Letters from the chicos

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FRIENDS of mine drove from Brisbane. They brought up a box of stuff that I left behind before I flew to Peru, or in transit from Peru to my new home. And so what I had were memories from the times before, and exhibits of Peru.

There’s a framed cartoon the colleagues of my last job had made for me, from a cartoonist. It’s among the best work I’d seen him do, and in it I’m riding a llama with a box of beer and a bag of English books. I’ve owned it for almost two years, and for the first time, I get to hang it on my own wall.

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There’s a box of letters from my students. Before I left I asked them to write what they learned from me. And I’m glad I did. And then, I’ve kept some of the drawings they did for projects; such as Tupac Amaru II, the last neo-Inca (not the rapper!), and the comics we did of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Some of the letters I’ve pinned up behind my desk, and I’ve had them there two days. Sometimes I look up and I read them during the day, and they make me smile. I’m in a good mood, and I remember the kids I care about, a world away, and I know I made a difference, in my little ways. It’s great that what I did before has found a small connection in what I’m doing now. There’s balance.

Here are some of the pictures, and letters.

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“Sir, I’m gonna miss you. I think that the majority of the school, because you’re special, your accent is so interesting.  I hope happiness for you and enjoy all your trips and travels…one time in a meeting you told us how was your child life and we appreciate it. Thanks to give us a second chance.”

“Australians are so different from Peruvians. Also I learned that Mr Burns is a good boxer.”

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“For problems you tried a many times to help and appreciate that a lot and well it’s time to say “bye”. I guess well if someday I go to Australia and call you for give me a tour. Well, bye cowpoke.”

“Thanks Mrs for teach us about Peruvian presidents…(and) Wu Wo Tu (World War II). When you say it sounds like that. I really hate the times that you say ‘sit properly or ‘why are you talking’ but despite that you are a really good teacher. Thanks.”

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“We learned so much with you as as teacher, we probably doesn’t learn with other teacher like we learned with you, with your dictation and your funny way of talk, and now we know what is happening in the world.

“You are the best teacher of History, Geography, and Economy in English.”

“I really hope that you will be OK and I liked so much your class, I learned a lot of things about politics and also I practice my English because the first day that I knew you I didn’t understand what you were talking, but then yes, and my English, it’s better thank you.”

“I learned that if you find interesting news you are going to memorise it faster.”

In this year I learn a lot of things, but I think that learn to respect others, was the most important. In my opinion the school is our second home, so I can say that you were a great parent.”

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I’ll miss you too.

‘Excuse me, Mr. Burnzy!’

 

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Last night I attended a parents’ information session with the other teachers. And I was interested in meeting the parents, I found, as I gazed across each classroom. I was trying to guess which parents belonged to my particular students. I think I wanted to know because any little detail could help me.

There are no bad students. There are only the students that understand me, and those that don’t. I try to assume that’s my fault, although since I only speak English and it is their second language, we could blame the circumstances. I won’t, because I think most of them understand English in some form, whether it be by listening, reading, writing or speaking, and it is my job to figure it out their strength. Some students do not want to learn English, and refuse, but at the same time they want to talk to me.

Other students say they barely speak English, but then they can talk to me about surfing, or videogames, or translate for the rest of the class. There are the students that get distracted, either because of someone else who is distracted. I assume then they are bored, so I challenge them more. It seems to be working.

Of course, if you are a teacher reading this you can dismiss me as naive. This was my first week teaching, after all. I have been stressed and made mistakes mostly because of equipment and planning. I lost my locker key with all my equipment locked up, and had to come up with a plan b lesson with 10 minutes to go. I pulled it off so well I will be keeping that teaching activity! Thank goodness for my experience in newspaper journalism where you have to pull out a plan b or c or even d minutes before the deadline.

Other experiences in life have really helped me out besides the journalism. I entered a modelling competition. I went through a stand-up comedy phase. I loved it even if I wasn’t quite good at it. Sure I made people laugh but there were more misses than hits. But I did learn to perform. It’s all about the performance. I think when I am in class when I am able to read the room that all my skills of the past have been for this moment – for this purpose. But while the other skills focused on me, me, me, this time it cannot be. It is for them. This is all about the students.

One student told me excitedly at the start of the second lesson, “I love history!” And I knew then that I was going to try my best. I cannot let my students down.

…..

I had an Irish bloke called McGuinness as my Year 6 teacher once. He was a bit of a bastard and worked us hard. And he ranted about his opinions on life in general. “This is your last year before high school!” he would shout at least once a week. “The teachers in high school aren’t going to care about you! They will just pass or fail you, so you need to learn as much as you can!” I cried behind a tree at home after my first day with him. He gave us a lot of homework but I learned a lot. My school years were disruptive and my most beneficial years were either Year 6, or the following year in which I benefited from his study habits.

I have mentioned him in other blog sites before. But this week I have had time to think of him in a different way. What I often have forgotten when I think of him was that Mr McGuinness was a substitute teacher. My original teacher was diagnosed with cancer and had the rest of the year off. And so undoubtedly he had to suddenly follow or make up an entire year’s plan for us. And possibly he had little experience at doing so for such a long period of time, nor was familiar with what the typical expectation for Year 6 was. So he did not patronise us. He challenged us instead. And I stepped up to that challenge because I had to.

And it made all the difference to me. At school. And probably for my life.