A story about my classroom...

Trip Start Jan 10, 2007
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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Sunday, March 11, 2007

In my classroom, I am Teacher.  I pull strange looking caterpillers off of cringing students without the bat of an eye.  I tell Mauricio to get out from under his desk and sit in his seat.  I have the power to give out points for the day or deny them due to lack of homework or too much talking.  I say ¨Listen¨and my students say ¨to Teacher¨.  Everyday I get a gift.  Sometimes it´s a flower or some candy, sometimes just a card, and other times it´s eggs or cheese from the farm.  Once I even got some perfume.  I didn´t know whether to be really excited and pleased with this gift or if it was typical Tico subtley telling me that I stink.  When I walk in my classroom I am inevitably followed by a first or third grader asking if they have English class now or later.  Bookbags of those students who have now come to understand the class schedule a month into school are already saving seats.  I start class and end class, realizing after only a week that the whole bell thing is a joke.  The students ring it when they feel it necessary.  I just have to tell one student that yes, it is time for class and he or she runs off screaming to their friends that they need to come RIGHT NOW!!!!  Within seconds there are ten or twenty kids (depending on the class) scrambling to get one of the good seats, not the broken bus seat or the one without a table.  But silence reigns when I start my countdown or simply just stand there while they quiet themselves with loud shouts of ¨Silencio¨or ¨No Talking¨.  Some days are great and I love the cute, clueless eagerness of my first graders and the solemn excitement of my fifth and sixth graders.  Other days I feel like I¨ll scream if I hear ¨Teacher!!!!¨yelled out one more time.  But I am in MY classroom, my very own classroom.  It doesn´t have a door so I constantly have to yell ¨Salga!!¨to curious students trying to peak in on what other classes are doing.  It doesn´t have glass in the windows yet, and I am constantly battling with the wind that rushes down the mountains, along the river, and into my room.  It tears things off walls and blows papers out of students hands.  Even on a nice day, it´s freezing in my classroom.  But we adapt.  Duct tape is my new best friend, both my students and I are now getting used to holding everything down with hands or whatever might be heavy enough to withstand the gusts.  I teach in a fleece and scarf, and stand by the woodstove in the kitchen during cafecitas drinking coffee and defrosting, downing dayquil to fight my ever present cold.  And the windows are coming soon I´m told.  For the past three days of class I´ve had a new ¨student¨.  He´s a nice old man and is as excited about the window frames he is making for me as I am.  So excited to finish his task, in fact, that he hammers and saws all day, to get it done...in the back of my classroom.  But we adapt.  I just use my theatre voice and my students are forced to sing/shout louder during our morning song rountines.  "Shut the door" is sounding more and more like the real thing instead of the forever funny, but very scandalous "F--k the door".  Though instead of "six", my first graders cheerfully scream "sex" back at me.  But inside my classroom I am Teacher, and I only start laughing half the time. 

Outside of my classroom I am Lacey, slightly crazy and always ready for an adventure.  During the day I walk up to the finca listening to music, I amuse my host mom and sisters with stories of the day over my afternoon cafecita, and I discuss politics with my host dad after dinner.  On weekends I catch a ride with my uncles into Cartago and explore the country a bit.  I dance and drink Imperial, I speak English to people who actually understand what I´m saying.  I take silly pictures and eat Pops ice cream.  I wear a tank top and skirt, enjoying the warmth of the tropical country in which I live.  I see friends and share stories, catch up on news of the outside world (like Britney Spears shaving her head!) and check my email.  Outside of the classroom I am just plan old me.  Kids don´t shower me with kisses whenever I enter the room or leave.  I am a gringa in a country in which I am still a stranger and still don´t know the language.  It´s exhilerating and scary at the same time.  I crave the escape from my classroom and sometimes don´t want to go back at the end of a weekend, but at the same time I love my power as Teacher and I love my kids.  My life here is not exactly fun and it´s definitely not easy, but it´s amazing and it´s an experience and it´s mine.
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Comments

dadofdivaboots
dadofdivaboots on

Teacher
Lacey
You are indeed a Teacher with a capital T. in this piece you capture so well why so many people are attracted to teaching (and perhaps why some of them leave). It is a very special professional and form of art. Bravo!
love
dad

goltzer
goltzer on

Uncle Mike
Hi Lacey,

Wow - thanks for the great update! I've heard a lot stories in 40 years as an educator, but never about teaching with no windows and doors and the wind
blowing through - talk about baptism by fire! (wind)
Amazing. I can see where there would be lots of ups
and downs because teaching is that way under the best
of circumstances - never a dull momment - complete
immediacy - constant demands - and tired at the end of the day! And coming back on Monday - kind of like jumping back into a cool pool That first five seconds
is rough. Also like acting - no one cares if you are
feeling great or not so great - the show must go on
no matter what! I am sure you have gained new respect for teachers because until you have actually
taught there is no way you could possibly understand
the challenges and the joys. I think if all the
politicians had actually spent a year teaching they
might be more receptive to providing the levels of
support we need.

Thanks for the latest - I will read it to grandma
and grandpa.

Love,
Uncle Mike

cjlong24
cjlong24 on

hey
amazing story - hope all is well!

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