One of the hardest parts of being an assistant teacher is that at the end of the day, the head teacher makes the final call. You can work together fantastically and come up with some great ideas, but if the head teacher doesn’t agree, the class moves on.
My biggest struggle here is that in addition to being an assistant teacher, with no say whatsoever, working with teachers who only ask me to pronounce some words aloud, is that I am surrounded by teachers who, instead of serving as the last line of defense for their students, join the ranks of parents and families who do not support them.
The students in my school come from broken homes, poor families, whose lives are rife with struggle. The teacher and the classroom is their last chance at receiving support. I cannot express how much it breaks my heart when I am in a classroom here and the students are yelled at, screamed at, shouted at, constantly, told to sit properly, to look at the book, to shut-up. Their last line of defense is broken. They have no one.
Yesterday, November 20, was Universal Children’s Day. It warmed my heart to know that classes here celebrated it. But it was shattered once again when I learned that in the second grade class what they took away from the celebration was that they had to listen to the teacher and do their homework. Do these children know that they have limitless potential? Do they believe that they can grow up to do what they dream of doing? Have they experienced the pure joy of learning and discovery that takes place in a classroom?
The classroom is a sacred place in so many ways. It is a second community, it is a second family…a place where you should feel safe and protected…supported by your teachers. And your job as a teacher is so profound. It is the last profession in the world to be taken lightly. We have the responsibility of raising our future…and you only need to look at the violence around the world today to know that unless we act now our future will grow darker.
What can I do? How can I be there for children when I am given no freedom to support them or teach? I am literally quite powerless. Though I do have one opening, and I plan to launch myself into it full force. A fellow teacher here feels the same way, and shares the same sentiments. It is in her class that I will connect to my students, begin to break down those walls, and plant seeds of hope and wisdom in their hearts.
My mission in here, in this school, in this town, in this province. I am, quite literally, these children’s last line of defense. And I refuse to back down.