Teaching can be exhausting. Usually after a minimum of three hours of teaching in a row I’m pretty shot. Reprimanding boys getting into free for all fights, showering the only person in class with candy because she was the only one that did the homework, warding off the horde of hands eager to pull a letter of the alphabet out of a hat because they don’t understand that, in fact everyone will get a turn. Peppered in these times of chaos are moments that make me covet, appreciate, and value my experience. They’re moments that make me smile in ways I didn’t think I could.
Friday’s 5th grade lesson involved the genitive case. I decided to best illustrate this by including some photos of home to modal my grammar point. “My brother’s name is Mitchell.” Gesture to the photo of my brother, point taken. The lesson started out with me attempting to explain how in English the “‘s” designates possession. I got the usual half paying attention, half “lets throw something at the kid in front me”classroom response. Next I wrote a short paragraph on the board, each describing the names and titles of the people in the pictures I would display. Mother, father, brother, grandmother, grandfather. Then came the time for the unveiling. One by one I taped the pictures up on the board, giving them a caption of what member of the family they were. As I stood with my back turned, taping up my small little family tree I heard silent gasps from around the room. Hushed murmurs and awed expressions, you would have thought I just revealed the Arc of the Covenant. I turned around to a wide eyed, curious class. Kids in the back stood up straining to see, while others supported themselves on the shoulders of kids in front of them stretching higher to get a peak at my American family. Finally, one of the students in the back said quickly to me in Mongolian, “Teacher, I can’t see.” I gestured with my hand for him to come closer and get a better look.
Little did I know, he was apparently speaking for the whole class. Almost in unison all thirty 5th graders got up from their seats and surged forward towards the board. I quickly sidestepped out of the way as they pressed up against the chalkboard. Crowding around, pointing, and chattering excitedly to each other. Kids in the back stood on tip toes to peer over the kids in front. Short kids clambering for position hopped up and down for a better look. They ran their fingers over the pictures, studying every part of this different lifestyle they could only get a small taste of in photographic form. I watched fascinated by their fascination. I pulled my camera from my backpack and snapped a few pictures. I noticed my face hurt. I don’t know when I had started smiling, but I couldn’t stop.