The thing about teaching is that every week holds its own mysteries and moments of joy. The job changes every day, because you can’t count on kids for anything. They are unpredictable monsters that you want to squeeze in either anger or affection at any given moment.
One of the humbling, cheesy things about teaching is that kids are the same no matter where you go. They love to laugh at and with you. They want to make you presents. They want hugs and high fives and to tell you about their hamster named Bubbles. No matter their native language, they start raising their hand with an “answer” before you’ve even asked the question. They will do anything for a sticker. They fall apart on a moment’s notice but recover quite quickly if there is candy involved.
My job is to help the kids that come in without any English learn some English. We have the most international school population in all of Latin America, so the possibilities and backgrounds are endless.
The lesson planning is extensive. The work is exhausting at times. But I freaking love my job. I can’t say enough about how cool the people are that I work with, or how friendly Brazilians are, or how awesome it is to work with kids again. Because it’s amazing.
It’s amazing because kids are freaking weird. On Wednesday, I’m walking around the halls and kindergarten girls who don’t even know my name, but call me “Miss” and “Teacher,” rush up and tell me I’m pretty and that when they grow up, they will wear long earrings like me. On Thursday girls run up to tell us that someone fell into the toilet. And at lunch some kids are being accused of saying mean things on the slide and they respond with “No! I said beautiful things!”
It’s amazing because even though I asked “how old are you?” and she responded “yes,” she knew enough English to write “I love you techer” on my whiteboard inside of a big heart. And because even though I’m drilling them about the painful grammar and irregular verb formations of English, they’re resilient enough to run up and hug me at recess, and reach for my hand in the hallways. And because we might spend 45 minutes learning the difference between “I am” and “you are” and “he is” and it’s so hard I don’t blame him if he hates me…but when he finally gets it and can answer correctly ten times in a row, we both reach towards the other for a celebratory hug. And because I get to use the lyric Youtubes to “Let it Go” as a teaching lesson, and every song from “The Sound of Music,” and even “Happy” by Pharrell.
I can’t imagine the stress of all your schooling being provided in a different language. There are some kids at our school that don’t have anyone besides a sibling that might be able to understand them in their native tongue. But kids are cool. They don’t complain about it (at least, not in a language I can understand). They handle it. And if they need the English help, they get to come to my room and get owl stickers and eat candy secrets and watch me turn metaphorical cartwheels to make them laugh in between sight word drills.
The greatest example of everything I love about my job is one of my boys. He was born in Asia with a cleft palate. He was placed in an orphanage, had some surgeries, was adopted a year ago by a European family living in Brazil, where we speak Portuguese, and then placed at an American school where we speak English.
He has no base language for writing, reading, speaking, listening. None. It’s all a mess. He still needs more surgeries. He has a mom, a dad, siblings for the first time (PRAISE THE LORD JESUS AMEN). And he has been through more in his short life than I could ever imagine, and it’s only the beginning for him.
And you have never met someone with more zest for life, more energy, more love for other people.
His hands are in his mouth, his nose, his pants (as they are with all little boys) and then on my face, in my hands, on my laptop, and I don’t even care. HIs bottom is always slightly wet and finds its way into my lap. And it takes us 45 minutes to figure out the alphabet, and I want to cry in frustration and then I want to cry with happiness when I see something sink in. You can walk by my room most mornings and hear me screaming “THAT IS TOTALLY THE LETTER M!!!! HIGH FIVE!!! YOU ARE AMAZING!!!!” And every time that happens, I thank God I get to see it. And that’s why you teach. Because I feel like I get to see miracles every day.