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Friday, September 28, 2012

5. Arriving home

I lived all my life in a huge house, so big than my friends needed GPS to find the bathroom. When my father knew my decision about teaching in Chicago, he  offered me to rent a ranch near the school and hire a driver for me, but when I said this time I wanted to solve my expenses and being responsible for my own, he left his studio really upset slamming  the door. My mother convinced him to give me a vote of confidence and they let me make my own arrangements.

I rented an apartment with enough space for me: a small room with a large window, a kitchen, a laundry room, a bathroom with a fun shower, a bedroom and a garage for a small car, but I was planning not to drive, the price of gasoline in Chicago is one of the highest in the country.

My mother bought me some furniture; they were inside the apartment when I arrived. She had purchased them at Ikea, which sells furniture you assemble yourself, I've been useless for those things, but I had arrived so early thanks to the ride that Gaby had given me that I had all day to set up as much as I might.

When I told Gaby where I was going to live, she did not requested indications, in fact when I jumped into her car,  I had the impression that GPS was scheduled to take me home, for a moment I thought that she was going to hijacking me but fear vanished when I saw books and magazines, she seemed an educated person.

Her car was a hybrid, when I told her that I thought it was a very spacious and elegant car, she explained to me that it was the best option for a city as expensive as Chicago, because price of gasoline is very high. Hybrid cars allow enough mileage to absorb its cost in a few months.

I saw just a little bit during our journey from the Airport, but I found it very interesting, a very populous city, with good roads, with a summer temperature and apparently, lots of fun, but actually I had been very focused to the chat that Gaby was offering me. 

When we arrived at the entrance of the apartments complex, it seemed that she knew the place, requested me only the street and with no more questions I was at the  front of my new palace. Gaby said like with no intention to be careful with raccoons, but if had chance to see any one, she asked me to take a photo. I never had seen a raccoon in my life, so it scared me a little bit her request.

I spent all afternoon assembly parts A with B and I set up the internet, I was going to need it really badly. At 1: 30 am finally I went to bed, I would have to go to school next day to learn about my assignment. I was exhausted, but happy.
Conseguí un departamento que tiene suficiente espacio para mí: una salita con un gran ventanal, una cocina, un cuarto de lavado, un baño con regadera y una recamara.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

4. Crashing with fate

Between the hustle and bustle of the airport I had a chance to eat the sandwich with double cheese and the juice that my mother had prepared for me. I knew that it would not had many of these in the coming months so I enjoyed it to the fullest. 

When I was ready to board the plane, I saw a woman with a nearly 11-month pregnancy, the poor woman moved with so much difficulty that an elephant would have danced ballet graciously compared with her, I asked if she would be comfortable in her seat, but she said that it was not an issue about comfort but get to her destination. I asked  to the responsible of the airline  if I could change my seat in first class by the lady so  she would have more room, with a smile and a wink she replied I couldn’t  be more friendly. When I changed my ticket, the woman smiled so much that I thought her baby was going to jump through her mouth.

I looked at my new seat number: 17B.

When boarding the plane I came across a so small hallway, that breathing was difficult, but I found my seat, next to the window there was a woman who didn’t care my presence, she had a camera in her hands and when she found something to take, made her shot and then left her camera aside and paid a little attention on me.

She moved a little her back pack near her feet. I could not recognize the nationality of her features. Something else caught her attention outside and she kept shooting a couple of times. When finally saved her camera, took her cell phone from her pocket and sent a text message.

I tried to fit in the limited space of my seat and my neighbor, with a strange accent asked me if I had enough room: "Enough for the price of the ticket", I said. She smiled and told me that it was silly to pay for first-class tickets, because when the plane crashes, there are no distinctions, and then we both laughed and she stretched legs and accommodated a sweater as a pillow, amazingly, it seemed that the seat was enough for her.

She took out her cell phone to read the text message that had arrived and smiling said: "I am returning home after a conference and I have already offers for another at the other side of the country.” 

A voice announced that the door the aircraft was closed and we began to move. Strangely there was no one on the other side of my seat. The flight would not be so bad after all.

I couldn’t avoid talking with my neighbor, I thought her accent was interesting, somewhat educated, so I began the typical chat: are you going to visit Chicago?

"No," she responded with a big smile, " I live there, I went to Atlanta as a speaker but  I can't wait to go home".

Oh, what do you do?. I asked
"I am educational Advisor.”

Her answers were short, she pronounced very careful every idea, but she didn’t like to go deep, kind of reserved, I think she did not like very much all my questions, so she asked: and you?

I told her in detail why I was in that airplane and we could not evade initiating a chat about education, we talked about challenges, perspectives, stories, examples; in fact I talked most of the time and she listened, but when she opened her mouth, she gave me deep information about education. When we realized, we were landing in Chicago.

She allowed me to see through the window Chicago downtown, I enjoyed an extraordinary view of a city front a Lake so large that it seems a sea.

She asked me to that part of the city I would be living, when I told her that I had an apartment two blocks from the school, she smiled at me and said: "I can take you, that’s on my way, if you don't mind".

I pretended that it was not necessary, but being in a city where I knew no one her offer could not be better. Besides, it was good to save money.

I dared to ask her email and asked if I could bother when a doubt about teaching jumped on me, taking a tiny pen, she wrote her email and when Gabrielle gave it to me, she said: "nothing makes me happier than helping a teacher with problems".

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

3. The future is waiting for me

Life was running almost without feeling it, I was already 24 years old and the only one girl friend I had had  left me when I told her that I wanted to be a teacher. I guess that my words were sending to the trash her idea of a big house with a garden and a luxury car, similar to all that my father gave to my mother being a business owner of a company listed in Wall Street.

I didn’t suffered by their attitude, after all I wanted to try my own ideas, and there was a possibility that my first teaching assignment was not going to be in my hometown. 

I had only had two jobs in my life. The first was a moment of madness from my father who thought that you should know about his company from the bottom, and made me go through all the tests to be a messenger. I was going to have the opportunity to know to everyone and build a professional network. The hiring process took almost two months and two days before the beginning of the World Series, HR person called me to let me know I was hired to work during the night. I worked with enthusiasm two days and then I could not ignore my seat behind home. I lost my job and my father shouted at me during a week.

My second job was simple, I had to walk with my neighbor’s dog, what could go wrong?, Ruffus  knew for years and he was a good dog, we walked during one hour  and when I thought that I was enjoying the landscape, Ruffus ran as possessed behind a cat, which did not hesitate to show martial arts skills, in less than two seconds Ruffus was screaming because the cat had heavy scratched him. As I could cleaned the blood, took Ruffus home, asked him to not say anything, because their situation was shameful and I told my neighbor that  I would have to go visit someone in Aspen. I didn’t ask a coin, I said Ruffus was going to be always my friend.

As a blow of fate, perhaps because I really wanted to be independent and show the world that I could do something for myself; my third job would be in the suburbs of the city of Chicago. After living in the busy part of Atlanta in Georgia, it would be a good change of air. A quiet place where I would be away from my father’s eyes and my mother’s the care. 

With my tiny salary, I managed to find a room that would allow me to walk to school, with a library crossing a street and the opportunity to use the public transport system if you wanted to know Chicago downtown. This allowed my mother to keep her car for herself and gave me the excuse to visit her only on special occasions.

That night after enjoying a dinner and go to the movies with my two best friends, I went home to be able to get up early and take a flight from Atlanta  to O'Hare airport in Chicago. I had flown many times in my life, but this trip had a special flavor. It would be the first day of the rest of my life.

When I woke up next morning my mother was awake, it was unusual for her, but she had prepared me a sandwich and an orange juice. When she gave me the bag with my lunch, she told me that I liked that combination when I went to school. I looked in her eyes for a moment. I think I saw my own fear reflected in her eyes, so I hold & told her that everything would be fine, that if things did not work, I promised to return and she could care for me some years more.

I felt her hug like when I graduated, she stared for a moment and reminded me that my family always has had financial resources and I did not prove anything to anyone. I could only mumble: "I know, this is not to show anyone that I can, I want to prove it to myself".

I looked her again and with a tear on her eyes she said loud and clear: "I am proud of you".

She asked me if she could take me to the airport, but I told her that I preferred to begin using public transport, but she did not accept my answer and asked to a driver to take me to the airport.

Friday, September 14, 2012

2. Returning to the classroom

Empty classrooms always have had a kind of strange fascination on me. They were perfect places to find peace, sleep awhile, do a homework when I only had  15 minutes to deliver it, or  hiding from the girl that I had promised a moment to chat. Everybody know how much lucky we can be if we can find one of them open, and everyone knows that if there is a person inside, without saying a word, the door closes without making a noise, it’s almost a code.

This room was not different than those classrooms where I suffered during all my childhood: a boring square with windows and one door, which can be used only if someone authorized. There was a difference this time though: I was who had the power to authorize or refuse the entry.

There were 28 desks and an electronic blackboard. I think I miss that little green chalkboard in my first classroom when I was 5 years old. My classmates used to get angry when I cleaning up the chalk dust and then I put my fingers on their dark clothing. I have not seen those museum pieces since long ago but teachers complained that the chalk caused them respiratory damage. Occupational hazards, I guess.

In this classroom there is a desk and a chair, however I did not have the impulsive momentum of sit and point my finger to the nearest victim to say:  shut up and sit down!, I didn’t fin either an operation manual for novice teachers. There was only a list of assistance and a pile of papers that should be filled with great care.

The Headmaster opened the door so impulsively that when it hit the wall it made me jump almost to the ceiling. Without waiting to me to recover she told me that I was in the wrong classroom, “you have been reassigned”, instead teaching 6th grade, I would have the pleasure to shape young minds. I would be teaching 2nd grade. Children between 7-8 years old believing I was the King, which wouldn't be a bad  start, after all, the 6th grade could be a problem with teenagers who would be against me regardless of whether we played on the same team.

Headmaster walked fast and never turned her head see if I was following her, she walked like that was her kingdom, she was mumbling something incoherent, but when I can be near to her I could understand few words: “we believe that a young man is more appropriate for the inexhaustible energy of young children. We are confident that you can do great”. 

She stopped in a room that was equal than the other, a square with windows, and a door, the only difference is that the board was slightly larger and had a multicolor clown in the door with a message in capital letters: WELCOME. When I stopped to look at it more carefully she tore it with a fast movement of her hand and said: "this is not necessary.”

My new assignment meant that at the end of the course, my victims should begin to reason and to concentrate (like orange juice, should be juicing), improve their ability to process information, improve their concentration in a specific task, work cooperatively with a partner or a small group, understand the difference between right and wrong, making connections between concepts that enable them to compare and contrast ideas, expand their vocabulary, using verbs properly, smoothly read their ideas, ask and answer who, what, when, where, why and how, revise and edit writing, start to use a dictionary, make mental additions and subtractions, show understanding, understand, reading the clock, and understand basic concepts of multiplication, and only had less than eight months to achieve this!. I started to sweat cold only thinking of the enormous responsibility that was against me, but I couldn’t give up. After all it was just a job, and knew well what failing meant. If I couldn't make a career as a teacher, I could find something else to do, or I can ask money to my mother for the rest of my life.

When I look at the list, my sweat became a stomachache, I had 25 children in class, and also by their last names I saw they had different nationalities. I wouldn't have to deal only with a program, but with cultural barriers.

I closed the list and I left the classroom running, thinking I would get sick the first day of class.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

1. Finding my way

I always hated to go to school. I think I was pulled into the world of benches and books as many other children with those  invented  lines: you will like!, you'll meet new friends!, you are going to play a lot!. I never saw anything fun of being  forced to do things with no sense and sometimes it didn’t not matter if I could make it good or bad, because most of the time the evaluation of my performance depended on the mood of the teacher in turn.

When I could begin understanding how to do things, another teacher came. Sometimes the excuse was because as a woman, she had a very bulging belly, or she had refused to kiss headmaster. I believed that male teachers were more stable than female teachers, but there was always an excuse for changed them from sector or fire them. I can't remember all the names of those who were my academic guides. It does not matter anyway. Going to school was just that: a space for being confined by a few hours.

Returning home was the best of the day, but if by some reason I had been in the middle of a problem, or that day the teacher was in bad mood, I should had to get my mom’s firm b and then I hated to return home. I never get a note if I had said something great during the session, or if it had helped to make something amazing, but there was always a note if he did or said something that was considered improper.

Every two months I had the worst nightmare. Scores were jealously hidden and only my parents could see them. Anxiety grew as soon as mother took the scary paper containing the evaluation. I used to Look into your eyes trying to figure out whether I would had a long recitation of my duties as a child or if I would have a little peace at home, until the next evaluation.

Anyone who thinks that being a child is easy, has not lived. Being a child is the worst job in the world. It has nothing to do with the family fun, it has to do with the chaotic world that adults and the rest of the classmates created around. I still don't know how I survived to all that.

I guess that the summers and the winter holidays kept me sane. 

So when it came the moment to decide what  I was going to do with my life, I didn’t not see the option CEO to the  top 10 video games player or Professional television viewer, the following option was science, but at school it was never fun as the Discovery Channel.

I should find something to give me fast money, and I didn’t have high economical expectations, so I did try to take classes of pedagogy and filled out an application to be teacher. I was really surprised  but my thought  was to do something  easy to bother children, the same way I had  to suffer when I was growing up.

Courses to learn pedagogy of development were overwhelming, but what should I understand?: Do  learn how children learn? Or learn how adults want them to learn?. I hated classes but evaluations were only based on memory. I didn't have to apply my knowledge or understand deep issues, so used memory technics to remember the ABCs of responses. I knew that if I could found employment at a school, practice was going to give me much more than these huge books with unproven theories.

I graduated with the astonishment of all those who know me and I must admit, even I don't know how I did it. But I took the consequences of my actions. I would be teacher, the stricter that might be. But in a very deep part of my mind I wanted to do something to soft the misery of children, if I could teach them something, maybe it would be worth all paperwork and meetings later class that no doubt other teachers would give as an extra of my tiny salary.
Alma Dzib Goodin