Sunday, January 23, 2011

Teaching Reflections

I am looking into online grad schools for getting my teaching certification... here's a little essay I wrote (I had to do it within a time window, so it's kinda first-draft quality!) that is a summary of my feelings about the past year and a half choosing to teach full time here in Honduras. Enjoy and let me know what you think! :)

Challenge: My first year of teaching

All my adult life, I have been told that I would make a good teacher. I have enjoyed one-on-one tutoring positions and the satisfaction of seeing my clients succeed, and I helped manage a community-based adult education program for almost 3 years before taking the plunge. I knew that being in the classroom energized me, but I had to ask myself several hard questions: Did I really want to do it full time? Did I have the energy and the perseverance to get past tough and frustrating moments? Teaching adults was great, but could I handle a classroom full of young people? In order to find out, I had to challenge myself to take the first step.

Since I did not have a teaching certificate in the United States, I could not get a full-time teaching position at a public school in my area. I decided that a good way to see if teaching was right for me was to teach internationally at a private school that did not require certification, but would be just as challenging and a great learning experience. I loved working with the Latin-American immigrants at my previous position in adult education, I have always loved traveling in Latin America, and maintaining my Spanish skills was one of my top priorities. I also knew I had worked hard to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Geology and didn’t want my science knowledge to go to waste. Based on these criteria, I chose a position in Honduras, teaching high school science at a bilingual school.

One of my first major challenges was jumping in without the advantage of the preparation weeks that my colleagues had. I was hired late in the game and a week of school had already passed when I got down to Central America and showed up for my first day. I spent the first day getting to know the students but I knew that it would take a lot of evening and weekend work to get me caught up to where I wanted to be. As it turned out, I had a lot of subjects to brush up on before I could feel confident teaching them to others. I developed strategies for summarizing, idea mapping, and multi-media teaching techniques to make sure my students and I got the most important information out of each unit. Luckily, I was working with a group of highly motivated new teachers. We all helped each other out with marathon planning and grading sessions, always brainstorming ideas and ways to improve.

Now I am half-way through my second year of teaching at the same school, and all my hard work and dedication last year has been paying off. I still work many evenings and weekends, but I am reaping the benefits of the solid base I gave myself last year. This year, I have been determined not to “take it easy” by simply repeating everything I did last year, but rather I am continually looking for ways to improve or enhance my lessons with video clips, educational raps, experiments, and cross-curricular projects and debates.

Being a teacher takes a lot of perseverance, and there have definitely been challenges such as dealing with students who cheat or who are disruptive, or dealing with administrative policies that are less than supportive. Many times I have chosen to focus on my accomplishments rather than the things that could bring down my morale in order to continue showing students my dedication to them and to their learning. I have made the decision to be an inspiration to my students whenever I can and look for opportunities to keep them motivated. By testing myself in this environment, I have learned a lot about myself and how to work with young people, and I am ready to move towards the next step of teacher certification.