A “temporary” building with two classrooms, P301, on the inside, was a faded green mint color — like saltwater taffy gone stale, having been left in a carnival candy sack too long.
But I had windows, a big white board, carpet and neat tables and chairs lined up perfectly. On high, the air conditioning unit blasted air that could cut any perennial’s life short. Was this real? I didn’t have any of these items in my US classroom.
In the little climate controlled temporary, I felt a certain calm even on the first day as a new exchange teacher. Of course this was mixed with a free-flowing anxiety. I didn’t know a thing about Australian students or Year 8s, for that matter, but really, how hard could it be? Plus, if I totally bombed, I could definitely milk my accent for the first week of school, at least.
Teaching eighth graders, who are pubescent pundits, is challenging no matter where you are. But when you are teaching in a new country and you don’t know their slang, it’s just plain brutal.
I discovered this the hard way when, as an exchange teacher, I bumbled my way through one year of instructing Year 8’s in Adelaide, Australia.
I already knew a few tidbits before I arrived. For example, never say, “I root for the team.” The connotation of that statement would be that I do way more than cheer for my team to keep their spirits up. I also knew not to freak out when kids would say that they wore their thongs to the beach; they meant flip flops not G-strings.