By WorldTeach American Samoa Volunteer Christiana Galeai
The first couple of months were horrendous, the most challenging job yet. Being a full time college student with two part time jobs was looking like chocolate cake compared to seventh grade. It was horrible. Not because of the place, culture, or students. I love my students, I love my school, and I love American Samoa.
The elementary I am assigned to sits by soothing waves of the Pacific. Hues of blues and green lavish the eyes with inspiration that travel from deep within the soul to far beyond the horizon. Pulling into the gravel parking lot, I enter an old, new world. A thick wooden door chipped with red paint hides a classroom built by government grants and hard work. The breeze carries me to a shaken knob.
With a quick breath and a strong push, I step into a room filled with rusted chairs and peeling tables, a plugged sink and scratched chalk boards. The metal fans slowly wind into a tornado. Outside the cracked windows stand strong coconut trees and densely loved mountains. My hand runs across dusty shelves and flips through molded textbooks; this is a challenge I am determined to polish.
The first months of teaching were terrible, simply because entering the education realm as an outsider is daunting. Then entering a realm that is understaffed, under resourced, and under pressure is challenging. It is like flying a house cat to an arctic mountain, dropping it into an icy lake, and demanding it to beat Michael Phelps to the finish line when the reporters come for an unannounced evaluation. Swim it out, champ.
But wait. Before you can teach, there is a basic language to learn, a code of conduct mandatory to know. Lessons! One lap. Objectives! Two. I do! We do! You do! 500.
Compare! Complete! Complicate! Complicate?
No… but yes. When 72 students run into the room, it can become complicated fairly quickly. I was the cat in cold water who couldn’t cut construction paper. Garfield would be proud.
Surely, preparing enough material would be…enough. But it isnʻt. I have learned that being prepared is not enough, being overly prepared is just enough, and being a ridiculous over achiever is progressive. I am not here to just be enough, but to progress. The first month consisted of school, sleep, eat, repeat. My legs ached from standing all day, and patience was tried each hour. So many times that “patience” sits snuggly above the black board as the word of the week. It has been six weeks now. The second month left room for family. The third, maybe a milkshake with a friend.
As the days checked off the calendar, though, the studentsʻ names came to mind quicker and productive laughter rang faster. Lesson planning is more enjoyable since daily routines have been glued into our brains. It is the best when kids come in and do their seat work without being told. That is a trophy. I have come to accept that there will always be more grading, constant planning, and deep cleaning to do. This can be disheartening, but my legs are stronger now. My brown feet donʻt seem to mind gravity as much, and I donʻt need to remind myself to practice patience, it is assumed.
My experience as a first year teacher is one of great fun and great trial. Many errors and home stretched victories are etched within my grade books. As of now, this is my take away:
What is worth learning will be work to grasp.
What is worth teaching will take time to show.
What is worth doing will take love to Finish.
If you are a teacher and it is your first year, cheers for sticking with it. We have landed, and we are running. If you have been teaching for years (SHEESH), you donʻt need an award; you are one to the community.
Completely accredited by
hand sanitizer and headaches,
heartbreaks and hallelujahs.
Congratulations, we are halfway there.
I think we can beat Phelps to the finish.
This post originally appeared on Christiana’s personal website.