Teachers play an important part in helping students create their way to reaching success in life.
Christopher Vazquez has amassed a teaching experience of 13 years in his promising career, and has gone from teaching his friends in school to now helping students in finding their passions and interests.
Currently, the Associate Assistant Headteacher: Innovation at Emirates International School in Meadows, his love for wanting people to reach their absolute potential is what motivates him as a teacher and has led to 10 years spent shaping the future for students in the UAE.
In this feature, Christopher shares some insight into his favourite thing about teaching career beginnings.
What inspired you to start teaching?
Being a teacher is a part of my identity and a calling: I have always been a teacher, in everything I have done long before I became 'a teacher'. I think it first started around the age of ten: I took a friend to the swimming pool and discovered that he could not swim! Why had he not told me this? I remember this distinct feeling welling up deep in me at that moment, that this just was not right, that this would not do! It was my friend's born right to be able to swim. Who am I to have this knowledge and keep it to myself? How can it be that I can go swimming while my friend just stands by the side? This inequality of knowledge and skill was not acceptable. I felt this distinct sense of obligation, that there and then, I would teach my friend how to swim. One hour later, sure enough, my friend could swim! Since then, all my life, I have always known I would be a teacher; my family knew and deep down, I was always drawn to it.
How did you decide to teach your current subject?
I think I owe much to a Physics teacher, Mr Paul Johnson who very much supported me as a young man. Truth be told, I actually struggled with Physics at A-Level. The Math-component was quite challenging, and he invited me to come any lunchtime for any support I would need. Well I took that literally, and I think I visited his office at lunchtime for at least nine months. It was only a little later that I realised what a sacrifice that man did, just for me, in giving up his precious time that year. I feel very obligated to that man, and somehow want to ‘give back’ what he gave to me, I would bend over backwards for my students if it meant somehow in any shape or form it would help them on their journey. In short, even though I would go on to get a first-class degree in a Science subject, I know that Science can sometimes present its challenges; I want to be that same person who holds out a helping hand for my own students and helps them on their path to success.
Why do you love teaching?
I think firstly, I love people. Well, in particular, I love seeing people around me succeed. Just like in the way I was able to impact the life of my friend by teaching them to swim, I get a distinct sense of satisfaction when I know I have positively impacted the lives of the children I teach. I think secondly, I just really enjoy everything about the moment of being in the classroom. I am the type of teacher that when I walk into the classroom, I become alive, animated and awake. I want that lesson to be the highlight of my student's week, memorable and a future story, so I gird myself up as I walk into the room and channel the absolute fullness of my strength and vigour into that moment in time. It can be quite tiring teaching like this, but actually, I leave my lessons feeling inspired and enthused, it recharges my batteries! I command the room: “You are my student? You will have your life changed today. This 'Unit 1.2: Cell Structure and Function' topic you thought was going to be dull? You are going to leave this room, a changed person from the person who walked in”. And somehow, it happens. The students thank me for opening their eyes to something they would never have imagined before or did not see before. Their lives, changed, perhaps only fractionally, for good.
Do you remember your favourite teacher from school?
My Chemistry teacher, Mr Massey, was extremely passionate about Chemistry. He probably should have had a career in sales, because this guy could take the dullest of topics, and somehow turn it into something that would have you leaving the room with a sense of awe and wonder at the mysteries of the universe, he had a gift at selling Chemistry and making others passionate about it. You would come into his room, sit down, and never know where the lesson was going to go that day, maybe something would get blown up; maybe you would find yourself in a discussion where you would suddenly realise how that seemingly boring chemical actually explained most of the 20th century, he had a way of making the subject alive, and applicable. Sometimes when I need inspiration I remind myself of him. He also had a habit of jumping on tables and roleplaying from time to time, I never forget the day he told everyone that today he was an electron, took his chalk and turned the walls, floor (and ceiling!) into an electrical circuit and explained the concept of electrolysis with nothing but him, a piece of chalk, and perhaps a little too much coffee that morning, he was extremely entertaining!
How do you make everyday classes more interesting?
Questions are beautiful and wonderful things. A good question can grip the attention, stretch the understanding and invite the thinker to reach up; a good question can have the class at the edge of their seat. A good question can take a seemingly innocuous, innocent statement, and turn it into an object of learning. When a child asks a fantastic question! The question, and its answer, become part of the learning journey, but I might not give the answer straight away - we must first create a sense of mystery! Perhaps that answer, is the antecedent to the next logical question? Or the question, the logical next step to the next learning objective? Have we challenged the assumptions underlying that question? Have we explored what we know; are we sure, we know? How do we know? What can we learn simply from the meaning of the word? What is the history behind this thing? Perhaps you could call me quite Socrative in this area, maybe I’ve read too much of the classics, but questions are the lifeblood of quality teaching, questions can take a seemingly, uninteresting, idea or topic, and turn it into something of awe and wonder, something that creates a challenge and invites the student to step-up to it: mix this with the passion that my Chemistry teacher imparted to me, and the most every day of lessons, can become an exciting story that one day (I hope!) my students tell to others!
What is a unique part of the school?
In my previous roles and experiences, I have had experiences visiting schools, sometimes for inspections, sometimes just for informal visits. As a general rule, you get a feel of a school within the first couple of minutes after you enter any school. What caught my attention when I visited Meadows for the first time? Warmth. Emirates International School Meadows is a warm school. The children, the staff, the leadership through to security, everyone is warm. You can feel the genuine love, support and respect everyone has for one another: our tag-line 'Happy, Safe, Successful' is not just some tag-line developed because 21st-century leadership books tell us we should have one, for us, it is a very tangible reality. If you join us, even just for a day, you will find yourselves feeling like a loved, respected and cared for member of a community.
What would you do if you were not a teacher?
Knowing myself, I would still find myself teaching somehow in whatever it is I would find myself doing - I just can not help it. Leadership too. My wife says no matter what I do, no matter what I volunteer for, I always end up somehow involved in the leadership of that thing eventually. I could imagine myself perhaps leading a non-profit organisation with some sort of meaningful impact; I could even imagine myself as some sort of coach, or counsellor. Anything where I help others to look up and push themselves to be more.
Associate Assistant Headteacher: Innovation
Emirates International School in Meadows