Let’s just get one thing straight—my job is not what I’d call easy. While it’s not all olé olé caracoles, let us all cut out paper dolls holding hands and paint American flags while singing authentic folk songs; it’s not exactly brain surgery either, but it is most definitely not simple. Now, before you roll your eyes and mutter something about my pathetic lack of work ethic, allow me to add that the job is not easy, but not in the way that you may think.
I will admit, that yes, it is true—I spend a large amount of my time creating PowerPoint presentations (feel free to endorse me on Linked In), searching the web for clips from High School Musical and colorful photos of prom and hamburgers. But I also have to attempt to teach, not only English language, but also Math, Science, Music, History, and Geography to 11-15 year olds whose skill levels vary drastically. I come home from work and feel the need to take a siesta every day, and not just because it’s cultural.
Moreover, teaching gets even trickier because the less the students understand, the less they pay attention, and subsequently, the less they actually care. I have found myself more than once at the front of the class, observing the students with horror, thinking: “I am working hard to educate them, to help them understand. I was never like this in high school. What has happened to the youth of the world?!”
I spend a large part of my day witnessing various interpretations of, more or less, the same three faces:
No me entero de nada.
Alternatively known as “¿Qué comemos hoy?/What are we eating today?” This the expression of absolute confusion, as if I am not only speaking a different language but am also an alien creature.
¡Yo que sé!
This is arguably worse than the first one because the sass level is somewhat higher here. Once they start throwing around ¡yo que sé!, it’s basically game over – they thought about caring, but now just have no idea what’s going on, so they’re going to whisper to their friends instead.
While I believe that I was a fairly high-achieving high school student in a great school (shout out DHS), I’d just like to publicly issue my most sincere apology to every teacher in whose class I zoned out/whispered to my friends/did other homework. I now have an even greater appreciation for your job that can often be thankless, frequently frustrating, and very exhausting.
But of course, it is easy for me to forget my 13-year-old self, now that the tables have turned and my patience level has decreased as my age has increased. The truth is, she did pay attention but she also definitely didn’t. It was the classes with teachers who challenged and inspired me that I remember; it was these individuals who made me fall in love with learning.
So that all being said, for every tiring experience that I may have, there is always a good one that makes the difference. In my Geography class last week, we were learning about climates and weather. The students had to match up the name with the definition of various weather phenomena and had only ten minutes to do so. One girl came up to me and held up her card.
I panicked for a second. How could you get any simpler than fog?
But then I had it: “Clouds on the ground.”
Her face lit up. “Venga, ok!”
She was excited to learn a new word, and I was just as excited for her.
This last face is the one I like to see the best. That look of enlightenment when they figure out what something means makes it all worth it.
In moments like that one, I feel that I have begun to learn what teaching is about: perseverance, an inordinate amount of patience, improvisation and adaptability.
So here’s to many more faces and creative definitions!