The 45 Days I Was Ms. Allie
When I told my friends and family that I was going to be working in a school, with kids, in a different country, they were more perplexed about the decision than I was in my agreement to take on the role.
45 days ago, I had never worked in a school before, nor did I ever really have much of the desire to. I’ve taken many classes on education, but enjoyed my appreciation of the theory and profession from afar.
I enjoyed spending my days designing websites and filling out spreadsheets, eyes glued to my computer screen and a bottomless cup of black coffee filled to the rim always beside my keyboard.
But - this was a new experience. It felt right. Even though, theoretically, it made no sense at all.
I pride myself on being flexible when need be. I’m adaptable. I enjoy adventure and spontaneity. But often, I’ve realized, on my own terms.
Working in a school you must be adaptable. My idea of a teacher assistant was sitting at a desk, completing random projects of glueing kids’ names to construction paper, maybe organizing some books, or grading some papers. For some reason, I suppose, I thought it would be easy.
Those first days were filled with a lot of “what the fuck did I get myself into” thoughts and daydreams comprised of my quiet study, laptop, and headphones. I was uncomfortable. But who knew those days of uncertainty were simultaneously days of growth in which parts of myself I never knew existed, started to surface.
Those 31 days of teaching were some of the best days of my life. It was one of the most humbling experiences that taught me about patience, vulnerability, and the humanity that underlies every faction of our every day life.
I started working with a group of first through third graders, most of which were native Spanish speakers, either doing an online program in English or Spanish. Many were at different levels, different parts of their lessons or chapters, or were struggling with comprehension due to language barriers. To me, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t go to a school like this. I don’t know how to help. But, I learned my way of doing things, isn’t the only way - and it may not even be the best way.
Even when you’re disappointed at them for breaking a rule, they turn around and draw you a picture covered in hearts and mermaids with blue hair.
After about a month working with the 1st through 3rd grade students, I moved to work in the classroom with the middle school and high school students. Quiet. Less hectic. Individual projects that involved me staring at my computer typing away, one of my life comforts. But, I missed the energy and spunk of my first through third graders.
When I would pass the little ones in the hallway, they would scream “Ms. Allie! Teacher, teacher, teacher!” And attack me with a big hug like I’ve never had before.
“Ms. Allie, I got 100% on my test today. I’m so happy.”
“Ms. Allie, I’ve been practicing my English, and, you know, I actually really like it.”
The student we’ve been working on English with, was making strides. And, while I don’t really think I played a huge part as a teacher assistant in that, her sharing her excitement with me gave me a sense of joy I don’t think I’ve ever felt before.
On my last day, I worked the morning with pre-school.
The first graders walked by.
“Ms. Allie, really??”
I didn’t tell any of them it was my last day. Even when they asked, like they did every day, “Ms. Allie, when are you coming back to our classroom?”, I just shrugged and said I didn’t know.
I’ve only cried at puppies, deaths, or through my bouts of anxiety and depression.
And when I left the school that afternoon, my allergies were either really bad, or I just maybe shed a tear. Can’t be certain.
Thank you for letting me be part of your learning and growth, and allowing me to do the same beside you. Thank you for humbling me, giving me humility and compassion.
45 days ago I had no idea what I was doing, but also thought I had things, myself, pretty well understood. 45 days after my first day as Ms. Allie, I still don’t know what I’m doing, and am maybe a bit more confused about my life’s path, but I’ve never been more certain of myself and what truly matters to me.
My post-college anxiety and depression, confusion about life and myself, was cured by kids of all things. Those loud, crazy creatures that can sometimes seem to impose stress, somehow gave me a bit more purpose and clarity.
Their curiosity and love of life and learning was inspiring. And I can’t help but think if we all spend a bit more time with kids, the world might make a little more sense.
Here’s to kids and the magic they possess, that we adults often lose sight of.
And here’s to never losing sight of our inner kid.