Friday, May 11, 2012

It's Still Worth It

I've been having a really tough time at work. That's pretty obvious. All my posts lately have been about trips I've gone on, because there was absolutely nothing of worth to mention about all my hours spent at the school. On a daily basis, I feel like a waste of space. An unnecessary expense. An intrusion. I sum my job up as being a CD player. A really really really expensive CD player. All I do in class is read whatever sheet the teacher hands to me when I walk into class.
This last week I learned about volcanos, Michaelangelo, sedimentary drift, and read the names of all the elements multiple times so the students could repeat them. When I hear the teacher start to interrupt, I stop. And then I space out for the next 20 minutes standing awkwardly at the front of the class, waiting for teacher to finish explaining in Spanish what I just read in English. It's such a waste of my time, and theirs. There are British women who are paid to do recordings of what I'm getting paid to do in class. And the recordings cost about 1/50th as much.

During the first couple of weeks, back in October, I was being asked to prepare classes and interact with the kids in the classroom. But after a month or two, teachers started getting too busy to have me in the classes. They had too much to do and too little time, which of course, I could understand. To a point. Being a teacher is hard work! I've only gotten a brief glimpse with my position as a teachers assistant, but after planning just one or two lessons my mind was boggled with how teachers can do that daily, for multiple classes. Then I considered that these bilingual program teachers have to teach all the material in two languages, and I could muster up a little sympathy. After all, having a class or two cancelled just meant I had an hour or two more to spend on facebook.

But now it's gotten to the point that I haven't gone to 3rd level biology since March, the social studies teacher "forgot" she had me in class last week, and there's been no math with 2nd or 3rd years for over a month due to a very complicated disparity in when the substitute teacher left and when the actual teacher came back from pregnancy leave. And then there are the times when teachers realize as the bell is ringing to start class that they forgot to mention we don't have class that day. (Keep in mind that I've had the exact same schedule since I started.) 

My co-worker and I have discussed once or twice that one of the most important aspects of a job is knowing that you have a purpose. And with this job, I absolutely do not have that feeling at all. There is so much potential, but it just never gets there. 

WITH THAT SAID. I actually started this post because of something one of my students did on Thursday. This came at the end of a very long, very bad day at work. (2 private hour classes with my least favorite teacher, and the next teacher telling me there was no time to waste on me in class....great...thanks.) 
This 2nd year is one of my favorite students. He is extremely shy, to the point where I think he has a disorder of some sort. He never volunteers in class, hates talking in front of people, and turns bright red and starts stuttering when I ask him how he's doing. A lot of the teachers use this as an excuse to dislike him, and say that he's lazy and doesn't try. But he's so sweet, and despite all this he always makes an effort to shyly say hi and ask how I am. He's one of my favorite students.

He is also truly terrible at English. The first time I heard him read a paragraph in English out loud, I was shocked. He was stumbling over words like 'it', 'an' and 'tree'. It was no wonder the rest of the class laughed at him. Then, on Thursday, I got the biggest surprise of the year when I called on him, and....his pronunciation was perfect! It was actually better than a lot of other kids who have been speaking in class all year. My jaw almost dropped. (I called on him a second time in class just to make sure it wasn't a fluke.) After class I stopped by his desk and asked him if he'd been practicing. He did his trademark flush and duck of the head, and smiled and said "...yes." I wanted to jump up and down, I was so excited for him. I've never seen somebody make that kind of improvement over the course of a couple months, especially when he made no outward signs of working towards it. 

So, after a day of feeling completely worthless and fed up my job, that was just what I needed to put it all in perspective. The government program might be messed up, the teachers might not have any idea what resource they're missing out on, but I'm here for the kids, and as long as one student gets something out of my year here, then it wasn't a waste. 


  1. What an amazing feeling, Emma! Loved this story.

    1. I agree! That's what was missing from my experience too!