Growing up, many children pass through a phase where the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is responded with a confident, "I'm going to be a teacher!" However, for me, I don't remember ever really having the desire to spend my days in front of a chalkboard. This aversion to life as an educator could be due to numerous reasons. (Personally, I believe it was the result of a particularly memorable game of 'School' with my three older siblings, when I was FINALLY allowed to play the sacred position of 'Teacher', and my brothers and sister took great pleasure in taking on the form of Satan's hellions and simultaneously distinguishing any spark of interest I ever held towards the profession..)
Anyway, enough childhood trama....I've always known that teaching wasn't my vocation. As an International Studies: Human Rights major, I spent my undergraduate years studying the anthropological, political, religious, and sociological aspects of human rights around the world. With this aquired knowledge, I have grown into a firm believer that education is the most important and the very foundation of what is necessary for a country to succeed and for the rights of its citizens to be recognized. The very idea, formation, development and implementation of any progress whatsoever to occur, it all stems from the quality and availablity of education. Without this, improvement is unable to follow. I have studied this. I have researched this. I have witnessed this. I have EXPERIENCED this--all while secure in the knowledge that teaching isn't for me.
Throughout my eight weeks here, I have been hit, kicked, punched, and bitten. And those experiences have not been the most trying. What I have struggled with more than anything else has been patience: To acquire the patience to sit with a child and attempt to explain long division ( in Spanish), to have patience while teaching kids how to look up words in the dictionary, or to find the patience to explain a concept for the fifth time because a child wasn´t understanding.
There is this seven year old girl, China (pronounced Chee-nah), who I work with nearly everyday. Her mother has five children from five different men and is currently pregnant with her sixth child, so China lives with her grandmother. Due to this, China has no one to encourage her or push her to do her school work. So, at the age of 7, she is still unable to read. And not just this, she still has difficulty identifying the letters of the alphabet. The worst thing about the situation is that China attends school everyday. Each day, the education system repeatedly fails her. So I have made it a personal goal of mine to work with her to learn her letters of the alphabet and God willing, help her begin to learn to read.
Another child I work with, Joaquin, does not even attend school. I'm not sure of his entire story, but I believe that he is a Haitian refugee and does not have the proper documentation to attend school here in the Dominican Republic. Joaquin doesn't come to the Oratorio on a regular basis, but he has been around enough for me to learn that he doesn't know his letters, his numbers, or even his age. I've tried asking him numerous times, but have received answers ranging from 8 years old to 29 years old (He looks to be about 7). The other day, while playing Bingo with a few of the kids at the Oratorio ( I was dubbed the official spinner), Joaquin runs into the room, full of energy and enthusiasm. He asked to play the game with us and of course, I agree. I spun and the arrow landed on B 5. Within seconds of calling it out, Joaquin is frantically pulling on my arm, asking "Do I have it? Do I have it?" So I said to him, "Well, let's see. Where's the letter B?" Well Joaquin proceeds to point to every single NUMBER on the Bingo board. When I tried to ask him what was a letter and what was a number, he couldn't tell me...Hard to believe, right?
So now, here I am, after two entire months of spending the vast majority of my day helping with homework, teaching English, and trying to figure out exactly HOW to help with homework and teach English, I am even more certain that I am being called to another job. BUT, over these last two months, I truly know that it takes an INCREDIBLY special, amazing individual to be a teacher. Both my sisters are such amazing individuals and I have grown to be be ever so thankful for the educators of our world.
I will say this: it has been incredibly rewarding to see the results. When a student FINALLY begins to understand their homework or when a child comes running into the classroom the next day to tell me that they received a perfect score on the homework I had helped with the day before. Those moments make all the other frustrating ones seem SO worth it.