Adjusting to “Teacher Attention”
~ By Elena
During TEFL training, we had been told that once the school year started, we would be constantly recognized. But I think for me, I never realized how constant the recognition would be. I teach at Julio Sauri during the morning administration which is in the neighborhood us teachers call home. And even after only the second week, we find ourselves being recognized whenever we leave the house. We walk into the grocery store and crossing the street kids on their parents’ motos scream “Teacher! Teacher” as they drive by. Our eyes darting around to figure out where the high-pitched voice came from, but you can never get a good enough glimpse of the child squished on the front to figure out whose student it is. Not to mention, it always makes me remember how easily the four of us stick out in our little community. Other times, we will get in taxis where the driver immediately recognizes us as their child’s English Teacher never having met us before that moment but an instant connection is formed because we provide an invaluable resource in this tourist economy.
These daily occurrences always remind me of how loving a community Isla Mujeres is, especially the children. Walking into a classroom on any given day you can be so heavily bombarded by hugs you almost expect to fall over from the weight of too many third graders squishing you for what feels like forever. Even on the tough days, when your students are struggling, following the “Farewell Song” students hug you goodbye, regardless of what happened in class. They are appreciative and extremely grateful for everything you do, and they want you to know it. When I come home after school, I unpack my bag to organize my materials and I always find notes and drawings that students have secretly placed in my open backpack during class that all say variations of “We love teacher Elena”.
Being surrounded by 10 first graders every recess, who bombard you with questions about where you live on the island, how old you are and other personal details makes you feel like a small-town celebrity. Living and teaching in this community, everyone knows who you are, and at first it is overwhelming. But the outpour of love and affection from your students gives you not only a sense of place, but purpose as well as helping make the transition to local celebrity an easy and rewarding one.