Yesterday was my last day teaching at an amazing school
Four years ago
I didn’t know what I would discover when I said yes on the phone
When the principal offered me a job teaching Spanish to elementary kids.
What am I doing? I thought to myself. I told myself I’d never teach Spanish, and here I am.
I just wanted to keep Spanish hidden up my sleeve, like I did with my music.
Ready to pull out randomly when it worked in my classroom.
To wow people, maybe.
I don’t want to be the “expert” on something that I feel so self-conscious about
I wanted to have my own group of students. I would be “their” teacher. And they would be “my” kids.
Instead, I had to get to know over 300 little ones. Of all different ages. Needs, desires, histories, social problems, learning capacities.
How could less than 60 minutes per week do anything for all these kids?
For a while it was “just a job” that did bring me occasional joy. But mostly stress.
Little by little, unbeknownst to me…I was falling in love.
I’d wake up each morning energized and excited for work.
What happened? I recently asked myself.
I remember when I used to dread teaching.
There were little things about my job I loved-
Blessings in disguise:
my crazy schedule that changed every day
being next door to the teacher’s lounge so I could run to the bathroom in one minute or fill up my water, ready with a smile on my face for a stretch of five classes in a row
the staff that were so welcoming
my nice “hot” (I was always cold so works well for me!), spacious, sunny classroom.
the variety of kid problems and joys that left me speechless and never bored
the humor and challenge of trying to get a chaotic classroom of kids to line up, while another group of rowdy, sweaty or chatty kids are waiting to enter my room
the “village” feel I soon became a part of
seeing teachers so fiercely adored by children
seeing staff so dedicated to kids
Mostly, I loved learning.
Every day, I realized (again): being a teacher is scary and humbling thing.
Children will believe anything and everything I say to them.
In a foreign language room, especially, they copy EVERY thing I do and say. I make them. (Repiten…REPITEN!!! Por favor!!!!!)
So I’d better get it right.
I had to learn a lot because I found out I didn’t know very much.
I leaned where the countries in Central America and South America were (’cause I had to teach it)
Oh and I learned where Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti were located (of course I had to tell the kids where they were).
I learned what Hispanic Heritage was and why the dates are from Sept. 15 to October 15.
I learned the significance of Cinco de Mayo (a great excuse to drink).
I learned that Three Kings Day is a holiday in which the wise men come and put presents in shoes.
I learned that, for Easter, godchildren in Spain receive a gift called “Mona de Pascuas” a cake decorated with eggs, chicks and feathers.
I learned that you shouldn’t say “asi asi” when answering the question ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?) because it’s a made up word that literally means “so so” but is never used by native Spanish speakers. Instead, they say “más o menos.”
I learned that my Minnesota accent comes out really bad when I get tired and lazy. I have to stop and really force myself to roll my “r”s.
I learned what really happened when the Spanish came and conquered the ancient Aztecs, Mayan and Inca.
I learned that I want to travel more after talking to my kids about countries.
I learned how to delicately talk about war with students. (After teaching a lesson on Mexican Independence Day—of course trying not to stress the war at all, but the cultural significance—a little boy came up and whispered to me with big, round passionate eyes, “Srta. Bettger, I know how Mexico won! Jesus helped them!” What do you say to that?)
I learned how NOT to make sugar skulls. My first batch turned into flat cookie-like ghosts.
I learned how to turn on and use an iPad (this year our school piloted a 1 to 1 iPad program). At first I struggled against it. I cried a lot and wanted to throw it out the window.
Over time, I learned how to use QR codes and had a heyday with it. The kids would scan these codes, which linked them to the vocab word (a video I made). It was a little freaky hearing my voice coming out of 20 iPads at the same time though.
Then, I learned how to create using an iPad. I had a lot of fun making slide shows on Haiku Deck and scrappy pages with Pic Collage.
Today I had to hand in my iPad. I had gradually weaned myself off of it this past month. So it wasn’t too bad. It was fun while it lasted and, who knows, maybe I’ll eventually get one again at my new building.
I greatly enjoyed my time at this incredible school.
Change is hard for everyone, but for some reason I have always struggled with it.
For now, I will cling to all these wonderful things I’ve learned.
I will think fondly of the hundreds of people (both large and small) that have crossed my path. Sometimes I feel so unworthy of having a job of “teacher” to so many.
Just like in the past, I am now am incredibly richer person.
As ambivalent as I feel, I could not be more grateful for what I’ve been through.