I’m a teacher now. We played “head, shoulders, knees and toes!” and then they cut out pieces of a face and glued them together.
I would like to dedicate this post to Annie Falconer, who taught me so many invaluable lessons about teaching.
It was fun. I love the little ones. But you don’t have to look very closely at the faces of these kids to know that teaching here will not be like teaching everywhere else. As Heidi has told me, attendance is sporadic. Today when I was calling roll, I was informed that “Aylyn is not in class because she is out picking lettuce.” Aylyn showed up fifteen minutes later, lettuce heads in hand. Teachers often don’t show up. This is Ecuador, where sometimes the rhythm of life is sporadic and off beat.
Many of these kids can barely read and write in Spanish, let alone another language. Also, we only have forty minutes once a week with each grade. How are you supposed to really teach anything of substance in that time? But maybe the importance is not so much on teaching English, but on just teaching. On showing up. On creating boundaries for the classroom. On playing games that are enjoyable. On practicing writing, whether the letters are for English words or Spanish words.
My mom has taught in the David Douglas School District in South East Portland for 27 years. The majority of these years she’s taught 2nd grade. Her school district is like many in the U.S., with most of her students living below the poverty level. It’s not uncommon for her students to be in foster care, or living with grandparents because both parents are incarcerated, or with severe learning disabilities. Her classroom is crowded, her school underfunded. The family jokes with her about her constant saying, “I’m so tired! The kids were so hard today!” But really, none of us can really understand what a difficult task she tackles every day just walking into her classroom.
By watching my mother teach in challenging conditions my whole life, I’ve learned that many times the role of elementary teachers is not on the curriculumn as much as being a positive figure for the students. On being dependable and reliable. I’m not sure how many vocab words I will be able to teach, or how many grammar rules I can put into the brains of my students, but maybe at least I can be a positive role model.