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Sharing the Gold

How do we end up doing what we do? It´s been twenty years since I started teaching. I was hired as a teacher at Yazigi language school in July 1989, and that was my first "serious" job. Why did I take that job? I don´t know. I just loved the idea at the beginning and I loved it even more as time went by. I´d teach as well as translate, and eventually I found out those were activities that made a lot of sense to me, although I considered jornalism, and then dance for a long time. Sometimes I even dream about myself dancing . To this day. Really. I even hear the music in my dreams.

But when did I become a teacher?  Hard to tell. As far as I can remember I used to play with a little blackboard, teaching my dolls. Then, when I was about 10, I started tutoring some younger kids from school, after classes. I guess those were my first "victims".  I remember the feeling of sharing something I knew with other people and watching them learn. I enjoyed that. After that, I was an intern in a really, I mean really, poor school. Cracked windows,mice, and children close to a state of abandonment, to say the least. Many of my students spent their afternoons and evenings picking garbagge in search of food. Some of them were agressive. I was a teenager and many times I asked myself what on earth was I doing there. Whenever the alarm clock rang in the morning I had that feeling, oh boy, here I go again. It´s just that watching so much misery and not being able to do much to change it starts wearing one out, both mentally and phisically. I was 16. I really don´t know how I was able to make it to the end of the internship, but I did. And the children surprised me with a farewell party, saying I was the best teacher they had ever had. I was ?!!! Me? I´m not sure about that. I think they said that because I was the only one who didn´t run away on the second day of class, and got my mind set on changing a little bit that harsh reality they had every day. My supervisor didn´t approve, but I let them borrow my books, brought songs to sing in class and made them stage an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. They laughed most of the time, but were able to memorize some lines and stay still for a little while. I was a kid teaching kids. The good thing is that we all survived. :-)

I decided to go serious about this teaching thing and went to College. I learned a lot of theories...I remember my Didatics professor saying, while sitting down and reading from her notes, that a teacher should take leadership in class by using different techniques and having a lively attitude ;-). And I remember how my Western Literature  professor loved books. She´d let us borrow hers. In fact, she´d bring them in two big boxes and we´d help her unload them from her car. The treasure chests.

I´ve been thinking on a definition of teaching for a long time now. Why do I like it so much? I know why my middle brother likes engineering so much. He´s a logic thinker. He loves calculations. My eldest brother likes to help people feel better, so psychiatry was his path.I guess what I see in teaching is a way of helping people grow and become independent.I like to teach them how to learn.

Jorge Luis Borges (without having a College degree) taught English Literature at the University of Buenos Aires from 1956 to 1966, and his classes were tape recorded by a group of students and after that they were turned into a book. His students used to say  he loved teaching so much that he would come to class as a beahgifa, a ring-giver, in an analogy to the way the geats called Beowulf . He shared his gold in so many ways.

Teachers are beahgifas. And I´m very happy to have taken this road.



18 Comment count
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One of the amazing aspects

One of the amazing aspects of teaching--as you found out during your internship--is that you just never know who you're impacting or how. I used to love going to school, and I loved (most of) my teachers. To an extent they will probably never know, they shaped me.

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Ellen, this is such a

Ellen, this is such a beautiful thing to say about school. When it´s for good, the influence is rewarding. I love to meet former students and know what they´re doing. What´s amazing also is that many times it´s a circle: two former students of mine are now my children´s language teachers at school. So, I hope I did a good job with them. :-)

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Yes, and I had a strange but

Yes, and I had a strange but thoroughly happy experience a few months ago.  I was roaming the halls of a uni at which I used to teach.  It was evening, and no one was around, so I was going full speed down the hallway when something in my periphery slowed me down, then stopped me dead in my tracks.  I caught the sight of my name on a recruitment poster.  Apparently, the uni is running a campaign in which they feature successful graduates of the M.B.A. program.  One of the alums featured was a former student of mine who is now a successful restaurateur.  He said the class project I assigned for a course I taught on product development and launch was key to him opening his first restaurant, as he used that opportunity to develop a comprehensive business plan with the benefit of my critique.  Oh, I was so chuffed about this, I almost broke down and cried.  The really amazing thing is, even looking at his photo on the poster, I don't remember him.  I taught so many students.  But it's lovely to know that at least one of them remembers me, and remembers me fondly.

Maybe this is just a case of paying it forward.

By the way, you look great in your new RR photo.  To me, you look like the late Natasha Richardson.  I mean that as a compliment, for I thought she was such a pretty girl.

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Thanks, Ellen. I liked her

Thanks, Ellen. I liked her mature freshness.

That was a great teaching experience, the one you mentioned. You´re not teaching any longer?

I´m sure that guy is not the only one who remembers Angel Face. :-)

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No, I retired from it about

No, I retired from it about the time I turned 40.  For years, I'd worked a fulltime job during the day, then taught nights, and graded papers and prepared lectures on the weekends.  I just decided I needed more time for myself, to enjoy life.  Because I only have a master's degree, I would always be low woman on the totem pole in academia, so I dropped that and stuck with my more lucrative work.  But teaching was a good experience, overall.  I understand why you find it worthwhile and rewarding.

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That´s interesting, Ellen.

That´s interesting, Ellen. We kind of share the same perception. I have a master´s degree, too, and sometimes I feel like that. Instead of trying to fit a circle (me) into a square (academia), like you (I´ll be 40 next year), I decided to invest more time in a more lucrative area, translation. But I´m going to keep teaching. Except that I´ll be doing that mostly for pleasure, not for the pay.

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Luciana, you are what you

Luciana, you are what you were meant to be. I can hear it in all of your blogs to date....caring and kind and willing to share. I was thinking about what people do. I watched the painter yesterday, going about his work with pride. He's lucky too.

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I agree,Mary. No matter what

I agree,Mary. No matter what people do, if they put their heart in it, they´ll be happy.

P.S. What color are you having your house painted?

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Exterior: White with

Exterior: White with midnight blue windows and gate! See blog for update on interior. Hell!

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Luciana, I wish you were my


I wish you were my teacher growing up.  It's so good to hear from teachers their passion! That's truly your gift. 

Last year, I bought Borges's book and was reading his essays.  He wrote about Genji Monogatari.  I wouldn't miss that.  I believe he wrote twice about it. Those particular essays weren't impressive, but I liked the rest very much.  His passion comes through from his writing, I thought.  And I was curious about him.  I researched about him on the Web, and I found that he was living with his mother for most of his life, and toward the end of his life, he married a Japanese woman.  That story was interesting.  She seems putting her effort in preserving his legacy in spite of old bad rumors.  Good for her.

I like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, and Borges.  Even before I began reading one of their stories or essays for the first time, I trusted their passion.  To me, Spanish or Italian equals passion.  I'm sure Portuguese, too.

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Thank you!

Keiko, I´m a Borges admirer, reader, fan, you name it.  Do you read him in Spanish? If you do, read "El Otro" .  It´s absolutely fascinating. I´ve read it many times through the years and every time is different to me.

Brazilian poetry is full of passion, and a big dose of irony. I like that a lot. As for the narratives, I don´t think we´re a people for great novels; we lack a certain melancholy that  is needed for that genre. The Portuguese are better at that. My opinion. As for short stories, then yes, we have great ones, again full of passion and irony. 

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I wish it was in Englsih. 

I wish it was in Englsih.  I only took Intro to Spanish many many years ago. 

I called a bookstore here in Japan, but they don't even have one of his books!  I'll find it when I return to the U.S.  I am excited.  I let you know if I find it.

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Luciana, Irony is my

Luciana, Irony is my favourite word these days.

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I spent part of my working life as a teacher -- highschool chemistry and college geology. I found that teaching was the alchemy of acting and directing. The students want you to perform and reward you by learning. Then they accept your direction in hope of seeing your next performance. The students are there to help you be your best.

In another part of my working life, I worked with a Brazillian who loved Jorge Amado and shared his work with me. Amado could find joy and beauty in everything even poverty. The Brazil in Amado's work had a positive impact on my life.

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Oh, I so agree with you

Oh, I so agree with you about the performance part, Carole.  If a teacher can't make her subject interesting and entertaining, she isn't likely to motivate her students to love it, too.

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Hi Carole! That´s a very

Hi Carole! That´s a very interesting definition of teaching. In a sense the classroom is a sort of stage, isn´t it?
Yes, Jorge Amado. I just think sometimes he exaggerates in the sensuality, like in Gabriela. People are not like that all the time. He´s got some other powerful female characters, though, like Tieta, and Teresa Batista.
If you liked Amado, you might also like João Ubaldo Ribeiro, he´s got some beautiful short stories, like "The Saint who didn´t Believe in God" and some novels:

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I do connect ...


Dear Luciana:

I do connect with your joy and appreciation of the teaching road you took. I did teach while still at the university; and my parents are both teachers and education administrators. 

Notably, I am touched by the following lines: "I remember the feeling of sharing something I knew with other people and watching them learn. I enjoyed that..."

In learning to teach and share with others, you have also captured the enriching reality of the three pillars of education: learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together.

Thank you for the inspiring thoughts in your piece; and for your being willing to share them with us in the Red Room. I am very grateful. Cheers and keep teaching!

With very good wishes:  




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Hi, Ugonna! Thanks for your

Hi, Ugonna! Thanks for your kind comment! I´m starting a new teaching project I´m really excited about. It´s with teenagers, so I´m sure I´ll know whether they hate it or love it in the first five minutes. I really appreciate their spontaneity.