My Mona Lisa Smiled

Good morning/afternoon/evening and everything else of a similar nature, my lovelies. Are you loving the frequent posts? I know I’m loving these frequent posts. I’ve got one for you today. 
For the last three days, I taught History at my school, from classes (or grades or years, whatever you prefer) six to ten.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly volunteer; in fact when I saw the Facebook posts inviting senior students to take classes, I may or may not have wrinkled my nose. I have a terror of speaking to or in front of a large group of people, much less a group of forty-five kids all staring avidly at me and expecting me to take charge. A few days later, however, a midnight messenger turned up in my Facebook inbox like the Angel Gabriel calling Muhammad to his fold, asking me to replace her for a few days, and this time, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. Obviously and completely logically (not) I then proceeded to spend the entire weekend making desperate phone calls and presentations and panicking in general, finally walking into school on Monday with a sense of impending doom . I was nervous, I was frankly frightened, and I didn’t know what to expect.
Reality, however, corrected my assumptions very soon.
What is it about certain situations that make us suddenly discover ourselves? Within five minutes of my first class, I had stopped thinking about myself and the problems I had feared I would face, focusing instead on engaging, interacting and entertaining. At the end of the day, when I returned to our improvised student-instructors’ room, I was exhausted, but I knew I’d found my place.
I think my main problem, whenever I try to put myself in a position where I am required to lead, is that I underestimate myself. (I also think everyone around me understood this about 1234567896 years ago.) In this particular case, for example, I had had no idea of the variables involved, yet I’d already assumed, even before I’d begun, that I’d fail. Reality showed me that hurdles in teaching are largely circumstantial: you can’t expect the kids to focus for at least ten minutes after lunch, or for more than ten minutes in the last period, and so on; that it is more about them than about me:  a more or less constant effort to pull them in and make them concentrate and participate, rather than me speed-talking at them; and that it depends on and must be adapted according to the nature of each class. I’d been thinking of teaching as being mostly public-speaking; very quickly, I realised that it’s not: group discussion is closer home. With this epiphany the nerves vanished, and with that came enjoyment and enthusiasm, and a satisfaction I had never experienced before.
Here’s the deal: I like to teach. I like imparting knowledge to them and coming up with new and innovative ways of making them focus. I like the widespread participation I get when I catch their attention, and I like observing their responses and learning as much about them and their quirks as, hopefully, they do from me. Most of all, the nerd in me delights in the fact that while teaching, I get to stay in touch with my subject constantly, and go on to actually spread its loveliness amongst the unknowing and unconvinced proletariat. It was probably this last bit that made me wish I was teaching English; I love history, and all, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Bard’s language for me lol.
I can’t begin to express how grateful I feel for getting this assignment; it helped me focus and snap out of my reverie; it demolished my fear of speaking to large groups, and it gave me happiness of a kind I can only describe as job satisfaction. After studying about that for two years in Business Studies, it was nice to finally know what that feels like. I had tenth graders tell me that I ought to become a teacher because I’d make a good one; eighth graders, who I had immense trouble with, gave me a standing ovation for the “mehnat (aka effort)” I put in for them; seventh graders actually did the homework I assigned them and sixth graders told me that I’m “really cool”. I won’t lie: it felt bloody good. So good, in fact, that I restarted the Hundred Happy Days project today: I finally felt that I was at a good enough place to continue.

Now that it’s over, I miss teaching, and I miss the kids. I liked walking in everyday and seeing their faces light up in welcome (that actually happened I’m not making this up.) I wish I could’ve taught them more, and learnt so very many things myself. It was educational, it was entertaining, it was a healthy interactive experience and it gave me purpose and a huge victory over the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of myself. What more can one want?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s