They say your first job is meant to be awful. It is clear that more often than not your first job will not guarantee you a sense of fulfillment; it is simply a milestone on the path to personal triumph.
I started working in the ninth grade.
My first job was as a cleaner in the house and office of my employer. I would go there two to three times per week after school, dust the furniture, mop the floors and clean the space in front of the building. At first I was quite ashamed to tell my friends what I did, but soon I realized that there is no bad job when you earn money in an honest way through labor and diligence. I worked there for a year and a half and while it remained a stagnant, unstimulating position throughout this time, I did like the opportunity to exercise being happy in disadvantageous conditions. I reflect on those times with appreciation.
My second job was as a children’s party entertainer. I have worked for a lot of party companies over the past few years and I planned and hosted parties for my young guests on my own. My tasks were to make the decorations, welcome the guests and then organize games and dancing. It took quite a measure of responsibility as well, as it’s easy for children lost in the gleeful moments of a new game to injure themselves. I really liked the fact that I could be creative and always come up with new ideas for games or themed parties. What excited me the most is that games can be not only fun, but educational as well. I paid particular attention to innovations in the field of Gamification, my interest being captured both by its practical implications and its psychological context.
In 2011 I started working as Manager of Youth Activities for an NGO called NC Future Now. I would meet young people to familiarize them with the different programs and projects, in which they could take part, promote our work in radios and TV shows, organize events, etc. I loved this job, as my tasks were very similar to what I’d been doing in my own charity—the only difference being that I was paid for it!
One of my most important tasks during I worked there was to get an accreditation for the organization to host and send volunteers through the European Voluntary Service (an EU funded program). I not only succeeded to get the accreditation from the institution that was reviewing the applications, but was even invited to attend a training course for youth workers in France where, to no surprise, I was the youngest participant.
I was in the 8th grade when I first watched “Pay it Forward”. I was greatly inspired, and started dreaming of becoming a teacher myself someday: being able to inspire my students and attune their mindsets so that they can see all the possibilities there are in the world and do the best with their potential.
In the second term of my senior year I started working as a part-time lecturer in a school close to our capital, Sofia as a part of Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education program for informal education integrated in the classroom. I had two groups of students whom I met twice a week. I taught Dance Therapy (Metadance) classes with my second graders as well as supervised a Club of Young Travelers in English with students from the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
My Dance Therapy group consisted of fifteen lively, lovely and extremely loud and full of energy second graders. The program consisted mainly of workshops exploring movement and various dance exercises aimed to establish trust between students, reduce stress, overcome barriers in communication caused by prejudices towards children from the minorities; transform their energy and guide it into positive social actions and creativity, thus decreasing the outbursts of violation between the students. I was especially satisfied by the student’s positive reaction towards group discussions after each exercise, in which they shared interesting insights.
With my older students age 13-15 my real challenges and successes began. I easily attracted their attention not only with my age being close to theirs, but especially with my impressive travel history. When I told them what I planned our classes to be like, they hardly believed me as they never before had acquainted themselves with informal education. Speaking English in class was as exciting for some as difficult and troublesome for others.
The principal of the school had put some of the most difficult students in my group just so that there would be sufficient number of students. Nobody expected anything of me, but I found that a good possibility for me to show them more than they could have ever expected. Soon, I started bringing foreigners to our little school, setting up presentations about Algeria, Mexico, UK, and Morocco, attracting students from the other classes as well. A graduate from my high school who knew thirty-five languages made a great presentation on the process of learning languages.
Some of the boys in the group were quite hard to handle, but being open and honest were my strongest instruments. I remember one of these clever, but lazy and unbelieving boys asking me why I have come to work with students who are ill-behaved and careless. I told him then that I believe in people and their potential and that I think that many times it is not that people are bad, but that for different reasons they wear masks of negativity not to be hurt, or just so that the others will like them. All of the boys were listening quietly and I was sure they understood me perfectly.
My teaching experience was a process of learning all the time both for my students and for me. There was a girl whom I let come into my classes even though she didn’t sign up in the beginning, but she actually distracted the boys and was not really interested in what we were doing. On one of the first class trips, I decided that it would be better to not take her with us so that the boys would be more concentrated. That turned out to be a decision with consequences: the two boys that I spent so much effort to engage decided not to come to class anymore. I apologized to them, thus not only learning a lesson myself, but also showing them what the right thing to do is when you are wrong.
Through watching short movies, making presentations, engaging into fun exercises with educational content and most importantly- sharing opinions and learning from each other, I think I succeeded helping them realize that they should learn less for grades and more for themselves. I taught them they needed to be open-minded, aware of their stereotypes, responsible of their behavior and the way it affects others, and most importantly that the world has much to offer if only they are willing to work for it.
Being an educator is by all means my favorite occupation. Leading workshops for young adults during exchange programs as part of my extracurricular activities and having this amazing and transforming experience in the school gives me the confidence I am on the right track of what I want to do in my life and what the change I want to make in the world is. Improving educational systems, developing new educational tools and practices and leading people towards awareness of their need to develop is what truly makes me happy and willing to go on.
♥Maggie Nazer is a social entrepreneur, activist, blogger and current Middlebury college student.