22 June 2011

What Teachers Make

Two months ago: I walked out of the English Classroom on a Friday, angry that the eighth graders refused (again) to remain seated, to work, to do any part of the lesson I had meticulously planned. Probably too meticulously (I had written the exact amount of time each activity was to take). The students slammed the door behind me, and then opened it to yell down the hall and throw a few spitballs at my back. 

I didn't even roll my eyes this time. Let them be. They are just being what thirteen year olds can't help being sometimes: little douchebags. In five minutes they will regress to their happy to learn five year old selves and be content coloring pictures. They are still children, after all. 

A strange man with a weird hat was standing in the hallway as I marched down, books and materials in hand. The other group had shut the door to the classroom, and I could hear what appeared to be a pack of wild elephants destroying an innocent stack of school desks inside. Hoping they were not lying in ambush for me with more spitballs, I knocked smartly on the door. 

Strange Hat Man: "La profesora no está." ("The teacher isn't there.") Scornfully. As if he had something to prove to the (not really all that) lost-looking Gringa. 

"Yo soy la profesora." ("I am the teacher.") With the calm that only a primary school teacher can maintain while trying not to be drowned out by screaming students.

In that moment, I realized I truly was a teacher. It happened suddenly, sneaking up on me in a definitive moment of transition from the girl who was always a good student to the woman who is actually a pretty good teacher. Demanding, but just. Trying hard to bring out the absolute best in her students. I've been thinking about that moment a lot this week. 

Earlier this week, a fellow volunteer shared a kick-ass TED video about What Teachers Make   http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/taylor_mali_what_teachers_make.html. 

It's been inspiring me all week to kick my students into high gear and demand of myself and them the very best we have. Fewer than two weeks remain. 

I know I have only been teaching for four months, and that many may day I have little claim to being a true teacher. I lack certification. I never took a single education class in college. But I walked into an elementary school serving some of the highest-risk students in a far-flung part of the world, and I transformed almost immediately into Miss Coleen...with upswept hair, glasses, professional clothes, and strict classroom rules. 

There was no assistant teaching. No orientation. No gradual transition from non-teacher to Miss Coleen. Hell, there wasn't even an observation period. I made the transition in a day, in front of a room full of seventh graders (check out the post in the aftermath here http://caminochile.blogspot.com/2011/03/tia-coleen-and-total-utter-chaos.html). 

But honestly, I think I've risen well to the challenge. After four months of the struggle in this school, I can say with some confience thst I have at least a tiny claim to that kick ass brotherhood of teachers making a difference. 

1 comment:

  1. You betcha you've risen to the challenge!! You were already a teacher way before we visited, probably before you went there. Don't fall into the way of thinking that someone has to certify you to be something: you can do anything, Coleen, and better than 99% of all the people who may be doing it already, because you are smart, curious, dedicated, and flexible!