giving in. Once when I turned to write on the board, I could hear snide remarks from that student, whispering to his friend, “She can’t even reach the board.” I was fuming on the inside but had to keep going as if I did not hear anything. The strange thing is that he was me, as a student, and I concluded that this was some kind of cosmic karma. I remembered all the teachers I had tortured in the past and felt great sympathy for them!
Although it has been three years, I still remember that student very well. It was hard to have him as a student in my first ever class. When I was fed up with his behavior, I put him and his friends in their places by putting them on the spot several times with questions and tasks I knew they could not answer. Eventually that was enough to command their respect and get them to take me seriously. At the end of my first six week course, one of the students who was popular for being a good singer, had collaborated with the entire class to make a song dedicated to me. He sang it to me on the last day in front of everyone, at the end the class applauded and then I knew I had one my job right. It was a huge sense of satisfaction and achievement to know I had left such a good impression on that group of people.