Putting My Best Foot Forward: South Africa Service Day 1

By Jessica Burkard — As soon as I took one step inside the room, thoughts flooded my mind.

“My classroom? It’s so…empty. Where are the tables? Are there enough chairs? Do I have chalk? Do I have paper? Do I have pencils? Are any of these books in English? Will my students be able to read any of the books in English?”

And then suddenly, it occurred to me: “What am I teaching today?”

For any of you who have not yet experienced this feeling, it’s absolutely terrifying. For starters, I walked into my classroom today knowing two things. One, I knew I was teaching 6th graders and two, I knew that I was working on literacy. Beyond that, I knew nothing else about what I was supposed to do today.

What is even more terrifying than realizing you have no idea what you are expected to teach for the day, is knowing that you only have five minutes until your students walk through your door, so there is absolutely no time to panic. Let me tell you, keeping calm in that situation is very difficult, I am not sure I could even explain to any of you how I managed to do so. Perhaps it was simply the realization that in that moment there was no use in panicking.

Despite everything, I survived. Now, I will be the first to admit that my first day with my students was not perfect. There were several hiccups along the way, but I tried my best and my students appreciated the effort.  At the end of the day, I was exhausted, but completely satisfied with how I handled myself when I was pushed far out of my comfort zone today.

In handling myself in such a high stress situation, I cannot thank one source. Part of it comes from my upbringing, part of it comes from my friends, and part of it comes from training as a teacher through Marquette’s education program.

It’s comforting to know that all of my life choices have built up to lead me to this point in my life. I cannot wait to see how my students this semester will impact my life. So, to all of those who have and will contribute, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can only hope that I will touch the life of another the way you all have touched mine.

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