Under-expected Achievement – One year Teaching K-12, and Counting!

Thankful for my social media network, my anniversary teaching K-12 in my public school district would have passed me by! Without my social network, I would most likely have made no fussy attention to my anniversary. After all, I have worked in other places without ever being vigilant or celebrated an anniversary.

Thankfully, my LinkedIn network sent me congratulatory messages. Initially, I assumed the congrats were for my seven-year and counting, crippling social philanthropy. Not until I logged into my LinkedIn profile, and realized that March 2015 is when I started working.

Even after finding out the cause of the hullaballoo about my anniversary from among my social network, I did not get too excited; I wonder why? Well, “It is just teaching,” I said to myself.

“Plus, it is not a job I set out going to school for. Nor does it pay me any living wage to excite me,” my next thoughts.

But congrats messages continued trickling in, prompting me to reflect on this achievement. Perhaps the fact that other people are celebrating me more than I was, should have signaled to me, why I should treasure this achievement? After all, I am enjoying teaching K-12! True, I never set out to be a K-12 teacher, do not have an Education degree or full teaching license.

I am a Substitute Teacher [not yet permanently] employed with the public school system. I am one of the many teachers, recruited to fill-in, per need, for any homeroom teacher, or academic/professional school activity. I am one of the many convenient hires, increasingly a feature of the public school system, as in many other employment establishments, when the government does not want to offer a living wage to all its employability people. Like corporates, government is now seeking cheap available labor to do its difficult, dirty and dangerous jobs, without much financial responsibility or optimal workers welfare/compensation/protection.

That teaching is a difficult job is indisputable. It is also technically dirty and dangerous; those whom the teacher tries to protect might get one dirty. Indeed, working with children is not for the faint-hearted; they are as adorable as they are challenging. I often say, a teacher carries the entire world on his/her shoulders —of students, their parents, school administration, school supervisors, lawmakers, school budget dispensers, and the entire public, all invested in school output, more than input.

I confess that I had under-expected my achievement teaching K-12. Indeed, it is a big feat! This, from a girl who had sworn never to teach “little kids,” preferring instead, to stick to college and graduate-level students, “more mature and manageable,” or so I had convinced myself. Venturing into teaching K-12 was a path of transition back into the world of work, and because of my changed resume, which now primarily reads, “A Mother.”

I decided to venture into teaching K-12, to gain a deeper practical insight into the school curriculum and school system at the lower levels/early stages of formal education. Particularly because I did not obtain my earlier education in here in the United States, my new country of belonging. The educator in me is always curious about systems of learning I am not familiar with. I would like to be a great help to my child, an elementary schooler, as well as my new-found love for working with children, especially since becoming a parent.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not new to teaching young learners. As one of the last-born children in my family, I grew up with plenty of nieces and nephews, whom I played with, helped take care of, and equipped them with the “Children’s experience.” I enjoy hanging out with children, keeping them occupied, learning through giggling.

I enjoy the innocence of kids. I enjoy learning through them. I enjoy utilizing the lessons I learn from my child into my classrooms. Yes, Minecraft is an acceptable citation, when explaining logical, technical activities, or very brevity and resilience like the “Enderman.” So, are Dinosaurs perfect for illustrating how old one’s grandparent might be. And when you need to encourage young learners to “try something it might tastes or turn out good,” or that, “when you wait, you can play, sing or imagine anything,” Daniel Tiger is a perfect to quote.

So, to all those, like me, who venture into teaching, go out there, and courageously engage with young learners. They have so much to teach us, about ourselves, about our abilities, and about our own parenting. I am so glad that, I also get a chance to teach in Special Needs classrooms, engaging with autistic children, emotional support, gifted, learning, and reading support, life skills, partial hospitalization, and early intervention. I am grateful for the opportunity and a challenge, that came to me as an under-expected achievement!

Aluta Continua!

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT AMERICA

I have been writing this piece for over a month now; both in my head and on my laptop!
why I love America

I really should get it off the laptop and out-to-print because everyday, I find another reason to add to my initial intent of writing this piece on What I love About America.

Trust me, I will be the first to admit that I don’t take so kindly to that “American Exceptionalism” hullabaloo. I growled all throughout Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s so Great About America (2012), yet I read it till the end. Nothing against this Mumbia, Indian-born naturalized American; I simply could not take down easily his blind ululations of America, louder than the natives. The fact that he celebrates some of America’s bigotry against its own populations; blaming African Americans for passing off racism as Black cultural problem; and endorsing a war against muslim populations in America and around the globe, did not sit too comfortably with me. Nor that old tired cliché of America, “the freest, greatest, most decent society in the world…an oasis of goodness in a desert of cynicism and barbarism” . C’mon! Give me a break on that as well!

But to hell with D’Souzza! True, I am an immigrant just like him. Yet, I have my own humble significant way of confessing the love I have for this country, without going overboard with labeling all other oases out there as barbaric. There is beauty in many places…even in the dry desert -there is an oasis!
Here are a couple of things  that particularly stand out for me, and give me cause to celebrate this, my country by immigration, from my country of birth – Uganda
1. As an avid runner, I can do so along the highways [well that was until I got ‘accosted by a traffic cop] and street roads, without a fear that a motorist would run me over. And while listening to music plugged into my ears. Granted, there are a couple of obnoxious drivers who would not move into the middle lane to let you navigate on the “barely-there” side walk/runs. Though, I often excuse those as perhaps absent-minded drivers or just not that into runners
2. As a food-conscious/health-conscious, I love having plenty of options of non-meat products, non-wheat products and non-diary, all consciously prepared and packaged. True, perhaps that this is possible in Uganda, but the invasion of foreign consumption is killing all things healthy about eating in Uganda. Monsanto is spreading its GMO seed deep into the rural-most farming areas of the country, thanks to “researchers eager for “The green Benjamins at the top academic institutions in the country”. And now healthy eating is as expensive as it is here in America. I would not be able to get almond milk, either!
3. The opportunity for Free K-12 Education, however abysmal it might fare in comparison to other industrialized countries. I love the interactive, open and explorative nature of learning here in America. I hope the new Dept of Ed strategic plans do not kill America’s experimental learning style, in the name of competing with other industrialized countries. Clearly, rote learning and standardized testing is NOT all there is about learning.
4. The availability of free wi-fi everywhere, including on Greyhound! I found out recently while traveling on the “GoTo Bus”[a franchise of Greyhound, maybe?] from Boston to New York that I do not fade away if I step away from my reliable internet connection. I was connected till my final destination.
5. The “every excuse to have a BIG Sale each month”: January is New Years; February is Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day; March is St Patrick’s Day; April is Easter Eggs and Bunny Rabbit; May is Mothers Day and Memorial Day; June is Fathers Day; July is July 4th; August is Back to School Weekend; September is Labor Day; October is Halloween; November is Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Weekend; and December Christmas. I know “Sale” sounds so cliché and consumerist….but as long as I can get 60% off $200.00 Calvin Klein boots, with a $25 coupon for $50 or more spent, I will take it!
6. For the endless festivities, each celebrated in a style that gives one a true sense of what it means to belong to a nation (July 4), a culture (Thanksgiving) or a legend (Halloween). Until I became a mother of a little America, I never fully appreciated the joy of taking a toddler in a “Captain America” suit, on a trick-or-treat around the neighborhood with other kids picking up candy door-to-door that he did not even, once ask for the morning after!
7. For the spirit of voluntarism and giving that brings people together, reaching out to strangers far and near, whether serving up meals at soup kitchens, bake sales fundraisers for a child’s school library project, running for cancer or just lining the streets to show love and appreciation for the veterans.
8. The migration of cultures into this geographical space from different backgrounds, each fusing their identity with the American experience, while retaining and celebrating each one’s origin. We enjoy being proved wrong about the “melting pot” concept.
9. The “Fast-lane” American life. Everything can be picked up quick: Get rich quick, drive-through pharmacy, drive-through movie, drive-through food, drive-through liquor, drive through all and everything. Now, you can sit comfortably at your home computer, order on-line, and pick up at your neighborhood store, without getting troubled with searching in-store. Did I say, America invented “home delivery too”?
10. Oh! Did I mention the celebreality of America? Anybody can become a celebrity tomorrow, in this country, with no hereditary kings and queens. They are made on TV. Even the dull and dumb can have a TV show…and make plenty of money from it. While this might sound ‘unintelligent”, it is the reason why Americans are always creative and inventing. As I always say, you can be ANYTHING you want in America…and there is a job for everyone in America: a dog walker, a rail truck artist, a tattoo artist…anything you like.