On Thursday, I went Bethune Middle School to shadow my Teach for America partner, Nina, in her science class. The aim of my visitation that day was to interact with the students, as they completed a science project on animal classifications. I made sure to arrive early to assuage my slight anxiety. As I approach the classroom, I take a deep breath, and Nina ushers me in. It’s on. I immediately notice all the bewildered pairs of eyes that outrightly stare at me in curiosity. Just like Nina informed me in an earlier meeting, most of the children are African-American. I take a seat at the back of the class. A few of the students sitting at the back of the class talk rather loudly as Nina teaches. While at first, I am taken aback at the seemingly blatant disrespect for the presence of an authority figure at the front of the class, I recall my days as a middle-schooler and how there was always one or two students who caused class disturbances. A female student who later tells me unenthusiastically that I’m pretty stands up and kicks her chair as if in attempts to break it. She kicks the chair repeatedly nearly across the room and then exchanges her chair for another. Nina pauses the class momentarily to address the girl. I wonder to myself how I would manage the scenario when I begin to actually teach a portion of Nina’s class. As I consume myself with the thought, another female student tries to get my attention. “Pssst, pssst. Excuse me. Hey. Are you married?” I chuckle to myself and motion for her to pay attention to Nina.
Nina gives the instructions for the class activity and project and the students begin to busy themselves. Papers, books and coloured pencils everywhere. I make my rounds to engage with as many students as possible by asking them questions about their assignment. As I continue to interact with the students, I realize why people become teachers. These children are bright, and wildly hilarious. The job understandably comes with its frustrations – telling a student over and over to sit down cannot be enjoyable. However, I see the moments, the potential that stirs in the room, and the desire of the students to get homework right, the desire to learn. As I left Nina’s classroom, I was reminded of why people teach. No child deserves anything less than the best education to inspire within them a will to pursue whatever it is their hearts desire.
I cannot wait for next week!