To any teacher, professor, classroom instructor…

Dear any teacher who ever had the pleasure/pain of having me in class,

Bless me teacher, for I have sinned. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been a student in class, and two months since I’ve moved to the other side of the teacher table in front of the whiteboard. I now take back all of my comments about your sloppy hand-writing, your mis-reading of my sloppier hand-writing, and all the days my companions and I egged you on to watch a movie….I don’t get teaching fully or nearly as well as you…But I understand now a lot more.

A few months ago, I started my career as a teacher. I can say confidently that teaching high-schoolers is NOT part of my vocation. Classroom management, discipline, lesson-planning, developmental psychology, patience…it’s not my forte. While I know that some of these skills will develop in the coming months and two years, there is also an inherent natural ability and passion for this that I do not possess. And, while my day-to-day complaints do not necessarily express this, I know that my role thankfully is not judged on test scores or how many folks learn about Christianity.

I teach four out of the ten classes Religion in the high school at Fe y Alegría °44 (there’s two classes to each of the five grades). Now, for those of you who went to a private high school, or even a private University, and had to take Religion classes…you know that sometimes this subject is not entirely riveting nor stimulating. Talking about Church doctrine can be pretty boring on a basic level–this from the Theology and Religious Studies major. So, I can’t necessarily blame kids if they want to sleep, or flirt, or talk, or do Math homework, or throw things, or fight sometimes in my class.

I also can’t blame them for the roller coaster of hormone changes their body is on, nor the lives and realities that they have at home, nor the social pressures and societal norms being forced on them at this age, nor the the basic differences and understandings of the classroom that I have from the States and they have from rural Peru. These situations just require a new level of creativity and patience on my side…like sometimes jumping up and down in class, totally acknowledging how clueless I am sometimes, and trying to tell knock-knock jokes in class. But, I’m learning that if I can just get my kids to laugh a little bit in the way that means they’re paying attention to me, or if I can get them to just start writing a little bit or imagining something different…then I feel pretty good.

To be clear, they’re not all bad, nor are any of them bad in general. For example, I love it when the kids from the other classes that I don’t teach come to me asking if I could teach their class (makes me think that the gossip around Profe Jacqueline isn’t all bad as I sometimes  often dramatize it to be). Or when we’re talking about vocation and listening to the call of God or our hearts or whatever and something hilarious happens…Like the time we chatted about Simon Peter fishing unsuccessfully and Jesus tells him to throw the net to the other side of the boat to catch more fish. I asked my kids, ‘What would happen if Simon Peter hadn’t listened to Jesus?’ And one shouts out, ‘He wouldn’t have eaten ceviche that night!’ And another follows up, ‘He still could have eaten arroz con leche (a typical Peruvian plate) though!’ They’re funny and creative, I just have to slowly learn to keep up with them…which will come poco a poco in time.

Basically, I apologize and thank you for your patience, dear former instructor of mine. I apologize when I was in 3rd grade painting on other kids’ faces with watercolors, or for falling asleep in History of Classical Music in high school, or for never reading in any of my English classes except in college, or for turning in less-than-my-best Accounting Excel sheets or Theology papers, or for maybe using colorful language to describe you….I’m sorry. I now know that I shouldn’t have done that to make your life hell-ish at times. I also know now that you cared a lot more about me than I probably guessed or felt at times. Thanks for caring enough about me to keep me in the classroom, and for demonstrating to me that it’s not always remembering all the subjunctive rules or what the glasses in the Great Gatsby meant, but it’s about developing a holistic set of skills and learning more about myself and the world.

You rock. Keep giving it your best, even when your students are a pain in the arse.

Learning about solidarity on a new level,

Jacqueline

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Words of wisdom around teaching

Admittedly, teaching was a job I was hesitant to accept given my lack of experience with younger folks and desire to work with a more adult population. Let’s be real, I’m a huge advocate for access to education…which is probably why I was so adamant about not teaching. Poor souls. But, as I have started to describe my understanding of what my job will entail, I’m looking to be more of a professional friend. JVC emphasizes the importance of accompaniment, a trait that has become of utmost importance in all of my volunteer or work positions in a sense. Heck, it actually has just become a basic tenet of what I believe it means to be a good human being. If we are opening ourselves to sitting in the vulnerable honesty of our stories, our realities, our passions and our obstacles, while meeting each other with open arms, then we are creating spaces for genuine growth and community. A friend asked me yesterday, “Why is honesty so important to you?” I just replied that honesty opens ourselves to conversations with ourselves, our communities, and our beliefs in higher powers…whatever that may be. Creating an honest, open, and trusting environment will hopefully  be my goal. Yes, easier said than done…but I’m getting ready for it. This may seem like a rant, but I believe this is the only way I can enter into teaching–a job in which I have  zilch experience, zero credentials, and sweating at the idea of lesson plans or disciplinary measures. (Even just typing that is nerve-racking). I know that I am not a licensed professional at teaching, and I do not enter into Peru pretending to be one by any means–yes…even with my USA passport, degree, and white, freckled skin. Instead, I hope to emulate some of the caring traits that the educators in my life have openly shared with me. It is only in this evironment when liberation of the mind and soul happens. 

Another friend sent this to me on Facebook  and I just loved it. Of course, it’s from the FB page of Paulo Freire, a Liberation educator in Brasil, whom I adore (but really….check him out. Google him right now). Paulo–yes, first name basis–quotes Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean poet, feminist, and educator. She was also the only Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.  The English translation will follow…

DECÁLOGO DEL MAESTRO (The Teacher’s Ten Commandments)
~Gabriela Mistral

Ama, si no puedes amar mucho, no enseñes a niños.

(Love, because if you cannot love, then you cannot teach children)

Simplifica, saber es simplificar sin restar esencia.

(Simplify, because to know is to simplify without reducing the essence of the message)

Insiste, repite como la naturaleza repite las especies, hasta alcanzar la perfección.

(Insist, because repeating will then allow them to remember the information naturally)

Enseña, con intención de hermosura, porque la hermosura es madre.

(Teach, with the intention of beauty, because beauty is like a caring mother)

Maestro, sé fervoroso. Para encender lámparas has de llevar fuego en el corazón

(Dear teacher, be fervent. Because to have them learn and want to learn is to light a fire within their hearts)

Vivifica tu clase. Cada lección ha de ser viva como un ser.

(Give life to your class. Each lesson must come alive like a human.)

Cultívate, para dar, hay que tener mucho.

(Cultivate, because to give, you must have)

Acuérdate de que tu oficio no es mercancía sino que es servicio divino.

(Remember that your position is not a commodity, but rather a service of the divine)

Antes de dictar tu lección cotidiana, mira a tu corazón y ve si está puro.

(Before you conjure up your lesson plans, look into your heart to see if it is whole, pure, and present)

Piensa en que Dios te ha puesto a crear el mundo del mañana.

(Believe that God has place you here to shape the world of tomorrow)