Teacher Appreciation Year

Kevin Prentiss


February 18, 2015

Everyone who knows me knows I love children: I have been a babysitter since I was twelve years old, a summer day camp counselor, Girl Scout Day Camp Program Aide, and making friends with any kids I see anywhere since forever. When I came to live with my host family in Cuenca, my assigned apprenticeship was to work with an organic farmer’s association; however, once I arrived, my host mother asked me if I would be willing to change my apprenticeship to teach in the local elementary school, and I said yes. Teaching kids was going to be so fun and easy, right???

Wrong.

Teaching is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. Being in charge of a room full of children AND being responsible for imparting knowledge onto them is stressful – especially when you are young and barely speak their language. I feel overwhelmed when my students do not listen to me when I tell them to sit down and get quiet so I can teach them. Or when they hit each other when we try to play a fun learning game. Or when they do not have their homework or do not take the notes. Or when I catch some of them cheating on a test. These moments are my lows. And they are really low. And sometimes these moments make me want to cry out of frustration. Then, on the brink of tears, I think back to how I was as a student sometimes, and then the tears pour because I know this is payback for all of my misdeeds. I would like to take a moment to appreciate to every teacher, especially mine, because teaching is not easy, and I now have a deeper respect fro you. Gracias.

Now, my intention is notto give the impression that teaching is a terrible job or that I cry every day or that my students are evil. That is simply not the case. Like everything in life, teaching has its high’s and low’s. And let me tell you, the high’s rock. Every time I walk into class, my students greet me – the older children with “good morning, teacher!” and they younger children with “buenos dÌ_as profesora!” – and it puts a smile on my face. When I am grading tests and my students have done well, I am proud of them and I feel accomplished. Or when we are playing a game and everything is running smoothly, like the other with tercero (third grade), I told them to make a line for a farm animal review game. They all got in line with zero pushing or whining, I told them to make the sound of the animal that I said in English, and went outside in single file. I know we looked cool walking around making animal sounds all over the playground, and I know they were loving it by the smiles on their faces and the energy in their arms flapping while quacking, oinking, and mooing. Or during recreo, when my students ask me to play with them or just want to talk to me. When I am coming to or leaving school, even walking in my neighborhood, I am recognized not as a gringo, but as the “profe de inglÌ©s.” These are the moments that make my heart melt – the high’s that vastly outweigh the low’s.

Teaching has been a challenge that has enlightened me to the everyday struggles teachers face. In facing these obstacles myself, I have learned the dedication and hard work that has to be put into successfully cultivating young minds. Through this experience, I have gained much more appreciation for teachers everywhere, while making young friends along the way.

Kevin Prentiss