Monday, October 01, 2007

My Legs Hurt- My Life As a Teacher

My legs hurt and I’m talking to myself a lot. It’s been about a month in the classroom now, and that is the short and sweet analysis of it.

I guess it makes sense. I mean, most of my days start boarding a bus at 7:10 AM to head to our downtown school. Unfortunately, the downtown school is very urbanized and therefore lacks adequate playground equipment. And so, from 7:45 AM to about 8:00 AM I serve as the in-house jungle gym for all the younger kids. Truth be told, it’s a highlight of my day, no matter how tired I am.

And come 8:00 AM, the magic begins. Downtown, I’m teaching English to little kids, or that is to say, corrupting young minds to say the most essential of English phrases. You know, “book, eraser, hello, hi, I’m fine, Patrick is the coolest person ever,” etc… So two hours of English and then two hours of what we call Girl’s Program. Girl’s program is time we provide our girls while the boys are out working. It’s their time to learn to cook, work on the computers, and make arts and crafts that they are able to sell and make money off of. It’s also a great opportunity to get to know the story of these little girls, and for that, it runs a close second to the human jungle gym as the best part of my day.

And come noon, I am on a slow moving city bus working my way back to our other campus. A quick bite to eat, a scan of the Miami Herald, and I am off to my most magical class. I don’t know what more I can say other than I taught a 17 year old boy how to read a sentence and count past 20 for the first time in his life. You can’t put a price tag on being present for that moment. And so three hours a day I work with him and three other students with one simple goal: get them up to the educational level they should be in Math and Spanish reading, and do it quick. It is my most challenging course, and my most meaningful one as well.

Come 5 PM, it’s English with little boys. Come evening, on Monday and Tuesday I am teaching Industrial English (words I don’t understand in English or Spanish) and Religion the rest of the week. At 8:30 PM, I call it a day, and head home where we eat dinner as a community. A little lesson planning and paper grading, and then off to bed and the whole process starts over again. It is not much of an exaggeration to say personal time is bed time. Period.

There is so much room to complain about the long days, until your think about your students. I can’t begin to explain to you how moving it is day in and day out to meet my evening English class and shake the little blackened hands of boys who themselves have been working all day as well- but they make their living shining shoes. On my weekends, I have the opportunity sometimes to participate in house building projects in the community or respond to the whinny chants of Ecuadorian kids calling my name to join their pick-up game of basketball. Did I mention we live on the campus we work on? It’s the coolest thing ever to hear them shouting for you to come outside. And ever played bball with little Ecuadorian kids? Two words on how it makes you feel- Michael Jordan.

So here I am, living in Quito, Ecuador, working with one of the most phenomenal organizations ever. My legs hurt and I am talking to myself a lot. A small price to pay for the many gifts this experience is giving me.

“Don’t ask so much what the world needs. Go out and do what makes you come alive, because what the world needs most are people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

1 comment:

Benjamin said...

Sweet Patrick. I'm glad for you friend. I hope everything continues on just as tiring and fulfilling as it has been. I applaud you b/c it seems to me that you're making the most of your time there. Good luck!