Published: February 17th 2008February 10th 2008
This fall, when I reluctantly explained the details of my job in Guatemala, an unpleasantly large handful of people who I admire very much looked worried. “So as a new teacher, you’re going to be writing your own lesson plans and speaking in your third language?” Guilty?
But then, most of these people are frightened no matter what I do. You’re biking to Greece? You want to be a poet? You’re chopping your hair off? (Ok I never forewarned anyone I was doing that but it would have elicited that same gawk of empathetic terror). I told myself that everyone was overreacting, as always. Teaching was just sharing knowledge with friends, right?
Apparently not. My friends, at least, don’t usually run away to buy bargain phone cards if I’m talking to them about rural Colombian history. They don’t imitate the way I say my name, and they’ve all heard of World War II—you know, Hitler? Concentration camps? The invasion of Normandy? (oh god you really have never heard of it.) Most of all, I don’t need to prepare worksheets, tests, discussion questions before we hang out. This last bit, the lesson plan preparation, has been that unexpected expense in my yearly time budget. And certainly, the reason behind the utter stoppage of my trickling letters home.
The most frustrating bit about preparing for classes is that my lovely students have no textbooks. So what? What this means, is that I essentially write my own, for each of the 5 different classes I teach. And yes I want to be a writer and all, but there’s a reason that you won’t find Textbook Writing Workshop 101 on my transcript between all those poetry classes. I’ve already shattered my long standing record for coffee intake, that one I set during a particularly arduous finals period at Berkeley. This is disgusting. But how could I come to class without having corrected their comprehension questions on Garcia Marquez? I can’t teach about the effect 1492 had on San Mateo Ixtatan without learning about Precolonial Mayan culture. And then, who else is going to make my Bingo boards for English class?