Thursday, July 2, 2009


My students call me "Teacher." They say, "Hi Teacher!" when I walk into a room, and they shake their heads disdainfully and say, "Oh, Teacher..." when they disagree with one of my many ridiculous opinions. (For example, it bothers my teenagers tremendously that I listen to reggae music.) They even send me emails to cancel class beginning with "Dear Teacher..." as if they'd forgotten my name or something.

They are, of course, translating directly, because in Spanish they generally call their teachers "Profe." However, I can't help but be swept back to Quaker boarding school at Westtown, where we called our teachers Teacher Tim, Teacher Anne, and of course Profe Rick and Profe Juan... it makes it feel like, I don't know, like I'm really a teacher, and not just some crazy redhead that comes stumbling into their office every morning speaking in tongues!!!

The vast majority of my students are great. I've fallen into a confusing, rigorous, but wonderful schedule with some very awesome people. And it's quite exciting sometimes to teach managers, executives, even presidents of major companies, and think, ha ha! Here I am, chatting with the president of XYZ Company about their family and personal life, when everyone else in the office is probably afraid to ask! Because once students reach an intermediate level, they really just need to talk and talk and talk, and what better way to do so than to get to know each other?

Sometimes we even become friends. My student Paola, who actually was forced to quit my class a week ago due to new work restrictions, has become a good friend of mine, and just found out she's pregnant! It's been exciting to be there for her through all this exciting [terrifying] news! We chat on the phone a lot, and enjoy long strings of email exchanges in Spanglish.

Sitting in a room chatting with these people for a couple of hours a week has really been a huge part of my experience here. My students teach ME so much. I've heard teachers say that before, and I always thought it sounded really stupid and cliche, but turns out it's true. My students taught me how to prepare and drink mate... they taught me how to say all sorts of naughty words in "Argentine"... they taught me about the real rules of dating in Argentina (not that I've had the chance to practice!)... they taught me about family life, social life, being a teenager in BsAs, living in the campo, getting married, hating Chileans, and how to prepare chocolate cake layered with dulce de leche. Where would I be without them?

The first couple months of teaching here I didn't love it. I didn't even like it. And yet I had gotten myself into a head space of "OMG I have to teach, I have to make this work, I have to learn to like this!!!" and it was making me miserable. But these days, I've fallen into a rhythm, I'm learned to take it easy, I've learned to be flexible, and I've learned to read and understand the needs of each individual. Basically, I'm becoming a good teacher!

On Monday at one of my business classes where I teach 2 students, my boss came in and did an observation. She sat in the corner, furiously taking notes as I taught them, and all of us were nervous. What could she possibly be writing about so furiously?! At the end of the class she asked my students Gabriela and Guillermo, "Do you like the class?" and they both nodded enthusiastically. "We love Erica!" they said. And then my boss asked, "Do you feel you are making progress?" and they both responded more or less, "Yes, we feel like we've really improved, we're more confident, and we can speak more fluidly. Erica is an amazing teacher."

Well I just about lost it, I was so happy and proud. In the past, that moment would have been about ME, feeling good because I had gotten a compliment. But in that moment, it was about THEM-- I was thinking, "What perfect sentence structure! Great use of the second conditional! Such fluid speaking!" and I felt like a proud mother.

In teaching, I have also rediscovered my love of writing. I looove writing, which is why I'm crazy enough to keep up this blog. Most of my friends here think I'm nuts, or at least extremely disciplined, to write this blog all the time, but for me it's not a chore, but rather it's something I enjoy. It's a release. It's a pleasure. I just wish I had more time to write every day.

I've also taken on a new project, which is that I'm translating part time for a company that translate children's stories from Spanish to English, and that's been quite fun for me. They even let me name characters! (Can someone think of a great name for a wizard??) It's validating to know that my Spanish is at a level where I'm being trusted with these translations, and it's also fun to develop this new skill. I wish they had more work for me!

I realize more and more each day that this was the right decision. I am not cut out for the Boston 9-5 lifestyle. My time working at AAC and living in Boston was incredibly valuable, and I learned so, so much from the experience, however it just isn't ME. I'm just different, and I both fear and love that about myself. Each day is an adventure, and honestly it's exciting and fun and thrilling in one regard, and tiring and lonely in another. Sometimes I wish I were like other people and could just sit down and work and get married and start pumping out babies while I pay off my mortgage. But that, honestly, is my idea of hell on earth. But being creative, adventurous and independent while simultaneously having stability? Well, that is just heaven. And it all starts by finding what I love and doing it.

I'm getting closer.


heather said...

wonderful! and as for being a great teacher, well, profe, you've been teaching me valuable lessons since pre-day one! keep on keeping on!

mo said...

right on, erica. you keep following your creative, exhilarating, beautiful bliss!