What I´m learning (and re-learning) as an Ecua teacher :)
-Jumping into life in a new country and speaking a different language all day is quite a transition! One of my biggest and most frequent challenges is trying to express myself and really be who I am in Spanish. (I can´t even tell you how many jokes I´ve had fail due to a lack of vocabulary on my part!) Those of you who know me understand that I can be pretty ridiculous :) So imagine my despair when I realized last week that my students had yet to encounter the goofy side of Señorita Elisa (that´s me). What a tragedy! The constant energy it takes to give directions and manage a classroom in Español was preventing me from letting loose and having more fun! One of my main goals this year is to instill a LOVE of LANGUAGE in my students. I want them to enjoy learning English and feel motivated to continue studying it. Whether or not they all know that "head" means "cabeza" or that "The jacket is blue" means "La chaqueta es azul" becomes much less important in comparison. And a main factor in creating that excitement is doing fun activities and having a passionate teacher. So having had this total "wow, duh" moment, I´ve started hamming it up and letting my inner dorky goofball shine. Last week during a lesson on clothes, I may have worn socks on my ears and barked like a dog (to my students´ glee), and I definitely threw myself dramatically to the ground in feigned agony after bumping heads with a student (you should have seen the looks of shock on their faces haha). And you know what? My students are having more fun and so am I!
-Storybooks are magical in Ecuador. Seriously. It´s incredible. Most kids don´t have books in their homes and there are no libraries here, so when I bring a "cuento" to school with me, the students are beyond excited. They hang on every word and then chant "otro, otro!" when the story ends. It´s a special treat for them to be read to because it happens so rarely. Last week, the magic of the "cuento" came to my rescue. The 2nd grade teacher had a meeting with parents that lasted 50 minutes longer than anticipated (this is not at all uncommon here, as time is a very fluid concept). So instead of spending 40 minutes with 27 super energetic, often totally loco, second graders, I had a whole 1.5 hours. Yikes! The attention span of a 6 year old is definitely NOT that long haha. Thankfully I had a handful of storybooks in my bag. I had never read to this class before and was unsure of how they would respond or how long they would stay attentive. But wow. It was absolutely SILENT in the salón (a sound I wasn´t sure ever existed in this particular classroom), and not a single student budged from their seat through all three stories I read. I will definitely be bringing stories more often to use as motivation for good behavior and to share the joy of reading with these crazy kids :)
-I supposedly have some "bad" kids in my classes. The first week, I was warned that a couple of the boys were a "dolor de cabeza", a real headache. And it´s not that I disagree. I can definitely see how these squirrely niños could really wreak havoc on a classroom. However, I have had quite the opposite experience with them so far (prayers for this to continue would be much appreciated!). Part of it is probably because I´m new and interesting and because I teach English, which the kids tend to like (because we play games instead of sitting and copying from the board like they often do the rest of the day). But I also think it´s because I give them responsibilities and keep them engaged. When they´re bored, they get themselves into trouble, bothering other students and picking fights. So my "bad" kids become diligent score keepers and teacher assistants when we play games or pass out materials. They´re bright students and enjoy being involved! And I hope that they also can tell that I didn´t immediately write them off because of their reputation. And I´m glad I didn´t because they´re quickly becoming students who I most look forward to seeing each day.
-One of the most unique and special parts of being a teacher in Monte Sinai is living in the same neighborhood as my students. I often see them out and about with their parents while walking down the street. Last weekend I was even invited to the 3rd birthday party of my student´s little brother! (Did you know that after blowing out the candles, everyone chants "que la muerde" which means "bite it!" and the birthday person has to bite the cake and usually get their face shoved into the frosting? :) ) It was such a blessing to share family time and be welcomed into the home of Niurka. Another cool moment was making a house visit when one of my students was sick and missed a day of English. Knowing where they lived, I stopped by and gave a quick catch-up lesson, chatting with the mom and getting a chance to learn more about the home life of Miguel. Forming relationships with the parents is a great support and also just a beautiful opportunity to be involved in my students´ lives outside the walls of San Felipe.