I became a teacher because I had always been a teacher and just didn’t know it. My parents are immigrants from Latin America and arrived in the United States in the late 60s with very basic English Language skills and even less understanding of how things work in America. From the moment I could speak I became their translator and teacher. My parents not only needed a language translator but a cultural one as well. I found myself thrust into a very adult world with very adult situations at a young age. I not only had to learn language skills, but how to decode the world around me and somehow explain things to my parents, needless to say a lot was lost in translation in my household.
I had my second unofficial teaching job as a student in elementary school, the year was 1980 and the city of Miami received a large group of Cuban refugees during the Mariel Boat Lift. We had many new students in our class and a teacher who was completely at a loss as to how to teach them. Our new classmates were eager to learn but not able to keep up because of the language barrier. The teacher quickly realized that some of the bilingual students, including myself could be used to translate and help the new students. I spent a few years in the role of translator and sometimes teacher to these students.
I can site these two experiences specifically when I consider my reasons for becoming a teacher. At the time these two roles were quite challenging for me, I had to figure out not only how to translate the words but often provide meaning, further explanations and possible examples until the person got it. I understand this now to be called teaching. So I guess I can say that teaching is second nature to me. I have spent a lifetime decoding what is not understood, analyzing how to provide information in accessible ways and attempting to figure out if I have been successful. I always felt very at home in the classroom and seldom found the interactions with students or student learning to be a challenge. I am not naïve to think that I was just born a teacher, I had to develop those skills. I just had the advantage of starting my career and training as a teacher well before my university teacher preparation program. I now know that becoming a good teacher is not about data talks, protocols and lesson delivery sequences, teaching is about being able to translate the learning for students.