In our lives there are things that we don’t plan to do or expect we’ll be do forever but as we grow older we continually find ourselves doing those things.
That’s my relationship with teaching.
In third grade, or so, I declared that I would one day be a teacher, but the next year, that career path changed. It actually differed every year till I graduated college; whatever, it still changes on an annual basis. The idea of being a fulltime teacher, though, was never a plan that stuck around for consecutive years like journalism or counseling did (and does).
My teaching path started in high school, when I was working as a swimming lessons instructor at the local pool. It continued on to religious education and I helped with a home-school journalism class in college. Even my work as an editor at The Collegian and The Post had strong instructing elements.
My first Peace Corps assignment wasn’t teaching, it was support. I was to work in the school and community and assist wherever there was a hole. But because my school was small and the English teacher had more interest in her Nigerian fiancée in Kano, I ended up teaching quite a bit. When there was a room of students without a teacher, I assumed the role. I didn’t make lesson plans, rather just jumped in and added content as it came to my head.
That experience qualified me for the education sector. Before, I didn’t have the right skills for that area and they placed me in the sector they usually assign to those holding liberal arts degree, community development.
Now, I was going to be a real teacher.
I had mixed feelings about it and wasn’t sure if I could see myself enjoying teaching for two years. However, it was my ticket back to Peace Corps so I took it.
Most of training was focused on learning to teach in a Lesotho classroom. We went over the basics that American teachers spend four years and student-teaching time discussing. Classroom management, lesson planning, evaluation. I sort of see it as insult to actual teachers who chose this career and our good at it that I could learn enough to teach for a years. If it were reversed for journalists, I would be ticked off, but yet I was thankful to be able to dabble in a pretty crucial profession.
We taught our peers, we subbed in for teachers and were given mock classes to complete our training. Real American and Basotho teachers observed our work and gave us their expertise and we were sent to our schools to try it on our own.
Without school – a specific place to be at each day – my first month at site was hard. I wasn’t sure what to do or what was expected of me, which is a feeling that pinches my inner being. I hate the idea that I could be letting someone down but don’t actually know if I am because the parameters haven’t been set. That is an American worry. In Lesotho, you work or you don’t, that simple.
Each night, when I reviewed the unaccomplished day, I told myself to hang out until school starts. It will all be better once school is in session, I thought.
Our first day was reserved for housekeeping and cleaning, so the actual teaching didn’t begin until day no. 2. I was nervous that the students wouldn’t understand the lesson through my thick American accent or that I would teach them something completely off. I was worried that I would screw it up, or worse, hate it.
My first class was the first hour of the day. I turned on my smile and full, yet slow, voice and walked in the room to 17 Form B (the equivalent of high school freshmen) students. Something snapped. The energy turned on and the worry scurried away. I felt at home in front of the class with chalk in my hand, as if this was something I was always meant to do. When the period ended, I walked away from class with the same reassurance I do when I have written a solid story. It felt good. It felt right.
Now, I am not going to declare my career indecisiveness over and go with teacher, but, for right now, teaching is what I am supposed to be doing. My head starts spinning when I think of ideas and projects for the school year, sort of the way it does when I am caught up in a breaking news event. It’s no longer this thing that I’ve always seem to have done, but a real passion.
I am a teacher and that makes me happy.