Three years ago my plane skimmed the treetops then landed in the city of Teguciagalpa, Honduras. After the passenger applause abated, I walked out of the airport, scanned the brown and scrubby landscape, and began my first year of teaching. The land of fire, Central America. I’ve since moved to Guatemala and have been teaching elementary school in Guatemala City for two years. Since the beginning, teaching has gotten easier. The daily panic has melted and spread thinner. It’s easier to manage, to wipe away with a bit of preparation; however it still pools unexpectedly. Self-imposed expectations make it harder to pass as a good teacher. With more experience, you’re more willing to try and fail, but the failure still stings. The mechanics of living here have also gotten easier, but fine-tuning is always needed to make sure nothing gums up the machinery.
I still hold fast to my ideal: to teach like I’ve never been to school. This means, I don’t want to do things because “that’s the way it’s done,” or because it’s the next fad in progressive education. I want to do things that make sense for kids. I want to teach in a way that every kid finds their passion. I want to teach outside the limits of school.
How can a teacher be so anti-school? I was homeschooled, for nearly all of my primary and secondary education, and now that I’m teaching elementary (never having attended) the practicality of what I set out to do, however, is always on my mind. How do I accomplish for a classroom of students what my mother and father did for just me? How do I translate my love of learning and discovery to a classroom when I never went to one? What does it look like? How do I align this with parent expectations? School expectations? Standards? Am I succeeding? Am I being innovative? Or am I just rehashing the same educational pedagogy that my parents rejected? More importantly, are the students learning; are they having fun and developing the love for learning I hope grows inside of them? This was a serious hang-up even before I started teaching. I never considered it a viable profession until a friend, a professor in an education college in an Australian university, finally shook me by the shoulders and said, “What do you mean you can’t teach! You never went to school? That’s perfect!”