I’m so very nearly at the end of my English teaching assistant job in Italy. I say job, but they haven’t paid me a penny/cent so let’s call it a voluntary placement which I had to do or I would have been kicked off my uni course. I have been working with mostly 6 year olds in the first year of primary school, but also the odd class from other school years. Here is my extensive (alternative) list of how to survive working with whining, touchy feely children with selective hearing.
1) Always carry a nit comb. You never know when you’ll walk into a classroom where the teacher tells you to tie up your hair due to ‘head insects’. Children hug and kiss and cuddle you all the time, hair on hair contact is inevitable. Always have a nit comb at your disposal. Better still, French plait. You’ll be a pro after placement. Trust me.
2) Never wear a white top to school. You never know when a 7 year old will walk into you with her paper mâché Pinocchio head with freshly painted black hair.
3) Be prepared to sing. You will probably be complimented on your voice by your adoring 6 year old fans, even if you sound like I do; a dying whale.
4) Make a never ending list of Simon Says actions. An easy lesson filler and time passer. Even the 11 year olds love it. It gets competitive though, be prepared for the possibility of major class arguments or the occasional fist fight.
5) Never leave home without a copy of Pharrell Williams- Happy on a CD, USB and your phone. Children LOVE this song. Use it to dance to in gym, use it to sing to in music, use it to study the lyrics in English. Just use it.
6) Create sly tactics to remember names you have forgotten. My favourite is to pretend to be really interested at looking at their scissors or glue stick and then read the name written on the name tag of their pencil case. Same works for exercise books, but sometimes these aren’t on the desk and you have to improvise.
7) Hand sanitise at least 46 times a day. Do not dare to leave the house without a mini bottle of delightfully smelling hand san gel. That would be suicide. The amount of nose pickers and worm catchers and bathroom goers I see who never ever wash their grubby little paws is very off-putting. Who knows what they’ve touched? Normally they grab my hands at least every 4 minutes, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
8) Never wear rings to school. You may accidentally catch yourself in some ones hair, on their cardigan or scratch their face (sorry Francesca). They may even ask you if they can try a ring on and then attempt to persuade you to give it to them so they can give it to their baby sibling as a present. Nice try.
9) Learn the important angry words in the foreign language:
‘Shush’, ‘enough’, ‘stop’, ‘get outside’, ‘no sweets for you’, ‘you can’t play anymore’ etc, etc.
10) Rucksacks are key, all the better if it’s a wheely rucksack. You will have tonnes and tonnes of useless photocopies and random colour coordinated games and the occasional text book to carry around; in my case across the town between schools. A handbag has no place in a primary school.
11) Bribe with anything possible. My favourite is obviously mega cheap supermarket bargain sweet packets, but you will go through these like there’s no tomorrow. Beware of the ‘can I take 6 extra sweets to give to my cousins’ type children. No you may not. Mind your Ps and Qs and don’t be greedy.