It was a Tuesday evening when the big transition occurred. I stood in a classroom located in Northeast Portland where there were 25 pairs of small eyes alternating their glances between me and the pelts located on the table in front of me. The pelts did not stand alone; they were accompanied by skull replicas. I was not doing this on my own; I was accompanied by Brenda, a fellow EFTA intern. There we stood both very excited and anxious. This was it. The students (us) were finally becoming the teachers. We began our presentation and nervously chattered away like tree swallows. We spoke so quickly that we stumbled over our words from time to time. We were both so excited to share fun facts with the children that we ended up speaking over each other a bit. Some keen children caught wind of our vulnerability and so they thought they could steal the show from us. They attempted this by walking around the classroom and doing as they pleased. They were not successful. We faced a few difficulties but in the end we triumphed! Mistakes aren’t mistakes if you learn from them, and we learned quite a bit that night. All in all we were ecstatic that this was only the first of many outreach programs to come.
On our drive home we reflected over our experience. We gave ourselves four thumbs up and we spoke about how we could improve for next time. The next time was actually the next day. We were scheduled to return to that same elementary school to present to four different groups. At this point we were less anxious and more excited. The four presentations went pretty smoothly. We actually improved quite a bit from one day to the next. That day we spoke to two 7th and 8th grade classes and two 2nd grade classes. There were of course a few older students that met us with resistance. They appeared to be indifferent to us until they were allowed to come touch the pelts. Success! When we finished with the older students we made our way to the second graders. As I walked through the hallways to the next class there were students from the night before that recognized me and called out my name. They remembered my name!
My Absolute favorite memory from that day was working with a bilingual second grade class. Brenda and I did not know know it was a bilingual class until midway through our presentation. As normal most of the children were reluctant to participate. That was the case until the teacher told the students that they could respond to us in Spanish. The class suddenly exploded with excitement!! Children shouted out answers in English and Spanish. Brenda and I bounced back from Spanish to English. The sudden change in the students’ attitudes left its impression on me. I have never had anything like this happen to me before and so it is an experience that will stay with me forever.
I used to say that I could never be a teacher. I could understand the material well but conveying that information to another human being was difficult for me. The thoughts in my head just did not translate well with the words coming out of my mouth. Friends that would ask me for help in college would end up being more confused which in turn left me feeling frustrated with myself. So I would say repeatedly “I could never be a teacher”. If I could see where I am today I would laugh in disbelief. Since that Tuesday night, the night I first presented to a group of kids, I have become more comfortable with the teaching role. Luckily for me practice isn’t scarce. This week’s project was Spring Break Exploration Days at the refuge. We were set up on Tuesday through Thursday with different themes each day where the kids could come and learn about different animals and work on crafts. It was an incredibly fun past three days. It was so much fun watching so many children being interested in learning about nature.