Whoever coined the phrase, “Never say Never”? Google tells me this phrase was first recorded in Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, 1837.
Still, have a beer on me, and pass on the check! I am a living testimony of my contradictions!
Once upon a moon, I said, I will never teach elementary school! Did I tell you that, already? Well, I was comfortable with my college, graduate school and adult students. I did not even want to try High School; I imagined all those kids would not take me seriously, ‘hit’ on me or play foolery with me. I imagine them trying to give me a run for my investment in their learning. I did not want to test humiliation.
I swore off Elementary School, as well; I wanted no more responsibility with little ones ever again! Don’t get me wrong, I grew up around little children and did a ton of babysitting for my family. As the last-born girl in my family, I was still young when my siblings had babies. Being a socio-culturally grounded girl, I did not have the luxury of saying no to babysitting for my family. I invested fully in my little nieces and nephews. Yes! I cried whenever my niece cried, played with those little munchkins, and entertained them lavishly. I had my fair share of ‘babysitting’, to blissful satisfaction, never again clamored or desired!
Well, that was before I birthed my own, and all the sworn off ’No more babysitting’ flew right out through the window! As a parent, I embraced my new responsibilities as smoothly as I did for my siblings. I learned anew the meaning of taking care of children, more than I did before. Soon I realized that, while I could bail out on my siblings, I did not have the same with my own. Fortunately, the experience raising my child stimulated my eagerness to learn more about Early Childhood and Elementary Education. It sparked my interest in entering the classrooms to learn how children learn, and to augment my own knowledge and expertise.
Recently, I began teaching in the Elementary School Classrooms in my school district. I started out with pre-K, K and Special Needs classrooms, and have since upgraded to higher levels. I am really enjoying the experience as “Commander in Chief” of an elementary school classroom. I have since gained a new-found appreciation for teachers, teaching and young learners.
Last week was my first experience as a Sole Substitute Teacher in 4th Grade. All my full fears and anxieties were put to rest, because the kids were not as terrible as I had imagined; they were just being kids. I am thankful for the experience of parenting my son, because it has given me a lot of perseverance, education and new perspective on children’s education and development.
As a Substitute Teacher, I had to follow the class teacher’s schedule. Still, I found an opportunity to engage the kids in learning about myself. I was excited to find kids open and friendly to their ’strange teacher’, especially in our America of “Do not Smile with Strangers”. One of the kids told me she is on the same school bus with my son, and had seen me at the bus stop. The other kid said his brother was my son’s best friend in Kindergarten! Awesomeness!
To break the ice, I asked them, if they could guess where I was from? Many guessed all the countries associated with majority black immigrants to the United States: Caribbean, Jamaica, Trinidad, Cuba, Africa, and surprisingly Kenya and South Africa.
When I asked them if they thought I was from London, almost everyone said “No”. Why? “You have an accent?” So, I asked, “Do you think people in America have an accent?”, Some said no. Then I asked, “Do people from Pennsylvania speak the same as people from New York or Georgia, Tennessee or California? Then they began to engage with the question about “accents”, acknowledged that even Americans have accents, and different parts of America have different accents. One said, “People in Tennessee speak like country.”
I told them I was from Uganda, but literally none had heard of Uganda. Except one girl who said, she watched on Disney TV show called “Jessie”, with a character from Uganda. The one who guessed Kenya said, it was because President Obama’s father was from Kenya. [Impressive!]
I then asked, if any had parents born outside the United States, which was easier understood than asking them, “who had foreign-born parents]. A couple of hands went up, with parents from: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, Albania, and two Africa. While everyone else said the specific countries where their foreign-born parents came from, the ones with “African parentage” did not have a clue about the specific countries! When probed further, they didn’t seem to have taken an interest in finding out their parent(s) country of origin! I gave the kids a lesson that Africa is a big continent with more than 50 countries, just like the 50 united states, a shocker to many!
Overall, it was a great classroom experience! I managed an entire day with 4th graders with no major incidents. They were eager to help, some more than others, and eager to learn and participate in classroom activities. They were just young kids, like my six year old. They helped with the schedule, especially classroom recess and play activities. I even had the chance of engaging in more responsibilities outside the classroom, including managing the kids at fire drill and taking them to gym class. Let’s do it again!