It has been surprisingly difficult for me to create these blog posts. In the beginning, I thought that the words would just flow naturally due to all of my new experiences. However, the reality of the situation is that I have been very overwhelmed and have been feeling so many emotions that I am finding it difficult to process everything and put everything into words. I have been feeling homesick, tired, happy, sad, excited, and culturally shocked all at the same time. All of these emotions have left me feeling emotionally and physically drained.
A few days ago I, along with two other students were given the opportunity to visit a school that was located in a very poverty stricken community. We had to take a subway to get to the school. The subway was the busiest I have ever seen it, and I literally felt like a sardine packed into a can. That experience left me feeling very overwhelmed and during the walk from the subway to the school I thought I had calmed down and got myself together. As soon as we entered the school, we were in the midst of the student's recess and we were standing directly in the middle of their play area. The students were playing soccer using a ball that had been made of plastic bags taped together. During this time I observed some interesting behaviors from the students. I observed students on the ground wrestling one another while adults walked past them. I also observed students climbing a metal grated door that led up to the electrical wires. As as soon as recess was over, we went into the classroom with the students to teach them a lesson. They started playing a video and wanted the children to dance along with it. Everybody was encouraging me to dance along too but I felt as though my mind and body were shutting down. I was more overwhelmed at that moment than I can even describe. I found myself having a breakdown in the girl’s bathroom. Jameelat came in to check on me, which I am very grateful that she did. She went and got Dr. Patti and we were able to talk about the experience. Anybody that knows me knows that I am not comfortable talking about my emotions or feelings. However, sitting in the courtyard of a school in a foreign country just allowed me to speak freely and openly for the first time during this trip. I was amazed that a couple of boys came out of their classes to just come over and talk with us, I didn’t know what they were saying of course, but Dr. Patti was able to understand and communicate with them. I feel as though I gained a lot from that experience. I was able to step back and reflect upon what an amazing opportunity this experience truly has been.
Last week, we were given the opportunity to visit a school for students with special needs. The students who attend the school have severe disabilities, and it felt very familiar to me. Students with severe disabilities are the students that inspired me to go into teaching in the first place. So being at that school made me feel so comfortable. Dr. Patti and I were in a classroom that had 5 students who were probably 14-15 years old and all were in wheelchairs. The students were working on making a cake during our visit. The teacher had a large button that plugged into the appliances so that the students were able to operate the appliances with ease on their own from their wheelchairs. I had never seen a button like that before and I loved it.
After adding in her ingredients, one of the girls was pushing herself over to wash her hands at a nearby sink. Naturally being teachers, mine and Dr. Patti's first instinct was to help her get to the sink. However, the teacher didn’t even flinch, she told us that she takes a while but she is able to do it on her own. Before we knew it, she was over at the sink washing her hands. This really made me think about how helping too much, too often can actually end up limiting students.
During our last few minutes in the classroom, the teacher was adding flour into the bowl. She asked us what the English word for flour was and we told her. She was a bit confused because in her mind she was picturing a flower so we helped clear up the confusion. As we were walking out of the classroom I heard her teaching the students the word for flour. I was just very inspired by the caring, compassionate, understanding manner of the classroom teacher and I give her a lot of credit.
Late last week, we were given the opportunity to teach in one more school. Luckily, it was located within walking distance of Universidad Mayor and Ecela. It was a catholic school and I taught in a fourth grade class assisting Claire with her lesson. There were about 25-30 students in the class and they treated us like we were celebrities. They all had a million questions and wanted to talk to us so badly. One little girl even drew me a picture and told me that she loved me. I was struck by the sincereness of all of the students that day.
Hello! My name is Liz and I am a graduate student here at Buffalo State college majoring in special education. I am a certified New York State special education and elementary teacher.