I never in a million years expected myself to be teaching English in Latin America; for as popular (and in some cases, lucrative) as it can be for Americans to teach English abroad, it was never something that I intended or expected for myself. That being said, teaching English for four hours a week to a group of 20 adults has probably one of the unexpected highlights of my job so far.
I remember back to my first day of teaching, almost five weeks ago at this point. For a few minutes before my students arrived, I spent some time organizing and reorganizing all my papers and setting up my classroom, and I finally began to understand how all of my teachers throughout my lifetime have felt. How was it possible that I was now filling this role for a group of eager students?? I wondered if all of my former teachers had felt that nervous or underprepared, or if they had been nervously guessing at how long activities and note-taking would last when they were teaching me.
There’s so much that I don’t know about how to do my job yet. Beyond just teaching English there seem to be a million times daily that I am reminded of how little I know. I don’t know how to give accounting advice to my micro finance loan recipients, let alone how he should best use his loan to raise his guinea pigs [ a delicacy in Ecuador ]. I don’t know how to run a community center, I don’t know how to make our presence more known in the community. I certainly don’t know how to apply for grants or write convincingly warm and appreciative letters to our amazing donors.
I’m trying to remind myself that all of this is okay. I don’t have to know how to do all of these things, nor should I… that would probably make the next year of my life pretty boring. But yet, I want to serve the people in our community with excellence. My heart longs to give them all that I can give them, all of my sometimes limited knowledge or time or attention span. I really don’t want to half-ass this; I’m here to love and serve people and I intend to do it well.
So where’s the line between giving myself grace and time to learn and grow into this job and serving the community members with excellence? I’m not really sure yet. When I get home from work every day I spend a few hours plugged in to my computer and an online TESOL certification course to become certified to English to speakers of other languages. Next up on the list is an online course in Raiser’s Edge, a popular donor relations and fundraising software that will make my role here as Donor Relations Coordinator a lot easier and more effective. As I’m pushing myself to grow, I’m realizing that loving with excellence doesn’t always require the highest degree of skills, but rather serving others with the most amount of love and care I am capable of giving.
I love that I get to pour myself into my work here every day, and I love the community that I am so blessed to serve. The rest will come with time, but I think for now thats a pretty good foundation for loving well.