Helping Students Soar
Erin, a WorldTeach Guyana volunteer, reflects back on her first term as a teacher. She takes a look at the highs and lows in her personal and academic lives and realizes that the best part of being a teacher is watching her students succeed.
As the weeks have progressed, my experience got better and better. I began getting to know the kids and began to learn about their lives outside of the school compound. While giving a quiz to one of my 10th grade classes early in the term I told them to turn over their paper and write me a note, story, or ask me a question when they’d finished. I promised to respond. One boy, Kevin, chose to ask me about my views on evolution. There is a large population of missionaries in and around Port Kaituma. What I’ve noticed is that they have ingrained in many of the people that evolution is entirely inconsistent with divine creation. Sharing my views on this topic with my students has certainly opened the door for many interesting conversations. I’ve also begun corresponding with two of my students via “note” – so high school. At least twice a day Zorina and Ronaldo will drop by the staffroom to deliver me a new note notes telling me about how they are feeling about the school day and how they spent the weekend. I also became responsible for a new class – 11A. These students are in their last year of secondary school and they are preparing to write the CXC exam at the end of second term. I adore my class. In large part, this class has been responsible for making my transition from “white teacher” to “Miss Erin” successful. Part of Guyanese culture is to assign a callname (better known as a nickname to those of us from the USA); my 11thgraders now call me “Goldie Locks” because my “hair looks gold-ish in the sunshine.” Most of the joy I gather from working at PKSS does not come as a result of actually standing in front of the classroom and teaching, but rather as a result of getting to know my kids and spending time laughing, joking, and talking with them outside the classroom.
That isn’t to say that I don’t gather joy from teaching. While learning to manage large classes and figuring out how to make lessons applicable to people with a wide-range of base-level knowledge, I’ve experienced many frustrations. For a while I was sure that I’d be failing the entire 9th grade in Maths solely because their previous teachers had not taught them the 7th and 8th grade curriculum. By questioning the kids and evaluating them pretty exhaustively I finally have a clue about how to adequately teach them over the next two terms. While many of the students did struggle this term, I’m hoping that they’re getting used to my teaching style, my getting used to their learning style, and determining the base-knowledge level for each class will help us move forward more successfully. My Human and Social Biology classes have been infinitely less frustrating to teach. This is likely because I feel more comfortable with scientific material that mathematics. I demand a lot of these kids from weekly quizzes to projects and my 10th and 11th graders definitely stepped up to the challenge this term. Many of them tell me that I am their hardest teacher, but also their best (that is flattering!). While marking end of term exams and calculating final grades I was elated to find one student, Rod (or Roddy, as I call him), who passed my class with 100.1%. I felt like I’d accomplished something even though it wasn’t a grade I’d earned. With a smile on my face I walked down the hall to find him and share the news. Sharing in students’ achievements is easily my favorite part of being a teacher.