I have been teaching my own class in Spanish for two weeks now and I have survived! All the classes in the school are named after volcanoes and mine is called Clase Fuego. The school has two sessions, a morning and an afternoon. Therefore, I have two different sets of students and I use the same lessons twice each day. The part of the day my students are not in our school they are at the state school. GVI gives scholarships to the children so that they can attend the state school and pay for items such as school supplies, uniforms, and other various fees.
Most of the classes have at least two teachers, but not mine. I’m flying solo. It’s surprisingly gone much better than I had expected. I’ve found that when I’m forced to speak in Spanish it helps a lot. I’ve also become quite good at pointing at things and acting things out! Although my grammar is atrocious, my students somehow manage to understand me. And when they don’t I have my pocket size Spanish/English dictionary to bail me out.
The key to getting kids to like you is to sing with them. Seriously. To kill some time on the first few days I sang a few songs with my students. Now, singing is a must in our class pretty much everyday. I have my Spanish teacher, Maria Marta, to thank since she taught me a few songs that were very kid friendly. I also dug way deep and remembered a few songs from my 8th grade Spanish class. I guess my tendency to remember lyrics to random songs works bilingually.
I also tend to make up many games for my kids to play. Academic games for the most part, but some just for fun too. I probably have the loudest class in the whole school and we are always up doing something or other out of our seats. I look around and all the other classes seem to be hard at work while mine is running all over the place, but I think I’m still teaching them something and I know they are having fun.
So far I’ve done lessons in math, language, the 5 senses, transportation, and forms of communication. I find science the most difficult to teach. I tried to do a lesson on the seasons, but all the students know are the rainy season and the dry season. They have never experienced anything like winter with snow or fall with the leaves changing colors. Most of them have never been outside of Itzapa. By the end of my time here I hope to have broadened their horizons at least a little bit. I want them to have knowledge of the world outside of what they already know. In my opinion, that’s what a good teacher does.
Between the first and second sessions of school we have a two hour break for lunch, lesson planning, and just hanging out. A few days ago all the volunteers went on a walk through Itzapa. Until now, all I had really seen was the one street that the school is on. The walk was an eye opening experience. This place is very hilly. I was pretty much out of breath from walking up those hills. We passed many people, men, women, and children, carrying incredibly heavy loads of wood on their head and on their backs up and down these hills. Our intern, Moli, told us that some of the kids we passed used to go to the school, but were pulled out so they could work more. Every single person we passed, no matter how heavy a load they were carrying, smiled at us and said “Buenas Tardes!” As poor as the people of Itzapa are, it still amazes me how happy they seem. They are always smiling and appear to have an overall positive attitude. It’s really pretty inspiring.
I think if there is one thing this trip will have taught me it’s to appreciate what I have. It’s so easy to get caught up in the little problems of day to day life. We all do it. Guilty as charged. We can get angry and frustrated about the smallest things. I hope I can learn from the people here and let some of these insignificant problems go. I know that big experiences have an impact immediately after they are over, but somehow what was learned tends to fade with time. I hope that I can hold on to this experience for as long as possible and remember the knowledge I’ve gained here for a long time to come.
“Best of What’s Around” –Dave Matthews Band