I’ve had a hashtag blessed hashtag challenging pound sign exhausting few weeks of teaching. As it always is, right? The next few weeks are going to be crazy. Even though Brazil doesn’t celebrate Halloween or Thanksgiving, I still feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes, because I’ve been OD’ing on imported pumpkin candy corn, and the malls already have their Christmas trees up.
There is still the normal teaching stuff that makes me want to throw things off tall places. When you decide to become a teacher and dream of changing lives and educating cute little things, no one tells you that no matter what age group or subject you teach, you will actually spend at least 50% of your time getting children in line, asking them to wash their hands, no, really, go back and WASH them, USE SOAP, DRY THEM, repeating yourself, repeating yourself, all the while covered in pen markings without explanation. And your entire world will smell faintly of urine and sweat and pencil shavings. And it will consume you, and it’s never over, and it’s the best and worst of you in your face all day long, and the most important job in the world. Next to like, inventing coffee.
But we’ve had small victories. My yearbook class has become this funny band of misfits – I’ve been teaching them Charades and they have become passionate about it: I have a roomful of kids screaming the word for “popsicle” in six languages, but I only let it count if it’s in English. One of them described a “puppet” as “a doll you can manage” and he has a Russian accent so it’s even funnier. We’re bonding.
And today one of my teachers came to tell me that one of our students had a breakthrough and was able to produce work independently. I yay-ed and hugged him tight and he hugged me back and I wanted to cry like it was Christmas morning. Is anything more amazing than seeing a kid finally proud of himself?
Today I led Professional Development. We do this cool thing where we have late start Wednesdays, and as a staff we get together, take turns leading devotions, and then have time for some PD. Sometimes it’s just extra time to work on report cards, or have Brazil-mandated Academic Councils, or work on various projects. But as the English Language Development teacher at an international school, my boss (and bestie!) scheduled me for some specific time to lead the staff on how we can help out English language learners (ELLs.) (There are about a thousand acronyms in teaching. #thingsnoonetellsyouaboutteaching).
While ELL training was a part of my California credential process (where 60% of students speak English as a second language), there are parts of my job description that I feel underprepared for and intimidated by here in Rio. I mean, I’m only responsible for making sure children learn a new language that they’re being educated in from 8am-3pm everyday. No big.
So I try to educate myself and read articles and blogs on teaching techniques and research, and try new things every day. I watch a thousand Youtubes of CVC blending and comprehension techniques and phonemic awareness. I spend way too much time on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, and even more time thinking about how unfair it is that the one profession that leads people into every other profession doesn’t have an unlimited supply of supplies and resources and finances to foster creativity and critical thinking and problem solving.
I clog the copy machine and fry out my personal laminator. There is no set and straight or tried and true curriculum for immersion English. Most of the pain of my job is inventing it every day. Part of the fun of my job is inventing it every day. A large part of my job is just hugging kids and being silly and convincing them to go along with the absolute chaos that is the English language.
I spent about five days straight researching and compiling data and finding examples and stuff. Like, I wanted to do my co-workers and my students a solid, you know? So I came up with a 48-slide powerpoint, and rehearsed, and timed, and had notes. I got all the info I wanted to share, and then stayed up until the wee hours doing the really important stuff, like creating a survey no one will complete and typing up a handout I forgot to distribute and compiling a list of helpful websites and redesigning the template and the fonts and the colors and adding unnecessary transitions. Which of course all screwed up on the Apple TV somehow.
I don’t know what it is, because I thrive on attention, I love public speaking, I’m passionate about what I do, and I’ve been teaching for six years, but the thought of professionally developing a room full of adults can be really overwhelming.
I guess I still think I’m 20 years old. Plus, we all live together. We see each other at our best and at our worst: in costume, at my most competitive, tipsy off Pither pours and debating politics and gun control until the wee hours at a holiday party, in a bikini on the beach, dripping hot wax on my hand during the candlelight Christmas Eve service. We’ve prayed over intimate details of each other’s lives and shared inappropriate Youtube videos that make me laugh. I dress like a shark pretending to be a bear on the regular so . . . Why would any of you listen to me?
But I made them. For 45 minutes. And I’ve gotten some good feedback from it, and hopefully it helps. And I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. I remembered the reasons I love teaching and why it’s so important to be good at it.
It all comes at a tricky time. A month from now, I will be asked to decide if I want to do a third year at my school, or . . . or I don’t know. I could go live at my parents in the Bay Area and see what happens. I could apply to teach abroad again somewhere else. I could wait tables again. I’ve thought about applying to be a flight attendant. I hear they’re trying to colonize Mars. So that’s on the table.
And the big thoughts come in, the life thoughts, like “is what you’re doing leading you towards a husband, kids, long term stuff we’re supposed to want and have?”
So I don’t know.
I do know that the older I get, the easier it is for me to be happier with less, the more mellow I become. The older I get, the easier on myself I am able to be, the more I appreciate the friends and family I have, and the blessings and challenges they bring. The older I get, the more I appreciate the opportunities I’ve been provided with to travel, to teach, to meet a million people, to read and write and learn and love. I like most of me these days. I like most of my life these days.
And anyway, whatever happens, happens right? No hurries, no worries, because there are tons of videos of baby animals on the internet. Christmas is coming. The Xfiles is coming back, Star Wars is coming back.
Fittingly, the thing on Facebook that says what you were doing a few years ago threw this at me today:
And if, like me, you need to hear this, here is a good quote I stole from someone on the internet: