“Inside Out”

Building relationships with my students inside and outside the classroom.

~ By Stephan

It is hard to believe that this will be the last week that I will be teaching. It has been an amazing six-month journey here in Isla Mujeres. If I think about the time I have spent here-how long I have been here, I find it hard to believe I have been here that long. Yet, at the same time, it feels like I have always been here.  Strange how one can settle in and feel at home in such a short amount of time.

It was not so easy in the beginning to get settled in and feel comfortable with everyone. There was so much to learn and so many names to remember. I was nervous, maybe even anxious, but the kids and the community made me feel at home almost immediately.  It has been a great pleasure to teach English to my students and I have enjoyed it immensely.

I have not only built relationships with my “kids”, but also with their parents and with other members of the community. We have participated in community events and have been very visible throughout our stay. I will definitely miss my students yelling out to me in the street when they see me. I will miss their eagerness, their joy, and their smiles.

My relationship with my students inside versus outside the classroom is quite different. With a smile and a greeting, I welcome my students into class when the bell rings and they get their materials ready for class. Every day in the classroom can be different, but the idea is for me to communicate positively towards my students in an effort to engage them in participating and communicating effectively in English.  I feel that as their teacher, I not only have the responsibility to educate them, but to also reinforce positive behavior and values that are already being taught at home. My kids are all wonderful and I enjoy spending time with them inside and out of the classroom. However, in the classroom I am much more serious and while I am teaching them, I am also giving positive feedback and making sure that each child knows how important they are as individuals and that they can do anything they set their minds to. I feel it is very important for a child to have good self-esteem and feel that they are valued and heard.

I also feel that demonstrating care and understanding are one of the most powerful ways to build positive relationships with students. It is our responsibility to get to know our students at different levels, not only academically, but personally and socially as well. Building a trusting rapport is essential in any relationship.

I also have relationships with my students outside of class. Some stop and speak with me when I am just taking a walk while others yell out to me and wave when I’m out for a jog. There are also those that I see at the football field down the street from where I am staying and we have a friendly game of soccer.  I also see the kids a lot at the park. We play a sport or sit and talk.  After a game, the kids will ask a million questions about my life and I ask them about theirs. They tell me about their families and siblings and more about school.

One student in particular named Jose Julian, who is in my sixth grade class will always ask when our next class date is. I always respond jokingly that he should have the schedule memorized by now and I tease that he should be speaking to me in English so that he can practice. I can tell that he is always excited for our classes.

Just recently Jose Julian invited me to his soccer club to watch his team. I told him I would love to go.  A few of the other interns and I showed up to his next game and I could tell he was excited. He had warned me that they weren’t very good, but I told him that what is important is doing your best and being a good sportsman. It was a wonderful time and I think we all enjoyed ourselves. It was great to see the community and parents supporting these young men.

The team lost, but as I’ve told Jose Julian, his team played a good game and he did a great job. I was proud of him. He thanked me for coming as we parted ways for the evening. The next day at school, I could feel his joy and excitement that I had gone to his game. He invited me to a training session and future games to which I attended happily to support him and the teams.

I feel that I have become a positive role model to him as well as to some of the other kids. They trust me and I even venture to say that they look up to me.  It’s a big responsibility, one which I do not take lightly.
Inside the classroom, I am the teacher and they are my students.  I have a responsibility to teach them and make sure that they have the tools and a clean and safe environment in which to learn.

Outside the classroom, the relationship changes somewhat. I feel that it is more a big brother/little brother relationship with most of the boys. I definitely hope that I have had a good impact on all the children, but I know that some like Jose Julian have left a lasting impression on me. I will definitely miss him and all my students. I hope to come back soon to visit and see how they are all doing. Many have asked when I will return, but no one can be sure of things like that. I told them they can write to me (in English of course, haha) and they seemed pleased with that.

This last week will be difficult for me. I made many friendships and I will miss everyone. My last day on the island will be bittersweet. On the one hand I will be going home to see my family and old friends, but on the other I feel that I am leaving home and all the new friends that I have made. I will miss the island and everyone I have met.

In closing, I am reminded of a quote,” in learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn” I have learned a lot these past six months: about myself, about my students, their families, and the community. It has been a wonderful learning experience for me as I am sure it has been for everyone else. I know that I leave my “kids” with the tools to continue to build on their education and the certainty of my friendship.