By Tara Yanez
Three months ago I wrote a blog about my experiences starting as the new youth development director at Abriendo Mentes and rereading it now going into the fourth session, I realize how far I have come as a teacher and community member of Potrero. While it feels a little bit ridiculous to be writing about myself (again!) when I am living in such an amazing place filled with inspiring people, hopefully my testimony will only reflect the power stored within this community.
When I first started working with AM, I felt a little unsure of myself with my new role as teacher and leader of the classroom. Fortunately, I was provided with a strong support system from my fellow volunteers as I was figuring things out the first couple of weeks. Of course, we went through some rocky patches in the classroom, but I never once felt alone in facing the obstacles before me. I can now proudly say that teaching my classes feels like second nature to me. I feel confident in leading and managing a classroom—an invaluable skill that can only be learned from experience. I feel like an actual teacher now—it’s crazy! I feel so lucky to have grown as a teacher in such a nurturing atmosphere.
Along with providing me with a supportive team, this organization has given me freedom to explore different teaching techniques and develop my own style. I have experimented with a wide variety of activities and it has been so much fun to see how the kids react to them. I have realized here that I value the type of learning that happens when the students don’t realize they’re learning. It has been so fun and challenging to create interactive games, crafts, and worksheets that spark the kids’ interest and that also slip in English lessons. As a recent college graduate, I was feeling pretty confused about my future career goals; however, after seeing how creatively stimulating and fulfilling teaching can be, I now feel more confident in pursuing a career in education.
But really, the best part of my job here is being able to hang out with probably the most awesome kids I have ever met. When I first arrived, I was completely overwhelmed by their explosive energy in the classroom, but now I have learned how to just embrace it and thrive off of it. From all of our little challenges we have faced together in the classroom, whether it be from my frustrations in trying to control their rambunctious nature or their frustrations in trying to understand my instruction in English or broken Spanish, I have learned how to become a more patient and compassionate person. And despite it all, despite all my shortcoming as their new teacher, they have always given me an overwhelming amount of love—a quality I hope to learn from and utilize in all my interactions with people.
As both a teacher and an individual, I can say that Abriendo Mentes has equipped me with skills and new perspectives that will benefit me for the rest of my life! I couldn’t be more grateful to all the wonderful people that I have been lucky enough to interact with during my time here in Potrero!