Educated Latina

Orale mi gente!! Ya ni se acuerdan de mi verdad?? Jajaja, I hope that’s not true! It has been SO long since our last chismes sesh, and I have so much to catch you up on. Como saben, I’m officially on Summer Mode jajaja That maesta life! Pero, I’ve also been busy being an Educated Latina. Si, asi es. I was actually taking a summer Additional Qualification course to achieve my Specialist in Religion. Mi Abuelita would be so proud right? Jaja, pero por supuesto! Pues vamonos a chismear, chismosos! Unas papas Limon that I still have left over from Mexico de mi mama porque she is the bidi bidi bom bom & salsa chamoy porque como no?! Jaja, yes, I’ve missed you too – vamonos! 

I’ve dreamed of being a maestra since I was in the third grade. Hasta tengo the “All about me” project to prove it. “In 20 years I see myself as…” Y ahi is where I cut out a picture of a maestra reading to a group of chamacos from a magazine and glued it into my crystal ball I painted on the page. Que creatividad verdad? Jaja. I would play “school” any chance I had and was always thinking of the day I would have my very own classroom. 

La escuela was no walk in the park for me. I didn’t quite fit in the way I wanted to, I had short hair and looked like un chamaco most of my childhood and I was different. I was Latina. A Latina in a small city in Northern Ontario, where there weren’t very many Latinos. The few that were there became one big familia. So then I wasn’t alone te preguntas? Pues, all the Latinos went to the Catholic schools y yo, I went to the public school. 

Porque?! Aren’t you Catolica? Claro, I am. That would never get past mi mama jaja. Pero since mi hermano was born Deaf, and as I have recently learned in my course, Catholic schools didn’t have the same funding as Public schools did. Asi que, when mi hermano (who is older btw) started school, he needed translators to sign to him and the only board to offer that accommodation was with the public board. Entonces, I went to public school too. 

De chamaca, I never really questioned why I went to a public school. Escuela was just escuela to me. Pero, what I did notice was why did the other schools have crosses? Why did they talk about God and Jesus and the Bible? Why did they pray together en la escuela, isn’t that only for Church y en la casa? I wondered about certain things that didn’t entirely make sense to me back then. They didn’t make sense to me porque they weren’t a part of my reality. In my life, escuela was for math, reading and science – it wasn’t a place for prayer, for Mass, for Jesus. That was for la iglesia, where I almost “secretly” went every domingo con mi mama. 

I don’t think any of mis amigos growing up knew that I attended Mass every Sunday. Or that I went to Sunday School, or that I even participated and celebrated Sacraments. Escuela and Religion were very separate para mi. It was even somewhat exclusive en la casa. Only mi mama is Catholica, and my dad is Presbyterian pero isn’t an active member. Mi hermano and I were baptized as Catholicos and were guided through our Faith by mi mama and our Church community. 

To say I’m a perfect Catolica would be a lie. I mean, I did get pregnant before marriage among other sinful things… pero that’s nor here or there. Judge as you please, I’ll still sleep at night. Pero, something that I actually regret about my Faith journey is having pushed it aside porque I was embarrassed, porque it wasn’t “cool”. Cuando I was about 10-12 years old, I started the whole “why do I have to go to Church for?” y como mi mama was the only one reinforcing it, it slowly got shoved to the back of my closet and left in the dark. I also started preguntando many things like “if God was real then why do all these bad things happen?” Lo triste fue, I never got any answers at the time and I couldn’t figure that out on my own at such a young age. 

How do you go from that to a maestra in a Catholic school with goals of having a Religion Specialist? Jajaja La vida es una locura verdad? Honestamente, I believe that having been Baptized, participating in Sacraments and having had that foundation built and set – never leaves you. Tanto que I thought it had, that I had become this “traitor”, this “fake” Catholic, who could never set foot in an iglesia again porque I probably wouldn’t even know when to stand, kneel or say. Eso fue the real embarrassment, for the record jaja. Pero no es asi. Although true, I was completamente perdida during Mass for a long time, I kept coming back. Porque? Porque it made me feel good, it made me feel viva and it nourished my soul.  

El regreso. I was in third year university, just got out from an, on and off again, abusive relationship, and I was deshiza. Rent was due, tuition was due, mandado needed to be done, exams were around the corner, and I was emotionally done AF. Que chinga… voy hacer? I walked down by the Rideau Canal and sat in the grass watching people bike, run and walk past me as I sobbed and asked God for help. I had already asked everyone for suggestions, answers, solutions, anything para ayudarme – pero you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves first. 

I started to walk back to mi casa, to face reality all over again. I crossed the pedestrian bridge, looked over the water and continued on wondering if God would even bother to help me. I took the usual way home, past the same casas, the same intersections and trees. Pero por primera vez, I noticed la iglesia sitting on the corner – one that I’ve walked past a million and one times and never even acknowledged. Musica was playing and las puertas were open. There was Mass starting right as I reached the corner. Sera mi respuesta? 

Lo que sera, sera. Porque did I all of a sudden notice this ahora? Porque am I even considering going in? Porque Porque Porque??? Pues enserio, at that point, who cares – what did I have to lose? Nada. What did I have to gain? An extra hour of not having to return back to casa. Vamonos. 

De este entonces, I went cada Domingo. It was a safe place: nobody knew me, I just sat in the back and followed along. Era mas like a class for me, obviamente I had much to re-learn. Pero, I warned you, I’m no perfect Catholica. This lasted about a year. Y que paso? I let it go. I started sleeping in, llendo al brunch with las amigas, ya sabes. I’m just being honest. 

Teacher’s College. You want to be a maestra? Pues buena suerte porque so do 7000 other students. Felicidades, now you all want jobs verdad? JA-JA! Too bad there aren’t any! – jajajaja okay okay, no tan mean. En Teacher’s college, you can choose to pursue qualifications for both, public and Catholic escuelas by taking the Religion class – O, solamente completing Teacher’s college without it. Pues, I WAS Baptized, y eso was the only requirement they asked for. I’m going to do it! 

Primer dia of classes, I was overwhelmed. Pero como que we’re going to pray in this classroom?! Todos juntos!? I don’t even know the words to this prayer!! My face turned red, my hands got all sweaty, I started shifting around en mi silla and looking around at everyone else so calmly praying with their hands together and eyes closed like Saints. I’m outta here!! I couldn’t do it, it was SO foreign for me. Ahora, I’m on the complete other side of the spectrum than I was growing up. Pero porque is this all happening!? Are you feeling anxious? Yo tambien! 

Inhala, Exhala. Mi amiga to the rescue, she asked me after class why I left, what had happened, where did I do – ya sabes, chismosa!! Jajaja just kidding, she’s such an amazing and caring amiga. I explained it to her, as we had become close friends, y ella me ayudo bastantisimo. She showed me the prayers I would need to know so I could learn them, she sat with me in class and she even got me attending student Masses on Sunday evenings – which, en verdad, worked out better for my weekend schedule porque ya sabes, puro pinche pari. Jajaja. & signed us up for the esnack committee for after Mass. Que que?! Ya se, right?! Look at me go! Jajaja. 

El comienzo. That was only the beginning. De decir that I learned ALL I needed to know to become a Catholic Maestra would be a lie. I was not prepared at all, pero my saving grace to allow me some time to become the Catholic Maestra I want to be was that I was hired to teach French Immersion. In French Immersion, los chamacos go to an English teacher for Physical Education and Religion. I don’t teach the actual Religion subject, but we embed our Faith in all that we teach and live. I can do that, eso es normal para mi. Pero if I had to get into all the teachings, the stories, the quien, como, donde, cuando, porque questions – I’d be lost. 

Por eso. Por eso I’ve been taking my Religion courses. Ya se that I am phenomenal with languages, I can easily build and maintain relationships con los chamacos and their families, I can plan, teach and mark like no manana, pero am I truly where I want to be as a Catholic Maestra? No. Estos cursos have taught me more than I could have even imagined or expected going into them. No solamente have I gained actual knowledge about my Religion, my Faith has grown and my heart feels full. Ahora I can begin to feel more equipped and confident in my Catholic Faith in order to live it out genuinely and model it for mis chamacos y estudiantes. 

Le dije a mi esposo “I’m not a good enough teacher yet” about when I was thinking about registering for this course. Y mi esposo said, “no, that’s how you know you are good enough, because you’re always willing to learn more for yourself and your students.” Ayyyy mi corazon!! Si, he does that sometimes jajaja. 

De todos modos, this course really pushed me in connecting my Faith to my role in the classroom. I created a program for French Immersion Catholic Teachers to follow (if they choose) for consciously embedding our Catholic Faith into all that we teach and learn. It’s called “Catholic Virtues: Seeing is Believing to Believing is Seeing. Living out Catholic Virtues in a French Immersion Classroom”. Te enseno my Project Abstract that we were asked to write as an introduction to our Presentation. 

“We can use Catholic Virtues and brain functionality to be the best as a Catholic. When the cognitive brain is populated with positivity, it will find and redirect us to those things. If we look for God like actions and live out our Catholic Virtues, we will become virtuous through practicing virtue. We can go from seeing is believing to believing is seeing. Through the image of Jesus and diverse representation in our classrooms, teaching the value of the Catholic Education System and incorporating Catholic based meditation in our routines we can begin to tell students who they are and they will know how to act. The Catholic Virtues are the focus of my project. Exploring stories of Jesus and diverse figures in our lives, we can begin to see Jesus as an everyday person like ourselves. Recognizing God like actions in the created world allows us to rewire our brain to finding the good. Experiencing prayer and meditation nourishes our soul and we can begin to believe and see ourselves as exemplars of being a Catholic.  

Living out Catholic Virtues in depth in a grade 1 French Immersion classroom will bring home, church and school together. We can begin to believe more in who we are, rather than what we see, and we can live out the change we want in the world. With persistence, perseverance, patience and believing in ourselves we can achieve great things through our Catholic Faith. I hope to share this project with my French Immersion colleagues so they may use it as a reference or entirely, or feel inspired to create some form of a Catholic Religion program to be embedded into our French Immersion classrooms. I will demonstrate how to guide students to become more active Catholic Education Students. I will show how I would teach what the Catholic Virtues are, about how Jesus lived out these virtues, about the history of our Catholic Education System and finally, about different forms of prayer & meditation as a form of self-care and self-love. We can set a strong foundation for Catholic Virtues for years to come. “Tell me who I am, and I will know how to act,” Highlights specific good, kind and Godly acts, which is very powerful. Let’s teach our students how to become the best as a Catholic by instilling Catholic Virtues and the power of our Catholic Faith.” – Julie Alvarez.  

Si si si, I wrote that. No pos guuuaaaaauuuu verdad?! Jajaja, Si, I’m very proud of my accomplishments these past 2 weeks during this curso. Pero even more so of myself, of my Faith and of my strength. I felt my Aztec Warrior come alive. Con ganas.

**Pic: IG @weallgrowlatina **

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