Month six: wait a minute…I didn’t go to college to be a teacher
No. I went to college to be a journalist. Um, why am I teaching?
I have a confession to make. I don’t know why I’m teaching…it just happened. It was never in my immediate future. I have no idea if I’ll be good at it. To be bluntly honest, I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing.
Education is the most important social issue to me and one I believe someone can really make an impact with, which is why I’ve been attracted to service programs like the Peace Corps and City Year.
I went to college to understand social issues, learn how to do something about them, and most of all, WRITE about them.
There’s no doubt that one of my main motivations for joining the Peace Corps was to experience and observe, write about a different culture and share that with Americans. It’s written in my DNA.
The education program was what I qualified for, and Peace Corps needed Education volunteers, so of course I took on the challenge with no questions. After all, education is EVERYTHING and this program is targeting a social issue I hold close to my heart.
I’m at a point in my service that most of my PCV friends are at too; we’re all a little worried for school to start and are scrambling to figure out how we’re going to teach our first classes. Many of us didn’t go to school to become teachers and our experiences stem from small group tutoring or working with at-risk youth.
I just returned from vacation and have mounds of worksheets, curriculum documents and grade 5 English workbooks to plan at least my first two weeks of teaching. Two weeks isn’t too bad — it’s more the introductions, setting ground rules, giving assessments and getting a sense of what level the class is at. But after? Ah, only time, trial and error will tell, my friends.
Since I’ve been in South Africa, I’ve really honed in on this, “throw yourself in there” attitude. Everything here for us is new and the first time you experience it — whether it’s staying with a host family, traveling alone, or teaching your first class — you kind of just have to jump in there and mentally tell yourself, “I can do it.” That’s exactly what I’ve been doing and it has been working; you won’t know if you never try. Then, after I accomplish whatever task is at hand, it gets easier and becomes part of my daily routine. I forget that I was once nervous about it.
Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” He couldn’t have summarized my “throw yourself in there” epiphany any better.
Please excuse me if I drown in documents for the next week or so. I’m not sure if my host family really understands why I’m locked up in my hut, but this is my Americanism kicking in — I’VE GOTTA GET STUFF DONE.
My principal just came by my hut and confirmed the grade 5 English class is all mine. Well, kiddies, you’re in for a ride. Miss Mathebula will make this class fun, somehow, some way. First point of reference — making “Who I Am” books about who they are, so they can have a little fun and I can learn something about all of them (thanks to my partner English teacher from last year for this idea).
I report to school on Jan. 14th and my first day of teaching will be Jan. 16th.
Got ideas for a grade 5 English class? Throw ‘em on over!
I welcome you with open arms, 2013 — no doubt that it’ll be the most challenging and rewarding year of my life.
Yours, motivated and dumbfounded at the same time,