In high school I had a teacher whose class I did not attend much. However, when I did occasionally show up (often late, as it was first period of senior year), I could frequently hear her saying her famous motto. Violate your expectations. She taught English. Oh the irony!
Although she did not touch my life in a profound way in terms of English, a love for Shakespeare, or whatever else it is that she taught us, I did come away with a very significant life lesson. Constantly challenge yourself, your beliefs, your expectations.
I guess there are two points to this post, now that I think of it.
The first (and unintended) point is that even if you aren’t changing lives the way you had hoped to, change is happening. It may not be sudden and is probably very subtle. She may not have cultivated me into a literary genius (HA!), but she did give me a new perspective on life (which, in my opinion, may actually be more significant.)
I can hardly begin to count the times where I have uttered that same motto. Yet, I have never quoted Shakespeare. She probably didn’t think that her motto was what was going to make a lasting impression in my mind. But, I guess if you hear things enough you learn by osmosis. This is my new outlook for working with students in SVG. I’ve realized I’m probably not going to change these students’ lives by teaching them to read (teaching someone to read is a lot more difficult than I thought. It also requires more than just simply knowing how to read yourself), or helping them to improve their reading/writing/comprehension skills through one hour a week sessions for approximately two years. Some of these students need much more than that. But hopefully by repeatedly telling these students that they have potential and that they can do it, they will believe in themselves. Maybe if I continually tell them that they are valued, appreciated, and their opinion matters, they will be confident and assertive. Perhaps if I show them that I care and love them then they will show that same compassion and respect to others.
The second point, and the one that I had originally deduced from revisiting that motto is that, every day I am constantly violating my expectations. My entire idea of what the “Peace Corps experience” would be like has been shattered. It was shattered before I even left the States, in fact. Everyday I am being challenged in what I believe in, what I expect of myself, what I expect of others. And everyday I am violating those expectations. Some are for the positive, and benefit everyone; and others are terribly troubling to me. Either way, it is important to constantly be asking questions, challenging yourself in any and every way possible.
I will continue to try (I only say “try” because it is as difficult for me to teach reading as it is for them to learn it probably) to teach these wonderfully bright students how to read. All the while, chirping in their ears about goals, ambitions, potential, compassion, respect, the significance of preserving/conserving our environment!, and other important life lessons.