Tomorrow marks my first legitimate workday as an English teacher in another country (another continent). And it’s a country that is by and large considered a part of the underdeveloped third world. The geographical shift alone has greatly enhanced my perception of what education is supposed to mean in a place like India, but without hands-on experience, my knowledge still leaves much to be desired.
So far, my capacity in the school’s hierarchy has been assistance-based learning, meaning that all the teaching or guidance I have provided over the course of the last two months has been closely supervised by a more senior staff member. Although these staff members varied greatly in age and subject of interest, each one was able to help me understand that the Indian education system is one that does not permit great unorthodoxy in curriculum.
In short, despite being comprised of individuals dedicated to drawing forth the potential of their students, the Indian education system allows no pedagogical heroes. Teachers are not allowed to deviate from the state-mandated standards. They have limited resources at their disposal to subvert or fill in the cracks in the system. Now, I’m not saying that this kind of situation doesn’t exist in American classrooms, but I am saying that the average American classroom has a lot more creativity and financing to foster student growth. And having been in both classrooms as a student, I can say this with absolute certainty.
But without having been a teacher in either type of classroom, does my opinion really cover all the bases? I’m not sure yet. That’s why tomorrow is going to be an important day for me. Not just because it’s my first official step into teaching, but also because I will finally be able to put myself in front of the blackboard for hours on end. This repetition will help me fully comprehend the rigors of being an educator. I will need to eschew the romanticized notions I still associate with the often thankless job of a teacher.
And when my view of the profession is stripped down to its bare essentials, just like my worldview has been from my continued exposure to the starkness of India in general, whatever remains will tell me whether or not I am committed enough to education to make it an integral part of my life for the next decade.
Right now, I don’t know much about the specifics of teaching. After tomorrow, I might not know much more. But what I will know is whether or not the entire prospect of it is something I want to know more about. For now, I’m just going to put my best foot forward.