LCNV AmeriCorps Reflection on the First Day of Teaching

August 1, 2014 at 3:48 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

AmeriCorps Member Tell-All brought to you by “Ameri-Tristen”

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The night before class starts, you toss and turn. Eventually you doze off only to find yourself sitting at your desk the next day. Where did the night, and morning, go? Finally, judgment day is here.

You look at the clock and it confirms your worst fear, the final countdown has started. You stand up and nervously gather your things.

Now, all you have are new acquaintances whom you’ve barely gotten to know let alone trust telling you, “You’ll be fine; they’re going to love you.” Somehow, their positive words fail to persuade you and make you feel even more incapable of doing what it is you’re passionate about, teaching. Your cheeks flush and sweat starts to form upon your brow as your body rapidly heats up like a furnace in the dead of winter – even though it’s the end of summer– and you painfully force a halfhearted smile that isn’t even the slightest bit convincing and you respond with, “Thanks.” You resentfully start towards your car. You feel like dying.

As if the feeling of going to “war” underprepared isn’t agonizing enough, now comes the daunting task of crossing U.S. Route 50 and making it to your final destination not only on time, but with time to spare so you can set up and get prepared for the faces that will come. You have at least forty students coming and that’s not even including the ones that just seem to materialize. On top of that, you’re the one responsible for getting those students to their appropriate destination as seamlessly as possible – not to mention directing the volunteers to their respective locations. Even more, it’s your duty not to walk down the ghastly spiral staircase into the depths of desperation because it’s imperative that the students, volunteers and host site have a positive experience. After all, you’re the face of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. The success of this organization feels like it falls solely on you. You exhale with a great sigh of relief when you see that you’re driving onto a desolate road that even provided a green light as you cross 50. The universe may just have decided to work with, and not against, you. You proceed cautiously.

Now, thirty minutes is all that stands between you and the start of the 2013 fall semester. Those new acquaintances (later dubbed AmeriPeeps) may have only been nice because they felt they had to, however, their invaluable creativity has left you feeling confident and ready to go. Who would have known that all the seemingly unimportant small talk and idea sharing would come in handy? Having a color-coded system where students’ names are written/typed upon index card sized pieces of colored paper –three different types of colors to indicate levels- and placing them on a table for students to find their names and go towards the classrooms with their respective color is priceless. It makes for little supervision and is extremely time efficient so that way you can work with the newcomers filling out registration forms without the unappreciated added stress. Just as the drive was painless so was the welcoming of students. Then class begins and… you’re lost.

You slowly move to the front of the room; your hands are shaking, you feel your heart pulsating in your throat. For a moment your mind blanks. All the things you prepared to say escape you and you stand there staring. Eyes. That’s all there is. A sea of eyes staring back at you. Nervously, you begin talking, “H-HI. HOOOW. IIS. EV-ER-Y-ONE?” To your surprise you see smiles followed by a few saying, “Good teacher. You?” Ok, maybe that could have been done in a more appropriate manner. While these people are here to learn English they aren’t deaf and surely do not lack intelligence. You start to smile and say, “I’m fine” (however, this time at normal speed). Slowly turning towards the only Spanish speaker in class, you say, “My name is Tristen, what’s your name?”

Windows down, one hand on the wheel, and the other bobbing up and down in the wind; traffic’s the last thing on your mind. A huge smile on your face; you’re on cloud nine. Every feeling of doubt is gone. Nothing feels as amazing as when you’re done teaching and the class was well-received. It was amazing! You loved it! The students seemed to be interested in what you were saying and ready to return for more. Stepping through the door back into the office, everyone sees you grinning after a successful first class. Coming down off of your high, you finally realize you’re sitting staring at your computer; time to prepare for the next class.

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