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How Teaching Has Changed Me

As kids, we either love, hate, or mildly tolerate our teachers. At least, that’s how it always was with me. Unfortunate as it is, I was never the quiet student at the front of the class. However, I also wasn’t the troubled, failing student that needed a lot of guidance. I’ve always preferred self-learning (perhaps the reason why I’m currently enrolled in a program of this nature), and have mixed feelings about my childhood teachers. I remember many of them, usually because they either annoyed me, or inspired me in ways I never could have imagined. Though I’m not against authority, I’ve never been the most obedient person, which I’ve only recently begun to understand as quite difficult. To always ask, ‘why?’, has been a personality trait of mine for as long as I could remember, and as much as that curiosity drives me in many things, I now know that doesn’t usually translate to ‘teacher’s pet’.

I remember being 5 years old and thinking, ‘I want to teach one day’. I never expected to fulfill this desire to dabble in teaching, let alone in a different country. I forgot about one of my earliest career choices soon after, as I begun to wonder how I could ever teach despite not being the quietest, most teacher-appreciating student?

That isn’t to say that I didn’t really like some of my teachers. I still remember the names of my favourite teachers growing up, and know that I was appreciated by my educators who were truly engaged with us as students and encouraged us to be curious. However, I’ve come to respect the profession in ways I never thought about before now that I’ve spent almost two years educating students from the age of 2 to 18. Much of it has been exhausting, difficult, yet also extremely rewarding.

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My “French class” wall.

To all of my former teachers out there, should you ever read this: thank you for being my teacher. Some of you made me passionate about topics that I wasn’t necessarily as interested in, while others of you pushed me to remain focused on the subjects I loved. I know the education system has changed a lot in recent years, and that things have become even tougher. I know that you’re probably underpaid, overworked, much older, much more tired, and maybe thinking that your previous students don’t appreciate you. But, most of us do.

As a teacher in Madrid, I realized that teaching methods vary from country to country. In Spain, a more hands-on approach is taken (some say, old school?). Teachers are given more free reign as to what they can do with their students compared to Canadian teachers who aren’t even allowed to raise their voices. This did become tiring for me, as my first year of teaching meant that I sometimes had a weak (if any) voice. In turn, I was able to connect with my students on a more personal level than if I had been teaching in a country with stricter rules. Teachers in Spain definitely communicate with their students in a less formal manner than my teachers did with us, and probably in a lot of other countries. In general, Spain isn’t as uptight as a lot of the western world, which works quite well for them. It was there that I learned that students can be difficult, and that no matter how hard you try to educate them, some simply don’t want to learn. I learned that parents need to stay up-to-date with their kids’ progress, and that it’s true that some pressure teachers in ways they shouldn’t. I learned that teenagers are, regardless of where you are in the world, difficult. I learned that junior high (middle school) students shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I learned that primary students are sometimes temperamental, but usually adorable. I learned that, yes, even 5th graders can be sassy. I learned that teachers don’t actually have entire summers off (who told us that lie?), and that school politics are a real thing. I learned that teaching, even at the best of schools, isn’t the ‘easy way out’.

It’s not every day that a once-stubborn, argumentative, smart-mouthed person gets to learn how to manage kids who currently hold those traits. While I’ve changed quite a bit since my school days, it’s definitely made me appreciate how much teachers have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It’s made me realize that we, the adults, need to learn to respect our educators. The education system should be taken seriously, as should teachers. These are the people who spend almost every day of their lives with adolescents, and who will shape their (and our) future.

Regardless of what people think of teachers, I’ve come to learn that being one is a big responsibility. Although I have no plans to be a teacher in the future, I’m grateful for being given the opportunity to partake in a crucial position. During my stint in Madrid, I’ve learned how to manage a classroom, how to discipline, how to effectively communicate content to children (in multiple languages!), how to lesson plan, as well as many other things. It’s safe to say that this has been the job that has affected me the most as a person, and for that, I have no regrets.

Have you ever taught in a foreign country? Are you a teacher? What are your thoughts on teaching?

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