What I Do: Teaching

Above: Half of my yearbook class.

It was weird for me to write the title of this post just now. I’m not a teacher, I’m a programmer. A web developer, to be more specific. I’ve dedicated the last decade of my life to writing efficient code and building complex web application. I am more comfortable in front of a computer than in front of most people. Fellow computer geeks will understand, it’s just the way our world functions.

But I’ve also never been one to turn down a unique and challenging opportunity. That’s especially true when God is leading the way. It’s been 10 months since we first heard about this opportunity in Ecuador, 6 months since I was offered this new position, and 6 weeks since I taught my first official high school class.

In most respects, the time has flown by. We’ve been so busy and preoccupied with moving and getting set up here, that I haven’t taken much time to reflect on the larger journey. But now that we’re here, our apartment is set up, and we’re through the gigantic learning curve that was the first month of school, I’m finally getting a chance to think about all that’s happened.

Yearbook students testing out the cameras for the first time.

For the most part, my classes have been a real blessing. I have 5 of them – 2 sections of yearbook, 2 sections of video production, and 1 digital design class. All of my classes are small (5-6 students) and that has probably saved me from many of the new teacher woes. I still have some behavioral challenges with a few students, but they’re fairly manageable. I’ve only lost my cool once, asking a habitually talkative student if she’d like to come up and teach the class since she apparently had so much to talk about. I’m learning that there are better ways to handle things, but a teacher who was never formally trained, I’m having to learn as I go.

But on the whole, my students have been a joy. Since I enjoy facts and statistics, here are a few. Of my 25 students, 20 are Ecuadorian, 3 are American, and 2 are Korean. For all the non-Americans, English is their second language. Most of them speak VERY good English, but there are still a few communication challenges. I have 18 Seniors (including the Student Council President as well as the Senior Class President), 3 Juniors, 2 Sophomores, and 2 Freshmen. Many of them play sports and nearly all are involved in some sort of campus ministry.

Speaking of ministry, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to minister to students in recent weeks. For one, Alliance Academy stresses faith integration in the classroom and though that’s a challenge when teaching technical subjects, slowly getting better at it. Angela and I are also leading 7 students in a “peer helpers” group that meets every other week. We’re teaching these student leaders how to comfort and counsel their friends when they’re going through tough times.

But perhaps the most rewarding has been the one-on-one times with individual students. I am currently serving as a mentor to two students who are on probation (in danger of being expelled) because of grades or behavior. It’s been great to work with each of them and counsel them on their grades, but also to talk about their home lives and other pressures their facing. I’ve only been meeting with them for a couple weeks, but I have a good feeling about where things are headed.

I guess lastly, I should talk about the actual teaching. The most challenging part has been coming up with unique and varied lesson plans that keep the student’s engaged and in a learning mode. The planning and administrative paperwork have been more than I was expecting, but once I’m in the classroom teaching, I feel very comfortable and natural. In fact, I had my first official observation by the secondary principal last week and I received a very positive review. So, even though I’m learning new things every day, it seems that I’m on the right track.

Time will tell if this is a permanent career change. Just this last week, I found some time to start programming again, so the jury is definitely still out!

Prayer Requests:
You can be praying that I’ll find enough time to get caught up on lesson planning and administrative work at school. You could also pray for the two students that I’m currently mentoring and another one of my students who was recently suspended. Pray that God would use me to draw them closer to Himself and to teach them how to make better decisions.

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doug October 12, 2012 Ecuador