Why I Chose to Teach English

La Esuela de Las Cruces

As a traveler, teaching English in a foreign country is an appealing way to trot to globe — yet my motivations for coming to Panama go beyond this. My primary inspirations were my own Spanish professors who made opportunities like this possible for me.

I’m spent the past five weeks getting to know my children, controlling (or attempting to control) a classroom in another language, and involving myself in the Las Cruces community. Since my pueblo is so small, daily walks lead me new conversations and relations. While I wish I had more time to spend, these seven weeks are allowing me to share the same gifts my professors granted me.

While the fear that my work here could be for nothing, as with any volunteer program, I’m satisfied knowing they have a year-round English teacher. Instead of teaching for only a short time and hoping the students learn something by the end, we (my co-teach Audrey and I), can enrich their English-learning experience as native speakers.

Had I not chosen to take Spanish just for funsies when I was at community college, I wouldn’t be here today. In my community, although I don’t understand everyone all the time, I’m able to spend time with people and not just be some stranger from a foreign country. Instead, we interact, share stories, and can relate with each other among many aspects of life.

As I write this, I’m thinking, maybe this post should have been titled why I choose to teach English in Panama.

Learning Enterprises sends people to many countries  — but Panama appealed to me for the exact reason I’d be able to communicate. My ability to interact provides an entirely different dynamic than those who do not know their host country languages (which is a whole other invaluable experience in itself).

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So, why did I choose to teach English?

Language is a tool. It inspires, it challenges, and can change a life. Simply knowing I couldn’t be here today without having learned Spanish makes me realize how grateful I am for the professors I had and the choices I made.

I can only hope that the children here can take something from us and use it to progress their future, their education, and their goals.

Clearly we cannot change the lives of each student through our classes — it’s up to the maestros who teach math, science, and biology who enrich their lives as well.  As I’ve observed though my studies, sometimes certain subjects or teachers in our lives can make profound impressions, and I hope that I have been able to provide that.

El día de Los Niños y Niñas a La Esuela – It was a fiesta!

With two weeks left, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but I know that learning for these kids is far from over as we teach Kindergarten through sixth grade. I hope to return someday to see where life takes the children that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to work with.

While at times it can feel like a bothersome worm in my ear, I’ll miss hearing the word “teacher!” flying through the airwaves. Whether heard in the classroom by eager learners or as chorus of voices echoing from the school van zooming by, it feels like a term of endearment.

This summer has — cue chiche — changed my life. Not only did I get to share my language which was my primary goal, but I got to involve myself in a new community, navigate another culture, and think about what more I want from my life next.

In only one summer, I’ve certainly learned how I can use my knowledge to impact the lives of others. Oddly enough, knowing a language is all you need.

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