"The greatest oppression is to those that don't truly know they are not free."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

To Teach

Since I was either 5 or 7 years old, I thought to myself, If I don't become a zoo keeper, I think I shall be a teacher.

I began working as an ESL tutor at age 9. Special ed tutor at age 13. Nanny at age 16. Literacy clinician at age 18. SAT tutor at age 19. TESL certified at age 22.

I enjoyed every one of my teaching jobs and was good at it.

Yet, upon graduation from college, I was still not convinced of my career choice. I flirted with the idea of going back to school as an architect. It might have worked out...

But then I came to Africa.

And within one week, it all became clear. I must teach. It's too late. I am already a teacher. Nothing else feels quite as right.

Even in our mock teach-backs during O-week before we started teaching in the schools, every lesson I was able to teach I wanted to make my students (mock or not) think about things they might not have thought about before. And through thinking draw conclusions they might not have realized before. I love to learn from them as they learn from me. I love to present ideas, discuss, think, analyze, problem-solve, learn. And I love making my students love to learn too.

Being in front of a class room is one of the most comfortable places in the world to me. It's my work. I can get to know each face day after day and attach it to a personality. There are the know-it-alls, there are the ones who don't know it all but try really hard. There are the "I-could-care-less" kids. There are the kids that avoid eye-contact at all costs lest they be called on in class. But all those labels slip away when you interact one on one. Curiosity and thought exists in every student, regardless of their reputation or confidence level. I like to find that well of learning and help draw it out.

Outside of class, I teach literacy one-on-one to Farajah who has struggled with reading for several years now. To teach Farajah requires that you not get sucked into the sob-story of an orphan who misses his mom. And that is the hardest part. To teach Farajah requires you to know how to wrestle a goofy and work-eschewing kid. To teach Farajah requires patience above all else. To teach Farajah requires you to know how to make him believe he can do something before you're even sure if he can do it or not yourself. Knowledge of literacy curriculum is the last, not least but certainly NOT most important, requirement to teach Farajah.

Mama Jessica and I teared up a little while Farajah bounced beaming and shouting from room to room upon successfully reading his first ever one-page story all by himself. Farajah can read. =)

I think when you find that occupation where you don't ever really feel like you're working that hard, where everyone tells you you are great at your job, where you learn new things every day, where every day feels worthwhile, where you know part of what you did will last forever in someone else's life...I think then you've found out just what you were meant to do.

And so, I must teach.


  1. Jo,

    Awesome! You have captured the thrill of being a teacher and discovered you are one! Congratulations.

    grandpa gary (another teacher)