Ok so maybe I lied. I can’t keep myself from writing for a month and a half simply because I have a time-consuming job and I’m studying for the MCAT. The posts will be short and simple but in some ways, I think that can be more powerful.
Yesterday I had one of those powerful moments. A simple realization that I think will carry me through my entire year. I was in my first grade classroom. We had just finished a simple spelling test and we were finishing class by doing a reading. I read the short poem out loud to them and then they repeated each sentence after me. My co-teacher, Teacher Ann, then proceeded to talk in front of the class, translating each word so the students could understand what the poem was actually talking about. About 10 seconds into her talk with the students she turned to me and said: “Teacher Brenna, you can sit down. We don’t need you right now.” At first my ego felt a little bruised. After all, I had been hired to teach, not sit in a chair while someone else taught my class. But this thought quickly dissipated as I realized my purpose of coming to Thailand and teaching English was not to learn how to teach or even to challenge and learn about myself. Sure, those things will most certainly happen during my year abroad, but I realized for the first time since being here that this was not why I am here, at Bandon Sriersm Elementary School.
I am here, I realized, to serve this community. They did not hire me because I have outstanding credentials as a teacher or am such a spectacular person that they wanted all of their students to know. No, I was hired because I can speak English and I can give these kids the opportunity to improve their pronunciation, improve their speaking skills, and ultimately, give them a love and desire to learn English. It was in that moment, that realization, that I embraced sitting in the chair and watching Teacher Ann help the students translate the passage. I could not explain to the kids exactly what each word meant. Teacher Ann could. And this translation is what the students needed to learn. Not some American girl standing at the front of the class asking them to repeat each and every word until they pronounced each one correctly. They could memorize and say the poem perfectly and it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t understand what they were saying.
It was an incredibly humbling, yet powerful, moment to fully realize that my purpose here is to serve. I need to know when to step aside and let another teacher take over in order to enhance the students’ learning. I remember in my interview for PiA they talked about service extensively and how each fellow has a year of service to their community. It is what ultimately made me fall in love with the ideals of PiA and what made me want to accept this post. However, it wasn’t until just yesterday that I fully understood what service to a community can look and feel like.