on surviving the first year of teaching

I wrote the piece below near the end of fourth term for Bokamoso Leadership Forum as a reflection on the year that has been...

I have become a self-righteous adult who has survived the army of teenagers that I have been in battle with for almost eleven months.
I have almost survived my first year of teaching teenagers.
I don’t envy those who have to be teenagers in 2012.

As a survivor I have also become a pseudo parent who beams with pride at my students’ growth.
I have been inspired by students who chose to rise to the occasion by living up to their true potential as human beings in the world.
I am in awe of those who manage to remain innocent in spite of the complex and harsh world they navigate beyond the safety of the classroom.

My heart sinks to the bottom of my shoe when I watch some students cave into peer pressure because they are uncertain about who they are.
I have had many laughs with boys who have been betrayed by their voices while reading aloud in class
Where a squeak escapes instead of the words on the page.

I have been silenced by the tears of anger that have been shed in my classroom because young girls want to fully experience their right to live in a world free from sexual violence and harassment.
I have been bewildered by angry young boys every time I clawed them apart during a fight.
Only to be told “boys will be boys.”

I have withstood the interrogations and jeering because I have been asked to explain “Why are you a teacher?”
I have had to be my mother’s daughter fighting for ways to establish boundaries with my students and reverting “back to basics” with no negotiation.
I have erased two names from my class list because two girls did not come back to school
One because of pregnancy and the other, I still don’t know.
The second name has been highlighted in red as a reminder of the uncertainty and precarious position of being sixteen in a female body.

Eleven months later and I still wonder how I survived the endless hours of correcting the same spelling mistakes ova and ova and ova and ova again.
Azeez,a boy in Grade 8, told me a book finally cast a spell on him because he was captivated by a story about another boy in another world.
For a moment he kept me from asking myself, “why am I a teacher?”
A perpetual question that plagues me and is yet to plague me as I live out my experience of being a teacher.


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