Let me introduce you to my class. I didn’t write about it so far, but since the beginning of October I’ve been officially assigned (as a teacher’s assistant) to just one grade. I have my 26 kids that I can love and hate, scream at, motivate, educate, and do all the things that the teachers do.
My class is a mixture of the 5th and 6th grade of the primary school, the oldest ones. And the most difficult ones. Some of them took more time than usual to get to this level, because of their work, and so the kids in the class are between 12 and 17 years old. Basically, it’s an explosive mixture of teenagers, at their most difficult age. They dream awake in the class, fight, rebel against the whole world, fall in love, have boyfriends or girlfriends, surely some of them have already their first sex experience behind them.
How do I manage to control them? Basically, I don’t. I suck at being their teacher. I stayed alone with them for a week, teaching everything that comes – starting with mathematics and science, finishing with sports, Spanish grammar and Peruvian ancient history! And they danced over my head. They ignored what I said. They didn’t follow the orders. They drove me mad.
But I cheer myself up with thinking that anybody would suck at it. One of the teachers at school told me: “If you manage to work with those kids, any other school will be a piece of cake”. Another admited: “First year I was working in this school the kids made me cry”. So how can a gringa from Europe, even with the best intentions, do better than the experienced Peruvian teachers? The good intentions are not enough, if the experience and the pedagogical intuition is missing.
I don’t think there is anybody in my class who has a healthy family. Maybe a few. I talked to the school psychologist and heard the stories of extreme poverty, divorced families, husbands cheating on their wives in front of the children, fathers being alcoholics, parents beating their kids, mothers ignoring their sons, brothers being criminals, horrible stories never ending. What I deal with in the class is just a consequence of how these kids grow up. How can they learn to respect me if nobody in the real life respects them?
But at the end they are not evil, they are just kids.. They feel sorrow and can apologize. And I know that deep deep inside, all of them, even the most annoying ones, have their beautiful core. At certain moments I see how their eyes lighten up, how they get inspired and excited. At this moment the beauty inside them tries to get through this hard shell they have grown outside.
I also know that some of them really wait for me to come. They wait impatiently for the Monday class of experiments. Every day they give me a hug and look happy to see me. One of the guys even told me he wants to become a scientist. And since I arrived he wants it even more. So every day I come back. Sometime demotivated and exhausted but I come back. To my school of patience and humility.