Monday, April 4, 2011

Why I became a teacher

More than a few years ago, as I finished high school and had to move on to the next level, my mind went blank when it came to choosing a profession. The only thing that I knew for sure was that I had no clue about it. So my dad chose for me, allegedly I was good at languages so International Business seemed like a way to start. My college years went not too bad, after all I did get my degree.  
One day I got an offer from a friend, she was a board trustee at a school. They needed a girl who like me, spoke a foreign language, to sort of help around the school and teach some Spanish words here and there. 
At the beginning I wasn't so thrilled about it, in my perception teaching kids wasn't even a real job, the adult world was where the real action took place; but it was something to do after all, so I said yes. 

The very first day I landed in Joan's room, the kinder garden teacher. I was supposed to be an assistant, but a few minutes after meeting her, I became her student. She must've been in her late fifties by that time and she had way more energy than me. At my early twenties I couldn't keep up to her pace. There was this magic halo around her all the time, and nobody would've been too surprised of spotting a fairy sitting on her shoulder. At her class she would speak softly, provide all kinds of options and ideas to create a kind and warm atmosphere, teach children love and respect. I was mesmerized. 
I was given a schedule to go around the school giving little lessons, but it was hard and painful for an unexperienced outsider like me. The whole experience would've driven me away from the schools world if it hadn't been for her and her positive attitude towards everything. Kids were under a spell with her, the routine included signals (that the children would make up) to ask for more juice, or crackers during the snack and lunch times. While she read stories in a fascinating way, everybody -this former assistant included- would eat and be as attentive as possible not to miss a word. 

Back then, when I was learning from her example, I never had the chance to thank her; in fact it was only after some time, I came to realize how that year actually changed me, as I discovered one of many purposes my life has had.

Thank you Joan, wherever you are. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

guilt and discipline

Last night we left the house to take a walk. We headed to a nice parade recently built along a riverbank, it is a really nice place, not too crowded, lots of plants, bike lanes, the weather was just right. The one thing we didn't consider was that the parking lot of this dream is across the street from the movie theater we regularly go to.  Little gardener reluctantly climbed on her ride, she wanted to go to the movies instead, we said we would, at the end of our walk (and we meant it). We made it almost to the end of our plan, little gardener was now pushing her wheels to the exit but at some point her patience ended. She started whining and complaining "I'm too tired, let's go to the movies, I want popcorn"; she had done well at walking so we headed to the theater, it was packed (all right, we promised). One more hour until the next show (ok, we'll do grocery shopping tomorrow). We hadn't had any supper yet (decisions, decisions), let's go have dinner and come back for the next show... And hell unleashed... we dragged her out in tears, no explanation would comfort her, promises of steak and broccoli  (her favorite combo) did nothing. She yelled all the way to the restaurant, when we parked many heads turned our way (I'm sure it sounded like child slaughter) then my patience came to its limit. I smacked her cute bottom once, gave my disappointment speech and some of my famous "we can always go home if you are not ready to behave" and we were ready to sit and eat. 
Luckily our food was before us in no time, and... she ate the whole thing... voraciously. And then (gulp) she fell sound sleep. Yes, guilt, lots of it. Little gardener was cranky and hungry after all, not throwing a tantrum. 

This mom could definitely use a cup of coffee to wash this down.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The inner empty space

The one that opens up the moment you have a child. Never again your life belongs to you, just like you owned your folk's for a few years and even now occasionally when you declare broke or incapable of dealing with your marriage (random examples only...) :P
Some days that space will fill up to the brim with goodness (kid learns to spell his/her name) and some others the space will be cold, dark and even scary. Today is one of those days, I can't wait for my daughter to walk. She loves gardens and plants, specially her bugambilia - this beauty on the left (it bloomed this year thanks only to my little personal gardener). And would happily crawl her way around our tiny yard to visit every little green patch that has survived to my nasty hands. So I can't wait for her to walk. We do physical therapy everyday with her since she was 1 year old and started noticing she was not crawling yet. We've seen so many doctors with so many different prognosis; she shows improvement but it takes time, a long time to notice the small changes taking place.

The husband's attitude toward the whole thing makes me turn green with envy, he deals with it. That's it. No drama, doubts, nor fear, jeez... Me? this dark pit in the middle of my chest threatens to eat me up.

We have had all kinds of help, our parents, therapists (they rock), the school nanny, our friends and families. I love them all for loving us so much and being always around when we need it. Suddenly the empty space feels a little less empty.

We grown ups...

I work at a private school - that are very common here in my country where public education depends on how lucky you might be not to get a tipsy teacher - or worse one related to a teacher's union member.
All in all, it's a pretty cool place to work, lots of fun, short hours, and my favorite part is when our graduates come back to visit (they leave at the end of grade 6th) and they already grew cute pimply faces and manes; they call us friends, chit chat about their crowd, who is dating who (and who, and who, and guess who too!) and complain about their new teachers and how much they miss us, lovely lip service.
I love my job, keeps me busy and sharp (life is never dull in my neck of the woods). Nothing makes more awake in the morning that parent's note about how disappointing is that their lovely and unique offspring has to be in the same classroom than a teacher's kid. (¿?)
It's been a few years since I stopped teaching and switched to a management position. I truly respect and admire young teachers, it is not an easy job as many outsiders assume (I used to be one and it is easy to underestimate the level of attention and amount of energy needed to work with children) that requires that people who teach actually care for their students.
Specially now that -in my opinion- so many boys and girls grow up with no siblings around, no parents around, no grand-parents, aunts, uncles, cousins around them; just the school. And we as school members face a scary challenge with this! We will never be able to take over the parents role (and on top, they won't let us, of course, it's their children) but how can a decent teacher ignore a neglected child, a low esteem student who has no help at home, an aggressive kid that knows no discipline but is clearly asking for someone to care and set the rules of the game.
These are complicated times for the families, we as parents aim so high: economically, socially, in our careers, that the parenting role falls from the top of the list. I've argued so many times about this subject when people women tell me "but I went through college to do this" or "I have the right to have my own life"; that I can't deny but... who forced us into parenthood?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why guilt and coffee?

As a mom I often feel that tiny gut feeling that says I'm not doing it right. No matter the subject. From feeding the family to teaching manners or keeping a tidy and organized home. Usually the automatic response is to jump up, same as with coffee in the morning (and noon and midnight).

I am a regular mom with irregular tasks: I educate other people's kids (sometimes I have to start with the parents), I struggle against my daughter's stubborn leg and I love and live with a musician guy that comes home late at night dragging his back and drumset.

Oh well... who can be called regular this day uh?