When I came to Oakland (over 4 months ago) I knew I wanted to teach. Of course, my understanding of what teaching abroad actually meant was very limited, considering I had practically no teaching experience as well as zero knowledge of how to communicate in Spanish.
All I knew was that I wanted to teach.
In Quito, sitting in a giant circle on the day we got our community placements, I remember feeling my stomach drop when I received my paper saying I would be teaching English in the local school in my community of San Juan; I didn’t think it could actually happen to me. I had watched countless of videos of past Fellows’ apprenticeships and admired their given-opportunity to make a difference through education during their year abroad.
A couple of days ago I was speaking with one of the three English teachers I work alongside. He said that, when I first arrived at the school, I was silent. I didn’t speak at all. I was afraid to use Spanish and my lack of confidence, and language nonetheless, kept me from appearing more sociable and outgoing in my first few months.
Today, I finished my lunch and walked over to the school to plan for my upcoming afternoon classes. On my way through the door, a small group of girls from one of my classes came up to talk with me. We walked up the hill and chatted, and then they asked if me, “Profe Noah,” if I would like to sit with them for the rest of recess.
We talked and laughed, and munched on some fruit for a good thirty minutes, and, when the bell rang, they went to class and I to the teachers’ room to plan yet again. My afternoon co-teacher, however, was preoccupied with watching some video online so I stepped outside to find another one of my classes dancing in their physical education class. Leaning against the wall, alone, watching, one of my students came over to ask me if I would be dancing too. I said no, but he still motioned for me to come over and watch from the steps with the rest of the class. Immediately, it seemed as if the entire class swarmed around me to ask a numerous amount of questions like ‘what I had won in bingo last night’ and ‘why I had so many earrings.’
All this happened when I wasn’t even in the classroom. During my classes, I look forward to when the kids come up to my desk and ask me to translate words or homework directions in Spanish – and I can. I look forward to hearing them repeat frames like ’this is my mom,’ and seeing them smile every time we play Tingo-Tingo-Tango.
Last week, one of my teachers didn’t show up for the first half of the day, and it was just me and a classroom of thirty-something 11-year-olds. They non-stop talked, and finally when I said I was going to take away points that sat down quietly. We played Hang-Man and the students rushed up to the white-board to point their fingers and shout out “A! I! G!” Their excitement reminds me of the feelings I had back in Quito – exactly why I wanted to be a teacher.
When I was Face-Timing a director of Global Citizen Year back in November, talking about more ways to strengthen my teaching strategies, he had said one thing that stuck with me: “Kids don’t learn from teachers they don’t like.”
I can’t say that all of my students like me; in fact I don’t doubt that a handful of them don’t care for my presence. But for the majority that do – that stand to greet me each and every class, and cry when I tell them it’s time for me to leave – that’s why I love teaching. To see their precious and lively faces everyday. To witness their love for learning blossom with every new lesson. And to be a friend, a role model, and someone that brings out the drive and passion in each and every one of them.
That’s why I love teaching.