My first term as an English teacher has come to an end. The students left for holidays last week and we professors just started ours. Our last days of our term were spent in meetings, planning sessions, and eating plenty of food. Our last day we had an asado, with chorizo, beef, salad and a new beverage I haven’t tried: refajo, which is a mix of beer and a sweet soda drink called Colombiana. It was good way to end a successful term.
My school, Santa Juana de Lestonnac, is a public school associated with the Compañia de Maria. It is an all girls school that teaches from primary school up to high school. I work from 6:30 to 12:30, when it is only 6th grade through 11th grade (secondary school only goes to 11th grade here). I teach a total of seven different groups: three groups of ninth graders, two groups of tenth, and two more of eleventh.
At first I was a little nervous. First of all, I have never taught classes before. Second, I know exactly how savage teenage students can be. And third, I genuinely didn’t know what I was doing (but who really does, right? …right?). After a while I realised that high schoolers here are just like high schoolers any where else; they can be loud, they love to talk, many of them hate to study, and they can have moments of awesomeness.
As time went on, and reading the attendance list of Colombian names became easier to call out, the lessons went smoother, and I got closer to many of the students, everything became easier and I managed it better. I go by many names here at the school, most call me Conor, Profe, Profecito, or Señor Profe Conor (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing). I personally just like ‘Profe’; it is the perfect mix of giving respect but also letting me be on their same level.
Now walking around the school, I am no longer nervous about my role here. The students know me well, and I am getting to know many of them. They high-five me, banter with me, prank me, tell me about what they want out of their future, and even ask me for advice. This is the kind of teacher I want to be, one that can be a good influence both inside and outside of the classroom.
When originally trying to think of what kind of teacher I wanted to be, I gave some thought to some of the teachers I have had in my past. That was an impactful reflection, as I realised how absurdly blessed I have been over the years. I have had so many teachers who were dedicated to their roles of being educators, inspirations, and counselors. So many of them had a positive influence on who I am today.
I certainly wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my high school Spanish teachers, Allison Musser and Kelly Reardon, who not only taught me the language, but showed me that you don’t have to follow the norms and there is a pretty sweet world out there. My hope is that I can be half as good of an influence on my students as my teachers were on me. Honestly, after hearing some of the feedback, I think I am well on my way.
“Thank you for your friendliness at all times, for being a great example to follow, showing that in life many things can be accomplished with strength and dedication. For us, you are more than just a professional, but rather a great human being”
In the time I have been here, I have learned quite a bit, much more than I have taught, to be honest. I have learned the essentials that teachers need; good planning, patience, and creativity. However, the most important thing I have learned isn’t something I need, but the simple fact that one of the most exciting things in the world is witnessing someone learn something and watching it click for the first time. It is hard not to get choked up when you see someone overwhelmed with excitement as they realise they finally understand a concept. I feel so grateful to have been a part of influencing the education of others, and I will continue to be grateful as I continue my time of being called “profe.”
For Father’s Day coming up, I want to dedicate this post to my father Liam, who by far has been, and continues to be my greatest teacher in life. I love you Dad.