During my first trimester of my first year in Fogo, a friend of mine listened patiently to my frustrations regarding disciplinary problems in my classroom, and said to me, “I wouldn’t wish a first year of teaching on my worst enemy.” I shrugged the comment off at the time, thinking that my second year surely couldn’t be too different from the first. And now here I am, and for the millionth time during my service I find myself thinking “ok, I was wrong.”
The difference is astounding. One year ago I was grasping at straws trying to find anything at all that I could do to keep things in order. I didn’t have teaching resources, my Kriolu wasn’t strong, and I didn’t understand the learning styles of Cape Verdean children. The blank stares I encountered were disheartening, as was the amount of time it took me to figure out how to make my students grasp even the simplest concept.
I’m not quite a month in to my second year in school now, but I’ve taken every painful lesson from last year and combined them into some hybrid version of success. I love joking with my students, but understand now the fine line between light-hearted lessons and getting kids so excited that they become uncontrollable. Everyone participates, like it or not. I have the “teacher face” down, and can stop kids from talking without saying a word. That might be my favorite. I leave my personal emotions at the door when I walk into the classroom. My first real effective day last year came after a breakup, but in retrospect I think the only reason the students behaved that day was fear. Effective, but not my style.
Last year my favorite thing to say to people was that my kids are the best and worst parts of my service. I think once the year goes on that may be the case once again, but I have a handle on it now. A friend in the States, a very successful and wonderful teacher, told me someone said to him once, “I tried teaching. I get it, but it’s not for me.” For me, it’s become something that I think I’ll need to do for the rest of my life…maybe just not professionally.
For anyone who wants to try, I highly recommend teaching ESL. Before joining Peace Corps I taught in Arlington for a year, only once a week, to an amazing and diverse group of people. I taught people of all ages, from nearly every continent. I still remember their faces, and their kind words, and I have a beautiful card from them hanging on my wall. To date, aside from Peace Corps, it remains the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done.
So I get it. Teaching every day from the crack of dawn to two may not be for me, but it’s stuck with me. I saved some of my favorite parts from a project that I did last year with my eighth graders. Some of the papers made me want to quit, but some of the students took the opportunity to convey their emotions and thoughts in such a poetic way; I was insurmountably proud of them. Some were just hilarious. These were some of my favorites:
I like my father. She is the best father.
The holiday that I liked is the holiday of Christmas. Because I was together with my friends, brothers, my family, girlfriend, and my mother, and my father. The party was more pleasant with music in house of my aunt. I danced very with my girlfriend.
At first day that I went to school in Ponta Verde, I finded many friends.
We spent time there and spent one midnight happy.
I like policemen. I like to go to the beach. I don’t want to be rich. I want to have a family with a woman that I love. I like my English teacher.
I’m 12 years old. My homework is about a party in Santo Antonio. It is very short but is very interesting.
During summer vacation, the weather gets hot, and since I live close to the beach I go there almost every day to swim. Even when the vacation is about to end, I still be happy because when I return to school I will be in a different grade and that will be a new experience.
A month after my grandfather died I had many sad. I liked him, he gave me a lot stories. He was seventy years old.
Last year I went to the island Brava over my island vacation. I was walking around the city. The city was full of flowers by the side and seemed to be the paradise. Out windows at night we were looking at the sky. Took many photographs.
(Anyone interested in ESL in the Northern Virginia area should look into REEP: The Arlington Education and Employment Program. Please feel free to email me with any questions, and check out their website at http://www.apsva.us/Page/2019.)