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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.

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