Well, finally the desks have turned and I was left standing in front of 22 sugar-filled Ecuadorian 8th graders to teach English.
The first day they were quiet, attentive, and took notes. It was tranquil and I eagerly went home and created more lesson plans. By the end of the week my classroom looked like the unruly, chaotic classroom movie producers could only imagine, and I walked home extremely dejected.
I remember my most frustrating moment. It was of course loud, about 5 kids asked me to “go to the bathroom,” and two kids were throwing paper at each other. My blood was boiling. The good kids were just staring at me, I’m sure my face was one of rage. One girls asked if she could go do something, I don’t even remember what she was asking, and I responded, in a very loud almost yelling voice : “Do I have your permission to teach ?”
Was this a turning point in their behavior? Absolutely not. But on that day I realized I could give them a textbook lesson and they could take notes and be tested.
I could be their friend. Teach them vocabulary and topics that interested them. For example, they loved the lesson on how to ask people if they had a boyfriend or girlfriend, if they were married, how many brothers and sisters they had. Since I lived in a farming community there was a liking for calling people lettuce and papaya. Towards the end we just talked about pizza.
In the end, What is English? Don’t we all speak the language of confused faces and flailing hand gestures? English is ever-changing. It’s everywhere, whether its their “Gatorade” bottles or CD’s. It changes from person to person, city to city. What these kids really needed to learn is that they can learn English. That English is all around them.
In the latter half of my stay in Ecuador I would walk through the streets and kids would say “That’s my teacher, Hello Teacher!” Parents would look my way wondering if they’re kid was really learning English. If I had something to show for their stellar grades in my class. Did they? Solid tests and assignments no, not in the least. But they did have curiosity, optimism and most of all the willingness to learn.
First of, I would like to thank my accompanying teachers for showing me this side of the profession and always supporting me through this year.
But also, I like to thank all the teachers I ever had for the exceedingly hard job you do every day. How calm and prepared you look every class. How you dealt with the craziest incidents with more control than I ever had. But most of all, thank you for pulling those kids who needed that little extra push aside and telling them they could do it.
Because that makes all the difference.