“It seems like children never jump on me at this school.”
That’s one of the first things I noticed while teaching at my new school in Boston this fall. I’d spent the past three years teaching 3rd and 4th graders at BECA’s Santa Monica Bilingual School. Those years formed my foundation in teaching and lesson planning, while also turning my spine into a jungle gym for children.
I was reminded of this when I flew back to Honduras recently and was welcomed in rock star style by mobs of former students. When one of them managed to lift me off the ground in a massive bear hug, I knew for sure I wasn’t in Boston anymore. But if the piggyback rides were a major cultural difference between SMBS and my school in Boston, there was plenty I learned with BECA that made my life in Boston much easier than the average first year teacher.
I’m currently an associate 1st grade teacher, working on my Masters in Education. A few months ago, the lead teacher at my school asked me, “How are you always coming up all these new educational songs all the time?” I explained that when you work at a school without access to textbooks and daily work packets, things like self-invented songs, games, and handmade centers are necessary to jazz things up so students stay engaged.
Working at Santa Monica also taught me how to plan in ways most of my current co-workers have never needed to worry about. In Boston, I’m given completed unit plans with lesson broken down by the day and even to the minute. During my time with BECA, while we had a curriculum based on Common Core standards, much of the implementation was left up to us as teachers. Even with the curriculum as a guide, I sometimes needed to pause and assess my students' needs, catching them up on content they needed before they could access the grade level curriculum.
Another skill I learned at Santa Monica was how to build relationships with my students. I’d never worked closely with children before coming down, so had no idea how to motivate or communicate with a group of rowdy children when I started. Luckily, I had the benefit of working with several outstanding teachers who showed me strategies that have helped me build bonds of trust and understanding with my students, teaching them to self-regulate when they feel frustrated or help find fair solutions to their problems.
Now that I’m nearly finished with my first year of co-teaching in Boston, I know I owe a debt of gratitude to all my co-workers, administrators, and students who helped shape me into the teacher I am today, much more than any grad school ever could have.
Leaving Honduras was painful, literally. My back was still aching several days later. Back in my Boston classroom, one my students asked me why I was wincing after picking up her fallen pencil. I couldn’t help but smile, thinking of all the ways BECA had and was continuing to affect the person I had become.