I catch myself standing in front of a classroom of uniformed Mozambican students: what the hell am I doing here? Who the hell am I to be standing up here? What do I know about the subtleties of when we use present simple and present continuous? As my confidence, my comfort increases, these moments of surrealness seem to be even more bizarre.
Sometimes I hate teaching. Sometimes, my back turned as I write something on the board—will they understand it? Does it even make sense?—I want to run out of the classroom. When it’s 7:15 am and half of my eighth graders have walked in late, and I’ve asked the same question ten times and received only fifty-five blank stares, I’m tempted to say, “Fuck it,” and go home and back to bed.
But then sometimes the kids are just really great. They follow me, they say “Yes” to the question, “Do you understand?” like they mean it, they ask questions about words they’ve seen in books, on T-shirts, in songs, drawing on things they’ve learned in my class and elsewhere. I especially like it when I can see them making these connections, which drives them to seek out the answer on their own.
I like working with sutdents one-on-one, giving them personal attention, which I think is something rare for Mozambican students. I’ve noticed some students, particularly girls, responding well when I tell them they’ve done a good job, coming up to the board to demonstrate a problem or offering to read a text.
Before I came here, I really doubted my abilities as a teacher, couldn’t see myself as a teacher. The role, if not always the teaching itself, seems to fit now; teachers are given a lot of respect in the community. It’s a position that my colleagues have worked hard to achieve. Many of them are young and want to go on to pursue other careers after teaching for a few years. I realized that this is actually very similar to the situation in the States that myself and many of my peers are finding ourselves in: we may not have planned on teaching or plan to continue doing so in the long-term, but its an excellent gig for the moment.