Before the beginning of this semester, I thought my first semester experience was enough to give me confidence for the new school year. Well, that confidence was shaken to the extreme of the Richter scale, and it seemed like being a teacher has somehow exposed my previously unknown character flaws (there are quite a few) and illuminated my less-than-malleable patience. The difficulties at times seemed insurmountable. Anuban students (kindergarten) would disrupt my classes and flaunt their outright snobbery of my desperate pleas, students would copy each others' work and behavioral problems plague the class despite reiterating classroom rules. I can generally tell how my day will unfold by merely observing how my students are supervised by teachers that morning. I was ashamed to find myself at times, matching my students' tantrums and succumbing to its immediate gratification. Fortunately for all of us, the frustrations very quickly subside and are supplanted by quick smiles and laughter instead.
These difficulties posed interesting opportunities for both thought and action. I learned some crucial factors needed to create a nourishing and encouraging learning environment. I learned that routine and practice makes a difference. I learned that expecting, and demanding accountability from students will drive initiative on their part, especially when their choices are weighed with rewards or consequences (borrowed from football lingo, my yellow and red card warnings work magically). I learned that teachers need to work within a web of resources, both human and material. I learned the steep challenges these schools face. And, I learned not to take things too seriously, and at the end of the day, I can only aspire to be the best that I can. These days, I am much calmer and more apt to respond to certain classroom difficulties.
Perhaps one of the reasons why I haven't talked about teaching as much at all is because, on some level, it's become very quotidian for me (I think our meek village schools celebrate national holidays.. by canceling classes. So I regret the lack of documentation of such grand events). But however ordinary days can be, I am fully aware of the extraordinariness of spending time with my students, who, despite having seen me at the borders of my patience and sanity, still come to my classroom bright-eyed, ready to humor my sometimes comic attempts at teaching. When they bring me drawings of princesses donning the most ornate dresses with labels like "Teacher Coconut" or surreptitiously ask for my phone number, I am grateful they still appreciate me despite the fact I've given them warnings for drawing during my class.
Every day, before school, I somewhat cower at the thought of a daunting day ahead. But the morning coffee reminds me of routine, and reminds me both of survival and triumph over the yesterdays and the days before, over minor and major existential crises, over mercurial first graders and hard-headed pre-adolescents, and over the challenges of teaching and being a teacher. It also reminds me of the rewards, too.