I have been a busy woman since last December, enjoying my new position as English language support assistant at my local high school. As with most of my better life stories, this one came about as one of the beautiful flukes of nature and I’m happy it did!
My friend Alexandra had asked me, last October, if I knew of anyone who wanted to work in the school system here on the island, someone with native English. The deal was 12 hours a week and good pay. What the heck I responded, me me me!! Admittedly I was in it for the money as winter slows down for me on the wedding front plus not many people know what a funeral celebrant can do for their loved ones, therefore business is slow there too. However, once I started the process of applying, excitement got the better of me.
I must add that the application process was huge fun, police checks and even a sexual delinquent certificate was required which I did think rather strange, working with kids and teens. Fortunately and for the record, I am not a sexual delinquent and have the certificate to prove it!
I have always resisted the teaching profession and perhaps coming from a family of educators, this was part of the reason I didn’t want to know. Now I am there, firmly established, guess who sits by me, chuckling away at the daughter who said never, to find herself saying “this is forever”? Yes, you guessed it, my dad, dear Gerry German – teacher, headmaster, advocate, educator and inspiring man all round! There are days when I am having such a good time that I feel his presence, knowing he’s wondering what took me so long to realise that teaching is an amazing feeling and a great opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong, the system is broken in my opinion! Large classrooms housed in unfriendly buildings and this one is only 10 years old! Bells ringing every 55 minutes and people chaotically changing classrooms with no order, only noise and mess. If your child has any special needs and is sensitive to what around, then this must be the most awful place to be, especially when everyone falls out of their classroom, desperate to move.
I began in mid December and was asked if I could introduce myself to all my new groups and include a “dinámica” to do with the students. Dinámica, what the heck is that!? Luckily for me I bumped into one of second born’s teachers from the eco school on the way to school on my first day who explained that I could start by asking the kids about themselves or what their favourite hobby was! Phew, remember, I have never been inside a classroom in my life outside of my own education.
Introducing myself went down a storm and I have done that twenty seven times so far! Yes, that’s right, I am the English language support for years 7 to 10 of secondary and the 2 years of baccalaureate – they split the classes for English and all I can say is thank the Lord – 30 kids in a class would have had me committed by now!
The teens loved my story of where I was born, how I came to England, life at boarding school and work as a celebrant. I hear “Bob Marley” shouted lots when they see me in the corridors or playground and most seem genuinely happy when I show up especially since I got them practising sitting in silence and going inside themselves. That was mind-blowing and the honesty they shared in their feedback, from being able to say they enjoyed it or that it was weird was so wonderful to be part of. Now other classes come and ask for the same thing so I shall start a club at break time when the only request is that they enter the room in silence and leave the same way. My colleagues also want to attend!
Sadly, with a broken system, what I am seeing is that no-one really benefits. The ones with a linguistic ability mixed with the ones who need a helping hand means that neither enjoys the class and the teachers are hampered in their efforts. This is said as an observer, I am not a teacher and my admiration for my nine colleagues in the foreign language department is huge. They work hard, they are dedicated and it seems as if they are fighting a losing battle which is not what they signed up for. They are there because they want to teach, because they love the English language and because they believe everyone has the right to an education. It’s not as simple as that though and along with problems and perhaps poverty and violence in some homes, the system cannot produce enough winners for the future. Please note I have met some incredible young people with dreams, goals and determination who are doing well despite not being nourished by the system. Young people who have taught themselves English via youtube and gaming and with no English in their circle but with an incredibly high level achieved by their own efforts.
I have this week off as there’s a holiday smack bang in the middle of the week. I can’t wait to return – I’m being paid for the most incredible journey of self-development I ever imagined! Being given the opportunity to practise patience, respect, non-judgement and acceptance on a daily basis along with creativity and humour, I have found my niche – 55 years old and am I glad I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up – this is growing!