Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My life as a teacher

We are both students and teachers throughout our life. I have always felt more as a student, but recently I have been working on developing my teaching skills. My first teaching experience was probably when I was a teenager and decided to organize a show with my cousins for Christmas. It was a show of one song performance, in which each cousin sang a solo that they made up for a Christmas carol. Good memories!

When I was 15 years old, I went to Kajuyali, a summer camp in in the south plains of Colombia. I really enjoyed the experience and I decided to work as a counselor the next year. I was part of the first CIT group (Counselors In Training) and I worked there the following years until I was 21 years old. It was a great teaching experience. It is facinating that I was part of the first group of campers in the history of Kajuyali who became a counselor, transitioning from being a student to become a teacher. I worked with children from 6 to 17 years old. Because of this experience, I had the opportunity of attending several trainings about experiential education and work with kids of different ages. I loved it!

During college, my house was the place to go to study, especially for the final exams. One time, we had to use a blackboard since there was almost 10 people in my dinning room. Good times :D.
After I graduated from college in 2000, I worked for Compaq Computer in Colombia in the Marketing and Sales Department (I majored in Industrial Engineering. In Colombia Industrial Engineering is considered a Business Administration degree with a good understanding of the manufacturing process). I worked there for 2 years and we had quarterly product trainings for the local and regional distributors. Since I worked as regional manager, I had to do some training while I was on the road. I took a public speaking seminar during this time that was very helpful.

After my experience working at Compaq I moved to the US. I went to Grad School and lived in Boston for 2 years. In 2003, I moved to Los Angeles, California. In 2005, I created a marketing consulting company called Crest Creative Strategies, Inc and has been operating since. To be honest it started because a friend of mine needed help with his business and I said…why not? It was a source of income at the time, but now that I think about it, it was my way of sharing my business knowledge with the world. I did business consulting, coaching, and training for 4 years and a half.

After a long process of self discovery/auto-analysis and some other events that occurred in my life, I realized I was not completely happy, the reasons were not very clear at the moment. So, in an act of bravery and impulsiveness, I decided to do something different. Many times in my life, I said that I would love to have my own preschool but I never did anything about it. I went to the library and read about Montessori Education (I was not ready to BUY a book at the time ;), and I had heard many things about the method recently. As I read the book, I loved the idea that children can learn to be independent at a young age and being able to make choices. That was not what I learned at school. I noticed that the author was a volunteer before becoming a teacher so I decided to give it a try. I went online and found a wonderful school called Montessori One in Thousand Oaks. I went there and Mrs. Silva the owner was standing at the door (Coincidence?). We talked briefly and I was a volunteer 2 mornings a week for a year. In 2008, I decided to go back to school and learn more about Education. It was a great experience and the fact that I was volunteering at the same time gave me the opportunity to apply what I learned and observe the children and myself from a different perspective.

I like the Montessori philosophy but now that I have learn about different philosophies and methodologies, I am very interested in the Reggio Emilia approach and constructivism. I think it is very powerful that the curriculum is developed based on the children's interests and that there is a high involvement of the parents and the community. I also like the fact that it uses the classroom as a place of research and encourages children to find the answers to their questions and the teachers are learners in the process. I think it has a good balance between internal and external motivations which is desperatly needed in our education system.

I want to work in something that I am passionate about, that has purpose. Life works is unexpected ways and puts right in front of you exactly what you need. Starting in January 2009, I will be working as a teacher at the Evergreen Community School in Santa Monica. I am very exited about this new journey and where it will take me. The school has a social constructivist approach, it is Reggio Inspired and has an amazing staff. What else could I ask for?

I am a human being, friend, teacher, marketing consultant, student, and a passionate philosopher living the moment. It might look like an odd combination from the outside but it makes sense to me. I think if black or white does not work for you, it is OK to create a gray joyful life.

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