Monday, June 2, 2008

No More Classes, No More Books...


I survived my first year of teaching overseas, which reminded me a lot of my very first year teaching.  Both of the years were filled with stress, confusion, many sleepless nights, and many new discoveries.   

Actually, I think that this year of overseas teaching was more difficult than the first time I stepped into a classroom, fresh out of college and completely clueless.  That very first year there was a good reason for my confusion and countless mistakes, I didn't know teaching would be any different.  I didn't know that the many things that seemed impossible at the time, I would develop strategies to work through, that they would become easier.  Ignorance was in fact bliss.  

I went into overseas teaching thinking I had some experience under my belt that would transfer over.  But nothing could really prepare me for the drastic changes teaching at a school that  only has 200 students for grades nursery to 12th grade.  Instead of preparing for one class, and having the opportunity to perfect that lesson because I was going to be teaching it seven times, I prepared for five different classes from 6th grade to 12th grade.  And I only had one shot at getting each lesson right.  Also, even though I was feeling the same stress as a first year teacher, I had the memory of a teacher who has taught a few years and has figured out some necessary stress-reducing strategies.  Except, none of the strategies I had gathered seemed to work in my classrooms this time of year.  I constantly felt like a first year teacher who knew she should, and was capable of, being better.  The memory of being more "together" as a teacher was frustrating.  

But, just like that first adventure in teaching, the year ended on a high note, leaving me excited and full of plans for my second year.  I attended my first graduation ceremonies for my students.  One was for my eighth grade students, who were "graduating" into high school.  I had the pleasure of saying a few words at the promotion ceremony for the ten students who kept me laughing, thinking, and learning throughout the past year.  I'm sure I wowed the crowd with my poetic reading of Dr. Seuss.  I'm telling you, the only wisdom you will ever need comes from this man.

The second ceremony was the graduation of the seniors.  This shindig was definitely the fanciest I have ever been to, especially thinking back to my own graduation.   My invitation stated that I was also invited to the graduation dinner and that formal attire was expected.  Well, I wore the only dress I brought to Ecuador and definitely looked a bit out of place amidst all of the ballgowns.  The hour before the ceremony was like watching the red carpet of all graduations.  I had a great time oohing and ahhing along with one of my sixth grade students.  

The evening started at 7:00, with the dinner following the brief graduation ceremony of the 14 seniors from InterAmerican.  I left at 11:00, soon after dessert was served, but one of my middle school students told me that his family left at 4:00 in the morning.    The dinner included an introduction dance with the seniors and their parents, toasts, speeches, and picture presentations.  I heard that the evening ended with acrobat performers, bands, and revelers.  They really do know how to celebrate in this country!

Another highlight from this year was "field trip extravaganza."  The last week of school, while the high school students were sweating over their finals, I chaperoned four field trips in five days for the middle school.  It is amazing that I survived the week, and am able to still form words and express thought.  Even though the week was exhausting and at times seemed never-ending, it was also a lot of fun to spend time with the kids outside of the classroom.  They always seem so shocked to realize that their teachers can have fun too.  

Our week o' field trips included:
*Bowling--I used some skills that were last seen during the Kevin, Gordo, and Gimpy days.
*Movie--Iron Man, with the movie commentary of 40 middle school students, is pretty entertaining.
*Field day--The highlight had to be watching the pre-k students trying to win a tug-of-war game with the kinder class.  Hilarious.
*San Pablo--Best.  Day.  Ever.  The kids spent an entire day at the village helping to set up the community center, planting trees, and making the playground a little brighter.  It was wonderful to share one of my new-found passions with the kids and to see them get excited about service.  
*Water Park--I couldn't let on to my sixth grade students that I was scared spitless of some of the water slides.  There were many times I wanted to turn back down the stairs and return to solid ground, but when you have the majority of your class lining the edge of the pool waiting to see you sail down and fly into the water, you aren't left with much choice but to buck up and ride. 

The last day of school was a half-day with the students, complete with an awards ceremony and a middle school/high school round of jeopardy, and a catered lunch for the staff.  Even though I had to say goodbye to a lot of new friends on Friday, such is the life of an overseas teacher, I also got to celebrate the fact that I survived, I succeeded, and summer is finally here!