“Oh my word, my brain is fried!”
This year I have committed to teach 5th grade at my kids’ school. They needed a 5th grade teacher and I needed the tuition discounts that my 3 kids would receive. (School is not cheap in Costa Rica!) So it’s a win-win for everyone… if it doesn’t kill me first.
This last week has been a true baptism by fire for me as I have jumped right into both learning this new school (their systems, procedures, etc.), cleaning and setting up my classroom, reading curriculum and writing lesson plans, AND participating in the new student orientation that was happening this week at the same time. As an example of how chaotic this week has been for me, I worked two full 8 hour days before anyone told me that I needed to punch-in every day. Oops. Not only that, but no one ever told me when I was required to be at school this week, so I just showed up around 9:30 the first day. The minute I walked in the principal caught me and said, “Where have you been? You’re two hours late! Here, take these families on a tour of the school.” Well, as you image, my blood pressure just went through the roof.
What we have here is a classic culture clash wrapped in a high learning curve which usually accompanies starting a new job where there is NO training whatsoever. I am learning just as much about my responsibilities as a teacher as I am about how a Costa Rican organization is run. The minute I walked in the door on the first day of orientation I realized we had a break down in expectations. The American in me automatically attributed the miscommunication to poor leadership, and the Costa Rican principal at the head of the school bureaucracy attributed the fault to someone further down the chain of command who failed to send out an email to me. The whole debacle was quickly swept under the rug so no one “lost face” by being embarrassed or having to apologize, while I fumed about it all day long. This culture clash left me with whiplash! I came home with a full-body migraine, I just discovered that there IS such a thing.
So the part of this week that I have actually enjoyed is starting to get to know my fellow teachers. Some of them I’ve seen around the school when I was just a parent, and some of them are new like me. We are learning the ropes together. I tend to be very proactive and aggressive about searching out information and asking questions, so my fellow newbies are riding my coat tails as I quickly scout out what we all need to know. But I like the moments when we can all release a little tension and laugh together or be honest about how nerve-racking this whole experience is.
One teacher is moving from second grade to high school. She has told me several times how terrified she is. I have been shocked at how honest she has been with me about feeling inadequate and nervous. It makes me feel so much better that I’m not the only one thinking, “what did I get myself into?” Another teacher is a veteran here at the school, but she admitted that this last week she hasn’t been sleeping well at night. The day I talked to her she told me she had a migraine from the stress of this week. A third teacher has maintained her deer-in-the-headlights look for the last 4 days. She told me she keeps walking around in circles in her classroom and not accomplishing anything. She’s overwhelmed and tired already.
I have heard of teachers spending the night before the first day of school throwing up all night long. Nerves.
Why do teachers do this year after year if the tension and stress is so high? Because they love teaching. And I keep reminding myself that I DO love this. I love teaching, and I’m good at this. I’ve been giving myself little pep-talks all week long. “You can do this. This is what you’ve been wanting to do for years. You are good at teaching. You know how to do this.” And ultimately my motivation is to do my best to honor God with my work. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me… and I’m going to need a lot of your strength, Lord.