Ines Garcia is a BE-ESL minor alumni who completed student teaching hours in Mexico City. Garcia reflects on her experience in the BE-ESL minor program and her time in Mexico.
After years of night classes, lessons plans, field experience hours, Saturday morning ISBE certification tests, and extensive amounts of reading, education majors find themselves more than ready to walk across the stage at graduation to receive their diplomas. Nevertheless, we are continuously haunted by the final, trimester-long test waiting to be completed: student teaching. Our classes do prepare us to make lesson plans, implement communicative instructional strategies, authentic assessments, and advocate to parents, teachers and administrators for the needs of ours students. However, only after student teaching in Mexico City, and my first teaching position in a Bilingual Kindergarten classroom can I say that patience is completely necessary to successfully incorporate your training in the BBE minor program into the classroom. Luckily, studying abroad naturally gives you a crash course in patience. Both study abroad and student teaching can be divided into three phases: enchantment, frustration and acceptance.
I began my student teaching experience in Mexico City like most student teachers here in the USA, extremely excited (and nervous) about meeting my cooperating teacher and my students. Once introductions were made and observations began, I fell in love with my students and was eager to teach them everything I know. The same can be said about my first few weeks in Mexico City. Tour buses, tacos al pastor (with pineapple), street vendors, scarves for less than a dollar and the clash of colonial and Aztec architecture in one place all spoiled me into a state of bliss.
Nevertheless, the frustration stage soon followed suit as both student teaching and study abroad will challenge you to undertake the exhausting task of relearning “the basics”. Whether you like it or not, student teaching will catapult you into a new world of requirements, procedures and quirky people. At times it will sound like your cooperating teacher is speaking a different dialect full of abbreviated names and acronyms for the many curricula being simultaneously implemented (none of which you have ever heard of). At times, your students will look at you with blank stares, and because kindergarteners will be kindergarteners, they may even decide to begin recess during your lesson. Living in a new city and a new culture has its benefits. However, frustration will arise when the peace of mind you have while completing simple daily tasks is completely fragmented upon discovery that checking a book out from the library, riding the bus, texting and even typing are done differently in Mexico. My experience gave me flashbacks to Dr.Goulah’s Special Topics in Education course and the Makiguchi/Ikedian value of engaging with the “other” as a means of self-discovery and improvement. Makiguchi did not however say how infuriating self-improvement can be nor how long it would take.
Luckily there was a cure for my woes, and I grew more than I had envisioned, both personally and professionally. I found patience for others and most importantly patience for myself, to be the best remedy for frustration. In the classroom, patience allows you to incorporate your prior knowledge, what you need to do, and the resources available to help accomplish your goals. In other words, you will learn to do your best under any circumstance (even if it means creating an impromptu lesson). You are able to think clearly and successfully implement some of the communicative activities from your Methods of Teaching ESL and Practices in Bilingual Education courses. With patience, your mistakes will give way to lessons that conclude on time, your students will be begging to share stories and questions, and your late night lesson planning will cease. While living and studying in a different country, patience allows you to change your expectations and criticize only when necessary. Thus, I left Mexico City the same way I found it: Tacos al pastor (with pineapple), street venders playing the recording of “tamales oaxaqueños”, and libraries, buses and keyboards that are more than acceptable. With patience, it became evident that the BBE minor and my student teaching gave me an extensive understanding of the linguistics needs of my students and the confidence and methodological training to meet those needs.