I’m here. Alive. No tears. No serious problems.
I’ve already gotten to the point where it’s overwhelming to describe any given day.
I’ve spent the last two weeks at the high school pretty much just walking around looking a bit out of place. I’ve been observing 5 English teachers in their classes everyday from 7:50-1ish. The standard daily routine involves waking up, shivering, taking a super quick cold shower, trying to get dressed as quickly as possible and using the blow dryer to warm up. I leave about 7:30 and walk the 5 minutes to the high school. Walking on Thursday (market day) is the most entertaining. I’ve seen a woman carrying a pig on a leash and 4 llamas chilling in a bed of hay in the back of a pickup truck. I get to the front gate of the school and greet Nacho, the janitor/groundskeeper. We do the usual Ecua-greeting of asking each other about 5 different ways how we’ve been since the last time we saw each other (the day before) and I’m always convinced that he holds the cheek kiss just a little too long. Need to get better at reading signs like this. I walk toward the Inspector’s office (informal teacher’s lounge) and usually am stopped by no less than 10 people who offer up the standard kiss on the right cheek and the succession of como le va?/como está?/como ha pasado?/que tal? combo. All of which I answer with a simple bien. I repeat the questions, they answer, and I’m on to the next unknown teacher. I’ve started taking notes on people so I can remember them. There’s 50+ teachers and I can name about 5 of them.
By the time I’ve greeted all the staff who don’t have classes 1st hour, they ring the doorbell (read: end-of-class bell) and I’m off to find my first English teacher of the day. Observing=boring. The first week, I introduced myself to each class and promptly went to sit at a desk in the back and remain silent for the remainder of the class. Last week I worked up to walking around class, telling kids to be quiet, and helping with simple questions.
I’ve been avoiding the teacher’s lounge which is probably not the best course of action. For one, they all drink instant Nescafe which I find almost unbearable. Plus, I’m the youngest person at the school who’s not a student AND most of the teachers think I can’t speak Spanish because I only speak English to the English teachers. I’m definitely confident enough to carry on a decent conversation but the situation would probably be awkward in English too. Working on getting better at conversing in Spanish with people who are 30+ years older than me and who I don’t have a whole lot in common with. On the other hand, I’ve been spending recreo (the 30-min. recess between 4th and 5th hour) outside with the kids. The kids who are interested come up and ask me tons of questions and we have little learning moments in English. Way more interesting than sitting in the teacher’s lounge drinking bad coffee and awkwardly trying to have a conversation.
After my last class, I mill about and wait for my host mom (also a teacher) to go to lunch. We go with about 3-4 other teachers to some lady’s house down the street for lunch. We basically eat in her living room and she serves us up a variety of rice, potatoes, meat, salad, and soup…standard Ecua-fare for $2. Not too shabby. My tolerance is growing with the food although I still have a long way to go.
Most of the teachers speak fairly well, some better than others. They need help with things like pronunciation and spelling. English is a ridiculous language. We have all these goals laid out by the Peace Corps for the next 2 years but my main goal is to build the confidence of the teachers. One teacher stopped in the middle of her lesson and told me in front of the entire class that she can’t speak English and the kids can’t understand. Hello confidence booster.
I’ve started going back to school after lunch in the hopes of doing something productive with the teachers until they leave at 3pm. I gave my first little presentation on co-teaching methods last week which went relatively well. One of our goals is to improve the teaching methodologies of the English teachers. Currently, they all follow the Ministry of Education-issued book. Its not bad but definitely not interesting. Since some of the teachers aren’t too confident with their own English, they do exactly what’s in the book with no variation or explanation. There’s a teacher’s book that has every single answer to every activity meaning no planning is required. I’ve noticed some don’t even explain vocabulary at all which is completely necessary if you’re trying to learn another language.
Getting things done is SLOWWWWW. It took me a week to confirm a time to give the co-teaching presentation. Friday, I was supposed to make copies of the lessons and present some activities I’d thought of for the lessons tomorrow (Monday). I stayed up til 12:30 Thursday night working on stuff. I get to school on Friday and am told there’s a party for the teachers that afternoon. They cancelled the last class of the day because the parents made food for National Teacher’s Day. Needless to say, we ate fried pork, drank whiskey, and danced in the teacher’s lounge til 3:30. So much for making copies or planning. I keep reminding myself to integrate, integrate, integrate.
(That’s Cotopaxi Volcano in the background. :))