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On our first day of work at ACJ primary school in the South African township of Nomzamo, the team of student volunteers, as well as our volunteer leader, walked down the dusty, paved road leading from the large, brick primary school to the community’s sports field carrying bins of cones, soccer balls, bibs, and hurdles.

 “When the children’s faces light up because they understand the lesson, the sigh of relief all the teachers exhale when the lesson is over and the kids run out of the room laughing and carrying their completed activities, or when the children come back to the classroom the next day sharing how pleased their parents were of their work – that are the most rewarding and make me proud to be called ‘Teacher! Teacher!'”

The field, where we were to begin our holiday sports and nutrition camp, was located not even fifty yards down the road, but during this walk we passed several homes of the people of the community as well as a crèche (or kindergarten) with a small fenced in courtyard facing the street. As we walked by this crèche, all donning our navy blue GVI t-shirts, a group of about four or five small children ran up to the fence and pressed their faces against it, chanting loudly at us from across the street. It took us all a moment to understand, but we figured out that they were chanting, “Teacher! Teacher!” This chant never fails to occur each time we walked from the primary school to the field and back as well as any time any of the children participating in the camp sought to get any of the volunteer’s attention.

This moment of chanting that started as we passed by the crèche for the first time stuck with me throughout this first week of teaching, not only because this is how the children refer to us throughout the holiday camp, but also because I was struck with pride and also a weight of responsibility that comes with the title.

“Being a teacher means being encouraging and positive while also maintaining a healthy teacher-student relationship inside and outside of the classroom. Being a teacher means maneuvering a language barrier and being flexible based off of the students in order to provide the most effective learning environment.”

This is a title of respect that the GVI organization has established over the near decade of its work in Nomzamo, and each person that wears the navy blue GVI t-shirt is immediately associated with that program. I had done nothing to earn this label of teacher except wear a GVI t-shirt and perhaps look older than the rest of the kids, and yet, to the people of Nomzamo and the children whom we have the privilege to teach, we were immediately granted the title of “Teacher.” Being consistently referred to as “Teacher” got me thinking about what it really means to be a teacher and how to live up to the standard and responsibility that the title calls for.

Throughout my time thus far at ACJ primary school, I have learned about what being a teacher means, as well as skills to make me a better one. What I have learned during this past week is that being a teacher means maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect, no matter the age or identity of the student.

Being a teacher means thinking on your feet and being creative in order to make sure that the most possible people with various learning styles can understand. Being a teacher means being encouraging and positive while also maintaining a healthy teacher-student relationship inside and outside of the classroom. Being a teacher means maneuvering a language barrier and being flexible based off of the students in order to provide the most effective learning environment. Each day I spend teaching the children, I have the opportunity to improve my teaching and overcome new or different challenges.

I feel as though I can speak for the rest of the student volunteers when I say it is these moments –  when the children’s faces light up because they understand the lesson, the sigh of relief all the teachers exhale when the lesson is over and the kids run out of the room laughing and carrying their completed activities, or when the children come back to the classroom the next day sharing how pleased their parents were of their work – that are the most rewarding and make me proud to be called “Teacher! Teacher!”

2 responses to “Teacher! Teacher!

  • Susan Kintzler says:

    My mom always said that teaching is the”noble profession” Your students respect you,Kayla, for your direction, knowledge, and strength in who you are! You make me proud. What you are doing this summer may imprint your spirit on many children’s hearts forever.

  • Nelson Patterson says:

    Kayla, the impact of a teacher with compassion and conviction is life-long. Congratulations.

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