Today, three months after my high school graduation, I jumped on a green coach bus — the most common form of transportation in my area — and started on my way to work. I peered out the curtained window, watching the thick fog fade at the mountaintops to reveal pastel blue skies at the peaks while holding onto the handrail for dear life. I was headed back to high school.
Four years of high school in the states and seven hundred days of early morning alarms followed by hours of traditional education and then my routine afternoon breakdown had me convinced that I would not be returning anytime soon. However, somehow I find myself back to my old ways again: awake at an ungodly hour, getting ready in the dark, waiting for the bus as the sun rises. Going back to high school means saying hello to this life again. In all honesty, it has not been the easiest adjustment. Emerging from the warmth of my cozy bed still feels unnatural. Days in the classroom frequently feel unbearably long, sometimes never-ending. I wake up some mornings and wonder what I am doing.
While I have not loved every second of it so far, I do appreciate moments from each day. There are certainly tradeoffs. I have enjoyed getting to know new people over walks around the perimeter during free periods. I like singing unabashedly to pop music with students at recess. Upon seconds of walking through the metal school gates, I am greeted by high school students with a kind "Hello, Sadie" and a small smile. Every morning, the teachers march into the staff lounge, more than ready to present me with a big hug, kiss on the cheek, and "Buen dia". Here, I am Sadie from Global Citizen Year. Here, I am a teacher. Here, I co-teach English to high school students alongside the school's two full-time English educators. It is nice to know that here, I have a defined role.
Except I am not just a teacher. The words of my seventh-grade teacher ring in my head each morning as I start my day, reminding me that we are all simultaneously teaching and learning from the people around us. I am a teacher but I am also a student. And his wise perspective resonates with me right now more than ever. When students come to me, buried deep in their dictionaries and asking about new words in English, I, in turn, learn new words in Spanish. Every day at recess, I practice my Spanish through conversation with squads of high school students in the concrete courtyard. The ways that the Ecuadorian school system operates are unlike the models of education in which I have come up, and there is so much to learn from the contrasts. A lot is different here, but the goals are mainly the same. School is back in session and each morning, busload by the busload, the students come to learn.
Just like them, I am here to learn.