Honestly, when I first arrived in Ecuador I had no plan of teaching English, especially not in a formal setting. During the past year I spent 3 months working as a substitute teacher at home in Indiana, and while this job enlightened me in many areas, afterward I thought I would never want to be a teacher. Surprise, surprise! My second week here a pastor asked me if I would be willing to teach English at the Methodist elementary school near my town. I hesitantly agreed, not really knowing what to expect, and being unprepared for giving classes (I don't have a degree in education!). I also was a little annoyed because everyone apparently thinks that just because you speak a language fluently means that you are qualified to teach it. Newsflash: I am a native English speaker, meaning I don't know all the complicated grammar rules. I just learned to speak naturally. Example: why do we have to put "do" in front of the verb when it becomes a question? I have no idea.
Now, here I am 9 months later, and the kiddies are finishing up their school year. Next week I have to give a final exam to my four English classes. I hope they do well. I hope that they have learned something this year. I hope that I have been a good teacher, despite the complicated pronunciation and spelling of my language. Why in the world is "height" spelled that way?? The past school year has been a learning process for me. Along the way, I have improved my discipline techniques, discovered the secret of incentives for good behavior, and tried various teaching methods to explain difficult concepts. Not all of them worked perfectly, by the way. Already I have several ideas brewing in my head about how I can structure the classes better next year. And I'm determined to have better communication with my fellow teachers.
During these two semesters of teaching, there have been frustrating moments, either because I had no idea how to get the students to understand something, or because the kids had no desire to listen. But there have also been many unexpected joys. Every day when I walk into the school, kids come up and hug me, saying "Profe!" and asking me every question under the sun about English and living in the U.S. There are also the adorable cards and pictures I have received occasionally (handmade gifts really are the best!). One day with my 7th grade class we spent the last 10 minutes of class talking about flying in an airplane. And I drew a rough map of the United States to show them where I live. Then there is the day that I took the sixth-graders to play at a nearby park (it was their reward for winning the behavior competition). We had a ball playing "capture the flag" and running around like crazy.
It gives me so much joy when a student comes up to me and says something perfectly in English. Recently I have been making the 7th graders ask me in English when they need to use the bathroom or get a drink. Practice makes perfect! Many of them say it so well now. :) And of course, every day when I walk into the room, the kids greet me with an animated "Good morning, Miss Rebecca!!", when never fails to make me smile. Maybe I'm not a perfect teacher, maybe sometimes I fail to describe with clarity ideas such as contractions or prepositions, but maybe, just maybe, these kids have learned something this year. Maybe, just maybe, they know a little bit more than before. I sincerely hope so. And I will work even harder next year to be a better teacher, navigating the complex path of my strange language for these kids who are so eager to learn it.