Teaching is (Loving) Labor

Last year, I spent many months volunteering in a local first-grade classroom community. Since the start of this school year, I have been consistently working with the same teacher in the same classroom space, among an entirely new group of students. Out of twenty-six current Students, about a dozen are English Language Learners, and ten of them are native Spanish Speakers. About four months ago, their Teacher asked me if I would be willing to teach Spanish lessons to her class. Ever since, I have been planning and leading weekly Spanish Lessons for twenty-six first graders. This has been my first opportunity and experience managing an entire Classroom of young learners. For about twenty minutes every week, all focus within the walls of this space is on me; every eye is facing my direction (well, most eyes.) I am the governing body of the room, the community. This task is much more challenging, terrifying, and fun than I could have ever imagined. How would I even attempt to manage these students without their Teacher’s immediate presence and dependable interventions?

My recent thoughts on the professional practice of teaching have pulled me into a deep self-analysis; a reflective evaluation of these weekly Spanish lessons, isolated from as well as in connection to the experience of guiding a classroom of prisoners (which meets every week approximately two hours after I leave the walls of the elementary school.) As our education courses have progressed this quarter, I have noticed critical adaptations, transformations, and revolutions in the methods, techniques, tools, and strategies I use in planning, implementing, and facilitating a learning process and experience for distinct and diverse learners, both within and between these classrooms (I love run-on sentences, a lot, I really do.) In summary, the ways I have filled these new teaching roles have changed drastically in the past two months. In lesson planning, I have shifted from designating steps from start to finish towards identifying goals, evaluating current positions, and brainstorming creative strategies for connecting the two; a movement towards a fluid methodology of bridge building and cultural carpentry. I have actively reached for imaginative innovation in constructing interdisciplinary and interactive activities rich in interpersonal intensity (is my love of alliteration emerging at this very moment?) I am very very far from my personal goal of nearing these ideals, but I am making incredible strides. This forward movement is motivating and energizing. The honest and (re-)affirming reactions and responses I am receiving are validating and addicting. This is a form of labor I am falling deeply in love with; it draws from my gut a novel hybrid of fury, fear, and joy I have not felt in far too long.

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2 thoughts on “Teaching is (Loving) Labor

  1. janevangalen says:

    “cultural carpentry” is both alliteratively lovely and intellectually compelling.

    The kind of teaching of which you write will never, ever be replaced by streaming content and assessments into classrooms.

    And it’s the kind of teaching that is largely invisible to the public.

    How many run-on sentences might it take to remedy that, do you think?

  2. It is wonderful that you are already applying, what we are learning in the classroom. I can relate to that because after most of our readings, I make mental points like, ‘this is how I should do too’ or ‘this is how I should be.’ By being imaginative and innovative, we can keep the love for the labor of teaching, alive. I am happy, that it is already working for you and you are energized as a result.

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