This is an obligatory post. I’ve been behind in terms of actually being able to post anything, so the next couple of posts will cover last week’s journey until I get up to speed. I thought about just posting the first reflection I wrote, but then I realized that so many people, my extended family included, have no idea exactly what I am doing here. So let’s start with that.
I think that I always knew that I would be a teacher. I played school with my dolls to such an extent that I made up my own worksheets for them. I really loved school as a child and read voraciously. Initially, many people tried to push me to consider other career paths. I tried to keep an open mind.
I had many early opportunities to be involved in various “teaching” situations. I babysat consistently after school, which required making sure the kids finished their homework. Even then, I created silly games to practice LTR words to make the homework more “entertaining.” In high school, I took on the project of creating and running a summer science camp, where in our second expanded year we hosted 110 kids. I also ended up teaching an eighth grade religion class, which was enough to say I never wanted to deal with middle schoolers again.
In college, I kept an open mind. Because I was lucky enough to be there on scholarship, I changed majors a bit and finally chose one that I found really interesting, but not necessarily in the field where I wanted to work. My official degree is Latin American Studies with a minor in Spanish, through the college of international and area studies. I loved every minute of that program- it pushed me to see my life globally and allowed me to study more in depth the history, politics, culture and people of Latin America. But of course, I still stayed involved in education. Freshman year I tutored a student in reading and worked giving children’s tours and birthday parties at a museum. After sophomore year I got to work for Breakthrough Collaborative in Atlanta, where I taught 8th grade algebra, Spanish, and college prep. (Remember when I said I’d never teach middle school again?) Breakthrough provided a brief training and continuing support through teaching teams, mentor teachers, and professional development. It was a great opportunity to really practice good lesson planning and get feedback on the execution. My last year in college, I tutored an ELL student in math. This is the final opportunity that really pushed me onto a track of bilingual education. In working with this young girl, I discovered that I wanted to teach, and in a bilingual setting. I finally knew!
Thankfully, I found this awesome program called English Opens Doors. Through this program, I was able to assistant teach English in Chile for almost six months. It was an unbelievable experience (and the one which got me blogging in the first place.) I held my own conversation classes for high school students (and one sixth grade class- I swear, this was the last straw between me and middle schoolers!). I also got to help out in the elementary classes, teaching songs, games, and simple activities. I really fell in love with the younger kids, who were so incredibly excited to see me and eager to learn and ask questions. It was hard to leave Chile, and I seriously contemplated staying for a while. It turns out that English Opens Doors has been suspended due to lack of funding, so I guess everything turned out alright.
*** At a loss for the name of this blog, I fell back onto what the youngest children in Chile called me. To them, Miss Amanda was my name. So then they put what they usually call their teachers, la tía (yes, it means aunt but this was custom), in front of my name. And so, I became “la tía miss Amanda.”***
In the last couple of months there, I really started to think about what I was going to do next. My opinions on Teach for America had varied in the last couple of years, but I decided that in the interest of getting back in the classroom quickly, and having a job, I should apply. I also looked into local masters of education programs at home, considering doing that while living with my parents. I kept it as a backup, but I knew the reality of finding a job at home was slim, especially since I want to work in bilingual education. Through a really intense three step interview process, I made it into Teach for America.
Life was definitely going to change