Notes from the Field: First Day Jitters


Josh Elder, 2010 Teach with Africa fellow, is a 7th and 8th grade teacher of Life Sciences at KIPP Philadelphia Charter School. For more updates on his experience as a Teach with Africa fellow, you can follow his blog.

Yesterday was my first day of teaching in South Africa. I woke up in the middle of the night with feelings of anxiety and anxiousness. I had been waiting for the moment to enter into the classroom and do what I love so much. On the outside I tried to remain calm but on the inside I was a complete wreck.

I was finally able to fall back to sleep, but it seemed as soon as I did my alarm was ringing and it was time for me to get up. I was able to have breakfast and then started my walk to school. The entire way I tried to remain calm and confident but again I was nervous on the inside.

This week we are doing workshops for Grade 7 and Grade 8 students who live in the different townships. These students have been working on math and science for the last couple of weeks while the schools here in South Africa are on holiday break and World Cup break. The tutors that are running the program wanted Teach with Africa to run workshops on different life skills. There are workshops being held on Study Skills, Writing, Leadership, and Journalism. I decided that I wanted to do a workshop on leadership. I feel like developing leaders in middle school is such a huge need that both the South African and American society need to tap into.

Once I was assigned a class to enter, I started feeling extremely nervous. However, as soon as I saw the 20+ students and I was in the class, all of those nerves just went away. It felt as if I had already met and taught these students before. I couldn’t believe how at ease I was. In hindsight, I realized that this is the same feeling I had on my first day of teaching and the same feeling I get on the first day of school every year. However, once I heard the kids say their name and then they said my name it was like I had never left my class. When my time was up with the first class I didn’t want it to be over.

As I was leaving and walking back to the house I just had such a profound realization.

There are many days that I complain about life and complain about my job, but I know that I do what I do for a reason. I am a teacher for a reason. I love what I do.

Something about working with students who are the future is very invigorating. There are some amazing days in the classroom and there are some days that just go horribly wrong in the classroom, but that is part of teaching. I know that my calling is in education.

During their time in South Africa, Teach with Africa fellows will be providing field notes on their experiences. Keep up with us on Facebook, Twitter, and get our email updates for the latest.

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