When I first learned that at least one-third of my role as a Peace Corps Volunteer would be teaching secondary school, or high school year students, I wasn’t exactly pleased to say the least. After previously teaching back in the states, I had already completely eradicated this option as a career choice, as I cancelled my Teach for America application and applied for the Peace Corps. For the description of empowering youth for two years sounded much more appealing than teaching a group of high schoolers. However, here I was, already have undergone two months of training, being told that about 90% of us volunteers would be spending half of each week of our service in school teaching Family Life Education. One of those volunteers being myself.
Due to a slow summer, with ultimately no work besides integration and learning the local language, this underwhelming feeling of joining the education system became mixed with a sense of panic and excitement. Because while my arrival was unknown, and my language skills were less than adequate, I would no longer be laying on my table, just hoping that a maybe today a friend would pass by and notice the newcomer in their community.
Unfortunately, school got off on a rocky start, as I already seemed to lose control over my students on what seemed like the first day. What I thought would be a class of 25, 30 at the most, turned out to be an average of 50 students per class. All 50 wondering what this kavalaqi (foreigner) was doing in their country, nonetheless, trying to inform and educate them on the local issues experienced by the youth, and how they can move forward and live a healthy lifestyle. As the year progressed, I continued to struggle to adopt effective teaching styles and regain control of my classrooms. And just like the students, I began to ask myself “What WAS I doing here? And what DID make me so qualified to teach these students?”. This train of thought continued to the end of my first year, and my hopeful demeanor turned hopeless and grey. I counted down the days until school ended, and when that day finally came, I was overjoyed to learn that I could now concentrate on community and finally make a difference.
Now that I am heading into my second year of teaching, I have brought with me a different perspective filled with high hopes and an open heart for what may come in this new year. I now stand tall in the front of my class, facing a new group of mostly eager and excited students whom I am mostly eager and excited to teach! And while I am unaware of how this change in eagerness came about in my students, whom I used to see a close resemblance to the animals in a zoo, it may seem that I have finally earned the long fought after respect of my students. For they now jump out of their seats as I enter their classrooms and willingly partake in my strange, quirky ways of teaching that I kindly hope they’ll take part in. They even call my name in town, and the school corridors, as we pass ways. So I am happy to have endured one long year of failed trials and broken spirits, as doing so has somehow shown my students that THIS small kavalagi from America is here to learn, understand, and most importantly, stay.