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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,

SmallTransparentLogoLiz aka Miss Mathebula

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sometimes fate finds us

    January 5, 2013
  2. Liz, you sound like I have thought many times throughout my life.
    I have had teaching, tutoring, home teaching and substituting as both full time and back up when I was an actress, photographer. I had the same thoughts
    when I was in S AF. My photog in the beginning was with a photo agency that contributed to textbooks of which I have thousands of images in. I wanted
    to go to PC and that was the entry- educ. I should have done it when I was
    younger and more healthy. Just received my TESL certificate a year and a half ago. But if you are in the creative area as a writer you must do that in addition.
    It will keep you happier and saner. Try to start now if possible. One year
    I taught in Inglewood and at the same time kept up the photog career plus rearing two children. That was truly crazy. I felt in the beginning of PC
    restrained due to security, etc. The biggest point in teaching as I am sure you have learned, is to listen to each student understanding what that person really needs so that he/she knows he is validated. If you have large classes it
    will be a challenge. Try not to feel overwhelmed. You are of value being there
    showing someone you care about them.
    I bet you will be terrific with those children. Maybe I will see you all in
    the Spring. Good luck. I love reading you inspiring posts.

    January 5, 2013
    • Thank you Mary Kate! It’s going to be challenging, but it’ll be worth it. This blog keeps me sane and I have plenty of posts I’m in the process of writing, so it will be my go-to when things are stressful at school. Hopefully I’ll be able to balance both like you did with your photog career! Thanks for keeping up with my posts.

      January 9, 2013
  3. Nice post!

    January 7, 2013

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  1. Month seven: I struggle, you struggle, we struggle present tense | Liz in Service

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