Coping: Teaching in America

Have you ever missed someone so much it hurt?

Multiply that by about fifty. I am having major withdrawals from the beautiful, wonderful, absolutely amazing children I grew so attached to this summer. Every single day I’m reminded of them. I have a student who shares one of their names, I have a student that looks like a straight-up doppelganger of one of them. I hear phrases and see things every single day that make me wince with how much I miss my summer experience.

I know that I have to look at silver linings and the happy side of things. I had that experience, right? And it was so incredible even blogging about it didn’t fully show my true and utter euphoria during my time in Nicaragua. Why should I get stuck on the fact that I’m not there anymore?

Because I’m not there anymore.

Instead I’m in America. I’m in Cleveland, with test-score goals and No Child Left Behind. I have students in the second grade that can barely read and feel entitled to anything and everything. I have kindergarten students with XBOX360s and iPhones. I “teach” by really just evaluating and testing. I am a part of the assembly line that molds these children into test-taking shape.

I feel really cynical. I feel like I’m just doing damage. I feel like I am in no way instructed to do anything that will help foster an actual enjoyment of reading or learning. And that breaks my heart. In the 3-4 minutes I get with my second graders every day I try like hell to make some sort of connection with them, to make them enjoy their 3-4 minutes reading with me. I want to make them happy to read. I want to make reading something they choose to do, not something they stop doing when the timer goes off.

I don’t feel like I’m making a difference. I may have been misinformed, but I thought that volunteering was supposed to make a difference. I feel like the only difference I’m making is helping out the teachers- which of course is awesome because they deserve a break, but I chose this gig for the students and helping them. I don’t know what re-reading the same thing every day is going to do to help them.

In Nica, one of the ten principles we lived by daily was “It’s Not About You.” This principle basically meant that you were there for the children, not for yourself, and you had to do what was best for them, regardless of what you wanted to teach or the fact that it was hot or you were tired. Should I hang on to that now? Am I actually doing what is best for these kids? I guess if so I should shut up and deal with my discomfort, right?

Any words of advice?



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