It’s been 3 weeks and a day at my new job. I have to admit that while I was ecstatic to finally have a teaching job, I was leery being in an elementary school. Elementary schools mean cutesy arts and crafts, bright colors, walking in a straight line with no talking, and kids running through the hallway with snot hanging out of their noses. All the classrooms have themes too, which is something else I just don’t get. I got a little freaked out the first week, not fully understanding the rhythm and culture of elementary life. I’ve always wanted to work with middle or high school students because you can have an actual conversation with them about life, you don’t have to have cheesy bulletin boards, and I assumed I could make a bigger impact. However. I’m learning that’s not necessarily true.
Really, it’s not as bad as I am making it out to be, and I do respect the people who can do themed classrooms and have learning centers and explain crafts well and be awesome. During the middle of the 2nd week, I started to become overwhelmed with simply LIKING my students and, dare I say, starting to love them. I have all the 4th grade ESL students- about 20 in the Language Arts classes, and 10 in the pullouts. I also get to help pullout and give extra tutoring to kindergartners who can only say their name in English. These kids are smart. These kids are beautiful. And each kid does have a story. I am beyond grateful to know each one of these little persons.
I really could not imagine I would be here a year ago. Last year, I was loving De La Salle (despite freaking out about a first time teaching, but that’s another story), and absolutely in love with the Africans I taught. While I do miss De La Salle a lot and I miss those students more than anything, it was really hard for me to figure things out. It took me a long time to realize that being a “friend” to the students is never the way to go in a teacher position. A teacher gets to be a special and rare presence in a student’s life. I know I didn’t have that level of professionalism and treated these students too casually. While teaching is a ministry for me, I struggled so much with the fact that it simply was not my place to be buddying up with them. They didn’t see me as authority, which made it difficult to “teach”, which made it difficult for them to want to listen and learn, which made everything get way too laid back. On a good note, I always say I don’t know how much English they learned, but at least I helped build up their self-esteem.
All that to say, I know elementary is where God CLEARLY wants me to learn basics of being a good teacher- and have a lot of fun while I’m doing it. While I love these precious kids, I see now the difference between a friend and a teacher. I pray they have positive influences but that they can talk to me about things. And I’m really, really grateful I can say that I am happy at my teaching job and I honestly, truly see how God planned it all…even when I didn’t believe He did.