I wrote an essay today for the professional seminar of my teaching practicum. In this essay I am supposed to write about what I have learned through the teaching practicum, what are my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, what are my expectations and projections as a teacher, and what I can give to my country and my people as a teacher. I usually share this kind of essays on Sundays, but because next Sunday I will not be able to share anything due being outside Puerto Rico (in Miami), I chose to share this essay today, the same day I wrote it. It may also be seen as a tribute for all the brave people who have given and are giving their lives to our country and to make our free growth possible, not only for those in the military, but also for all the citizens that strive a better growth and a better country for all.
Becoming a Work of Love
What is the most important thing I have learned as a student teacher? That I am not only teaching students: I am teaching human beings. I am not only an ESL teacher: I am a public server whose being, action, realization and projection is a growth model for those who I teach. I have the capacity to create the change that my nation needs with my personal growth and my teacher’s lessons. As John. F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what can you do for your country.” I have discovered as a student teacher what I can do for my country as a fellow American and also as a Christian: creating a culture of sacramental Love, communicating humanity and affirming unconditionally the best growth possible for every person through helping to be, helping to do, helping to grow and helping to radiate everyone as the best person that each one can become; as a sacrament of God’s Love, capable of radiating that Love with his or her personal formation’s growth. As I taught my lessons as student teacher I learned to contemplate each student not only as a student and as a person, but as a human being in process of becoming a “work of Love,” a living sign of God’s Love. Every person is actually sacred and has the potentiality of becoming a sacrament of Love, and through my lessons I was able to learn a concrete way to honor that sacralization and sacramentalization as I served my students with ESL lessons.
How prepared I feel to teach? To be sincere with myself, I think that I have many things to learn yet, but I also think that that is part of my own process of becoming the best person and teacher I can be. I hope to find good mentors along the way for keep growing as a teacher until becoming the best teacher I can be.
What are my strengths? I think that my deepest strength is my formation in the Faculty of Humanities. That helps me to teach departing from the human being, not from the “curriculum”. Let’s say this in other way: for me, integrating my student’s personal formation is an essential part of the curriculum. It works wonders as a class management technique too, although it was not my intention to use it that way. When students see that you care for them, respect them as persons and want to help them to become the best persons they can be, they get more engaged and get more conscious of the importance of learning how to control themselves and behave better. This is part of embracing learning as a personal formation process, not as an academic process or a mere information transmission process. I have learned that class management is not a matter of following rules in the first place but a matter of integrating humanity in the first place and then following rules.
In what areas I need improvement? My grammar teaching skills definitively need improvement. I have a lot of learning ahead about grammar. The root of this deficiency is that I am not good at grammar in my first language, Spanish, neither. It is very hard to me to define the form and understand the function of all words (I am very used to abduct those that I don’t know, and the abduction is usually right). However, I achiever to understand some terms that I was not able to understand before as I studied them for teaching them (for example: as easy as it seems, I just understood what is the progressive verb tense and how to difference it from the simple verb tense as I discussed them with my third graders). Other area where I need improvement is pronunciation, but this can be easily improved by moving to United States and talking English on a daily basis. How do I compensate these weaknesses? Mainly, through consulting grammar books for understanding better whatever I need to understand in order to teach it, and also through hearing music and movies in English. That helps me to get the correct pronunciation of words (I had never been able to learn pronunciation through the phonetic transcriptions of the words…).
What are my expectatives and projections? My expectative is to be an ESL teacher somewhere in the United States after finishing my master’s degree in Differentiated Education. I am thinking in a place that has a good teaching mentorship program, good integration of technology, decent teaching resources, some professional development time and a strong Latino population. A decent salary and patronal contribution to the Social Security (teachers in the public system in Puerto Rico doesn’t have Social Security contribution, and for me is very important to contribute to the Social Security, I believe it should be a duty for everyone in working age) would be a plus. My projection is becoming a better teacher and a better human being, wherever I could be, and becoming a work of Love that radiates God’s Love through her personal formation’s growth.
What I can give to my country, United States? This is a very interesting question because in Puerto Rico what is usually asked is what United States can give to Puerto Rico. What I can give to United States? I can create through my lessons and teaching style a culture of sacramental Love: a culture where we all see us as living sacraments in the process of becoming a work of Love. For a Christian this necessarily means praying, living the Church’s sacraments and growing in ecclesial unity, but I can also see my students as living signs in the process of becoming a work of Love without teaching them about my faith but about our humanity and our personal formation: how we are all human beings, how is our personal formation (what we all have in common in our growth), how we are all called to grow in communion and human fraternity, how we are all called to be the best persons we can be, how we are called to help each other to become the best person we can be… This is what being American is about for me: helping others unconditionally to be the best persons they can be. This definition of being American is not based in any partisan view, but in an unconditional pro-growth vision, in an unconditional humanity vision.
What I can give to my people, Puerto Rico? Besides what I just said, that applies perfectly here too, I can give to Puerto Rico a definition of being Puerto Rican that doesn’t depends on partisan views but in personal formation: what makes us Puerto Ricans is how we help us to be, to do, to grow and to radiate each other, with enchantment and warmth, with a vision of unconditional hospitality and cultural integration that is truly Puerto Rican. I don’t believe in any definition of being Puerto Rican that depends on our political status struggle, in any partisan view, or in any linguistic view (for example: you can be Puerto Rican and not knowing Spanish, or you can be Puerto Rican and not knowing English). Our political status struggle is very real and a huge problem of human rights, but we need to learn how to see us beyond what divide us and then works towards overcoming our differences with respect, as human equals, as brothers and sisters of the same human family. This begins with an education that is strongly based on promoting the best personal formation possible for everyone, including both students and teachers, not based solely in the decisions of the political party in power or in economic choices. There should be a ten year goal plan for the Department of Education that aims a structure that is independent from the changes related with elections and political power.
Teaching English, for me, is a way to promote the best personal growth possible among my students, among my people and among my country. For me, this is the key lesson of our times: we are all human beings, we are all a human family, we are all deserving of the best growth possible. We can’t keep teaching with our growth to help only those who are convenient to a certain ideology of political party’s views. We need to teach that we are all unconditionally called to growth, that we are all in the process of becoming a work of Love, so we need to help us each other as human beings, loving each other with unconditional humanity. If you want to see this from a Christian view, we can say that we all are a miracle of God’s Love in the process of becoming a sacrament of His Love. This is what I dream to teach as a teacher and as a person: how to become the best persons we can be, how to be, do, grow and radiate until becoming a work of Love.
Because I believe that teachers are public servers, I will end this essay with the same line that some elected public servers usually end their oath of service:
So help me God…