Kelly Smith

​Lessons in Life and Pre-Student Teaching

Kelly Smith - Oaxaca, Mexico

When I returned to Michigan from Oaxaca, Mexico, I was asked countless times about how I liked studying abroad and what I had learned. I typically answered by describing how much I learned about teaching at La Salle Primary School and, struggling to keep my answers somewhat brief, I would usually leave it at that. I would then smile to myself because only my peers and I truly knew that learning to become a teacher was only a small amount of what we took away from our Oaxaca, Mexico pre-student teaching experience. The reason why I decided to travel to Oaxaca was because I wanted to step outside my comfort zone to grow as a future teacher. I had no idea when I signed up for the trip that I would be learning so much more about myself, other people, the world, and about life. Immersing ourselves in the culture of a Mexican place where hardly anyone spoke English created a tight bond among the 13 people I traveled with as we learned about this unfamiliar place. We became each others’ support as we experienced what seemed like a whole new world.

The school at which we had the privilege of teaching had many similarities and differences to schools in the USA. The main difference is that La Salle is a bilingual school. Half of their day is taught in Spanish, and the other half in English. We spent our time at the school during the English speaking portion of the day. Still, most of the students spoke very little English, and we were there to help them learn. Through seminars that were held in the court yard of our beautiful hotel every day after school, we were able to come together as a group of future teachers and discuss these similarities and differences and how we would incorporate them into our future classrooms. We also had the opportunity to have a conversation hour every Wednesday afternoon at a coffee shop with our host teachers. Our host teachers used this opportunity to improve their English, while we used the opportunity to work on our Spanish, and to learn about the Mexican education system. The connection that I made with my 35 fourth grade students over three weeks was surprising to me. On the very first day, the girls in my classroom made me bows for my hair and beaded bracelets, and the boys drew pictures for me and gave me stickers. I got to know them all very well despite the language barrier, and even got to teach them two lessons, which they seemed to thoroughly enjoy. I really cared about these kids and was extremely sad to leave them on the last day at the school. What surprised me even more was how sad I was to leave my 13 new friends at the airport once we landed in Detroit. We grew together as individuals and as a unit over three weeks. I am forever thankful for how life-changing this experience was for me, as I learned so much about the world, relationships, myself, and of course the valuable information I learned about becoming a teacher.​