To teach: to share knowledge and gain wisdom
With two months of working as a language assistant, I have done a fair deal of teaching but a whole lot more of learning. Working with the younger students (those in primary schools) I have witnessed numerous differences than the education that I received - including the fact that all students, no matter their academic level, are mixed in every class. From what I have heard and seen, the separation of comprehension levels doesn’t occur until secondary school (7th grade). So, while certain students in a classroom may have a high grasp of English and even their other subjects there are just as many (if not more) students who struggle, even with the subjects being taught in their native language. It poses challenges for students and teachers alike but can also be used as a great opportunity for leadership and growth among all the students.
A present from one of the 2nd grade students that I work with - a “Spanish-English dictionary” of words.
Working primarily with the second graders, I see how, even at the young age of 6 or 7, several students who have higher comprehension levels take the time to work with those who struggle to grasp the concepts being taught. There are several students who are truly behind that I have been asked to specifically engage during classroom “assembly” (where we gather and do the daily routines of discussing what day it is, what the weather is like, asking questions to allow the students to practice sharing information about themselves, and reviewing the topics from the units we are studying). After trying to specifically engage several of these students by asking questions of him or her each day, one student in particular clearly began to rebel. When asked his favorite animal, his response (in Spanish) was “tu madre”, or “your mom” in English. Several of the boys in the class snickered but I, for one, was less than impressed. Rather than get upset with him (as is often tempting to do), I came up with a different plan. Now, I ask one student a question and then have that student answer and then ask another student the same question. I’m finding that this is a better received method for those students who are struggling to not feel like they are being “called out” in front of their peers and for those who have a stronger understanding I can allow them the freedom to think of different questions to ask after they have responded.
With so many students, all at such different levels, it is easy to see how one could get frustrated - especially when students are talking and appear to not be listening, or when they are acting out in class - but when you realize that the student talking to the boy next to him is explaining what the activity is or that the girl who isn’t even trying is so exhausted that she’s fallen asleep in class and seems to have some problems taking place at home or that the “trouble-maker” has taken the time to make you a present and really does work hard when someone takes the time to help him, all of those moments make you want to try just a little harder, to be a little more patient, and show a little more affection to the ones you sometimes think you could strangle (but not really!).
I am continually being challenged and offered the chance to grow as a teacher and as an individual, with every passing day. And when I’m tired of trying to get all the students engaged in an activity after break (when it is often a time of total chaos) or repeating the same grammar explanation again for the 17th time in a class period, I look up and I smile (even if it’s an exasperated smile) because I have the chance to teach and to learn, to love and to instruct. There are so many blessings that come from teaching children; and even if these students never learn that “it has” but “they haven’t”, I hope that they learn that they are capable of greatness and that they can accomplish more than they think.