By: Ma. Alejandra Vega Hdez.
I have been a teacher for over 20 years. I have taught at all grade levels, from kindergarten to elementary, middle school to high school, and currently, college students as well. It has been exciting, to say the least. But during those 20-something years, finding a purpose—finding something that will make you feel proud and make you feel that you contributed to something bigger than yourself—has not always been clear or easy. When you have a little over 20 students, be it in kindergarten or college, it's complex to keep a purpose in mind with every activity. Let's be honest, sometimes you just want to keep them busy for a minute, while you work with struggling kids that often need your help.
As I worked through different schools, my purpose shifted with each one. Some schools demanded that the kids be fluent English speakers by the end of kindergarten; some schools' purpose was to have them score highly on the STAAR or district assessments. When I arrived at the John F. Kennedy American School of Queretaro, I received a whole new perspective on what that purpose could be. At JFK, our purpose expanded beyond academics with the IB program. We are encouraged to teach through play and, thus, to play with a purpose. As a support teacher, I have taken it upon myself to use as much time as possible to teach literacy skills through storytelling. Now, mind you, I am not the best storyteller by a long shot, but I must say, I do enjoy those 30 minutes with the kids at library time. It is a perfect moment to talk about story elements and PYP attributes and hear their thoughts on different topics. We take what we read back to the classroom and discuss characters and settings. We write descriptive sentences about characters that the kids create on their own. We use all our phonemic skills to sound out words and our sight-word knowledge to write complete sentences. We follow writing rules about punctuation and capitalization. We take a single story and use it for different purposes. The main focus is for them to write. I feel immensely proud of what we have accomplished since we started this humble workshop, and it has given me a purpose beyond my support activities.
As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I cannot say that some days are not challenging, that sometimes you feel as if you are talking to a wall, or that the kids are not engaged in what you have prepared for them. Some days you feel defeated, unmotivated, and deflated. But there will be a day... When you ask them to retell a story, or what the setting is, or who the characters are. Shyly, a hand will raise, and then another, and another, because, guess what? They have listened; That's when you feel like a rockstar, and you feel that purpose, the one that you had been looking for all this time, has been accomplished.