Dear future co-teacher Ana,
tomorrow you are moving to Cumbe, a small town south of Cuenca (the 3rd largest city in Ecuador). You will co-teach English and help out with the extracurricular activities in a primary school. I am glad you managed to replace the initial disappointment regarding your apprenticeship with true motivation and excitement for primary school education and other uncertain, but intriguing opportunities for community involvement. As you are watching TED talks about education, researching games and songs for teaching English and questioning every possible educational measure, I want to write down 3 reminders for you:
1) Validate: You’ve written your last blog post about your desire to validate different ways of living, in addition to simply understanding them. Please apply this to your co-teacher as well. I know that you are very passionate about alternative education because there are so many things about conventional education that are, in your eyes, the causes of different negative things in the world, but please remember that you are really not an expert. Even though you are quite excited about different ways of teaching you learned in UWC or on ted.com, respect your co-teacher as a person educated in the field and with years of experience.Give her a chance, and more importantly, give yourself a chance to learn, instead of discarding valuable teaching experience because of your biased repulsion to conventional education.
2 Remember what you came here for: Even though I am advising you to respect your co-teacher and validate her teaching practices, I am not saying that there shouldn’t be any space for your input. After all, you are doing a program based on cultural exchange, and you’ve heard that many of the co-teachers working with Global Citizen Year have decided to get involved with the program because they would like to receive a fresh input of ideas from foreigners. However, be sensible about it. I know you would love to walk into the first class, move all of the chairs and tables to the side, sit the kids in the circle on the floor and ask them to talk about their day, but the first day might not be the best time to do that, don’t you think so? Use this as an opportunity for a cultural exchange of teaching practices and a great learning experience for you as an educator, but remember that your motivation for joining Global Citizen Year was cultural immersion, and make sure that your actions are not offending your co-workers and hindering your involvement in the community.
3) Lower your expectations. Privileged as you are, you have been given the perfect opportunities to fall in love with learning, and have gotten used to being surrounded by people as such. Your privilege has taken you so far that you were able to even question the necessity of formal education. I can imagine that it might seem useless to teach those who do not want to be taught, those who do not necessarily see the same beauty in learning as you do, and those who are in the classroom because the society decided that it was the right place for them. In those situations, I want you to think back to an 8-year old you, and her motivations for being in school. An 8-year old you definitely did not love learning as much as you do now, and that is fine. Thinking about your future students, lower your expectations, and rather than being disappointed because you might be teaching those who do not want to be taught, work towards making their position a bit more privileged.
I know that I have been tough on you, but I just don’t want you to harm people in the process of your self-growth. Having said all of that, I do think you can be a good teacher, despite the fact that you are not the biggest child-lover. I must admit that I am very excited to see how this will work out.
About to become a co-teacher Ana