I had a little reprieve two weeks ago, when this bi-weekly blog was due, because I thought why not just wait until the term is over to do a nice “Here’s What I Learned These Past Three Months…” recap.
It has been a wild ride from landing here in the beginning of September to now, mid-December, having just completed my first term of teaching.
(A reminder the school year is broken into three terms: fall, winter, and summer. Each term is about fifteen weeks long, with a week break in the middle, and a two-week vacation separating the seasonal terms.)
So, without further ado, here’s what I learned these past three months abroad:
I love teaching?
This job can be so aggravating, frustrating, upsetting and at times feels so undervalued and underpaid, but there is some part me of that really loves it. I love working with young people, even though they drive me up a wall 85% of the time.
Being a part of their lives is incredibly taxing, but also really rewarding. I am literally a form of parent to these kids, which is probably one of the most significant teaching revelations I’ve had this term:
I’m a Teen Mom.
I was told by many within the profession, and plenty outside of it, that as a teacher you play an authoritative, paternal role in these students’ lives, that it will often feel like you’re a student’s parent. But something else I’ve learned these past few months is that people can tell you a truth or adage over and over again, but the gravity of what they’re saying does not set in until you’re actually living it.
I in no way doubted that I would be a mom to some of these kids, but having parts of my brain age ten years to have the mind of a new parent has been surreal. I think part of me has not fully registered that I am the adult in the room when I’m with my students, that I am legally responsible for these kids when they’re in my classroom.
How insane is it that every day I get in front of a bunch of pre-teens/teens and try to teach them something with my bubbly personality and understanding of mathematics?
There are so many things I do not do right or effectively, but sometimes, 2% of the time, I nail it (does that not sound like what being a parent is like??).
Progress doesn’t happen overnight.
With my teaching, with my students, or with me as a person, all of it takes time and often does not reveal itself in the way I envisioned. It took so many of my students the entire term before they started showing progress and some of my worst behaved students are only now finally beginning to accept that I am the authority in the room.
The fact that I don’t have to kick out this one student anymore, or that my remedial students actually understood something this term, warms my heart because strides are being made.
Something that really got to me a week or so ago was that my largest class tried to be incredibly well-behaved when I was being formally observed because they wanted me to do well and get a good review.
Who is she?
I’ve learned so much about myself from only being out here for three months and it again all goes back to expectations. I imagine how something is going to play out in my mind, along with the expectations I impose on it, but in the end, the reality of it is so quiet and something I already knew.
One of the big pushes that brought me out here was that I wanted to see what I can learn about myself when I’m adrift at sea all by my lonesome. The things I learned are so obvious and things I always felt, but coming out here gave me time to think about, solidify and re-assure what has been brewing in my brain for a while.
i.e. I love music, I love dancing, I love singing, running, reading, emoting, writing, laughing.
Being out here has made me more confident in what I care about and believe about myself.
If nothing, I at least now know how to answer the question, “Where are you from?”
“I was born in California, raised in Connecticut, then went to college in New York”
Strangely enough, teaching young people and being in a secondary school has made me nostalgic for my early adolescence?
It’s kind of hilarious though because it’s not in any manner similar to that faction of people who are forever internally screaming, “I wish I was in high school again!! Class of ‘99!!”
I’m nostalgic for being able to experience something for the first time and not being able to compare it to any other experience you’ve had up until that point.
That first crush where you’re too unsure if they feel the same way, that first time you experience an emotion you’ve never really had before, or even (this is so lame, but) the first time you learn a new topic in school (i.e. algebra).
I of course only say this now after having survived those experiences and distance from them. That’s a thought I always have when I reflect on being in a high school: if I could re-do secondary education, knowing what I know now, I’d run this town.
It’s ironic though because a big part of those formative experiences is that you’re clueless and don’t know really how to handle it all; you’re not suppose to know that little tiffs with friends or what other people think of you at sixteen aren’t very significant.
I do need to give myself some credit though, I wasn’t firing on all cylinders in high school, but I was still a nasty little queen.
Today, I’m incredibly confident, but also still incredibly insecure. The major contrast though is that I’m so much stronger and resilient than I was as a teenager and I know how to handle a lot more situations than I use to and, in turn, how to handle myself.
Whether it’s five years or five months, it seems I am still capable of finding an immense amount of room for growth.
I leave for America tomorrow feeling very emotional and not fully packed, so if you’re reading this, I hope you have a fab holiday, and if you’re not reading my blogs, you can also have a fab holiday, but you’re not a true fan.