If I count the number of days of my life where I could call myself a teacher, they would be very few and I certainly don’t claim expertise as one. The ratio of my days as a student to days as a teacher is definitely skewed. But, as cheesy as it sounds, never in my life have I wanted so much to inspire real learning and yet at the same time, I feel I have an equal and daily desire to just bop kids in the face and tell them to be quiet and listen. It’s like every experience of my past where I wasn’t fully listening or paying attention out of sheer laziness and subsequently caused a teacher to have to explain something a second, fourth or hundredth time to me just so I could get it has come flooding back out of the depths of my memory with sobering clarity.
As obvious as this is, still, it is just so very different being on this side of the teacher’s desk. I want so badly for my students to listen and to learn and to understand. Not even from some purely idealistic, happy and perfect place, but from a very real and sometimes selfish part of me that just wants the day to go smoother. I wish I could say that on the best days, I’m just the director of a highly skilled orchestra where I’m just the guy in tails waiving the little stick while the real artists take center stage. Truthfully though, most days it’s really more like a circus gone wrong. Not that it’s always absolute chaos, but the whole charade is just exhausting day-to-day.
On a great day, I get to be a part of the magic and witness something great happen. Like when it clicked for my precious first graders that a sentence needs both a subject and a predicate or when my darling fourth graders put together full sentences about the weather instead of just using one word responses. Or when they write little notes to me on their papers hoping my foot is better and draw pictures of stick figures on crutches, that’s pretty precious too.
I can’t explain the details of how that takes place because in those moments, it’s not me that’s doing the real work, it’s them. And while they don’t see the reward or even the point of learning a second language, for me, it’s really inspiring and just encourages me to always keep trying for them. However, that’s not to say it doesn’t involve a whole lot of waving my arms around and slight screaming to be heard, ridiculous whiteboard drawings and me repeating myself until I couldn’t possibly speak slower– all in a desperate effort to get the students to hear me and listen to what I am actually saying.
Note: I think my time in Italy has prepared me well as my students have hilariously resorted to asking my Korean co-teachers what my hand movements mean when I’m explaining something or when I’m super frustrated with them. I mean, i gesti! Non si parla senza muovere le mani! On the bright side, I may have a real shot as a mime for my next career.