teaching in the tiny school was an experience that neither of us will ever forget. when we first arrived, we thought we’d get time to talk to the teacher about what the expectations were and where we should pick up with the english lessons that the last volunteer had taught. but, we didn’t really get any instruction. we arrived in gambita on a saturday evening and went to school on monday, ready for an interesting first day. that day we were supposed to teach from 1 to 3pm. this, we found out, meant that the kids would leave school to return home for lunch and then the ones that wanted to take english lessons would return at 1pm to do so. we got to the school and the teacher didn’t really have anything to say about the lessons or where we should start. so, we waited patiently for the kids to return so that we could ask them where they had left out with their studies. we had two girls show up in the end. so we talked with them about what they wanted to learn in the next month. they were both shy and it was difficult to get any information out of them. but, we got somewhat of an idea of things they wanted to learn. the teacher was pretty obviously disappointed in the turnout, so by the end of the afternoon she decided that we would teach from 11 to 1pm. and all the kids would stay for english class before going home for lunch. we had thought it was a good idea to only have the kids who really had a desire to learn english in the class, but we didn’t think it was our place to say so.
so the following day we came at 11am and the entire class of ten was there waiting for us. the teacher said hello and immediately left us alone with them for our two hour class. needless to say we had an awkward day of getting to know the students and finding out how much english they had retained from the last volunteer. one thing that was a total surprise to us was that we were really teaching in spanish and using some english words for class. we had expected it to be the other way around before we arrived. but, we got through our first day with a full class and were gearing up for the next day. but, the teacher stopped us before leaving and said that the parents didn’t want their kids missing too much of their normal lessons for English class. So, she thought it would be better if we just came from 12 to 1pm for a one hour class. feeling a little defeated (and a little relieved, since the age range was going to be a huge challenge) we walked home and prepared for our next class that would be only one hour.
most of the month was spent reviewing things they had already ‘learned’ because they hadn’t had a volunteer in four months and had lost most of the vocabulary that she had taught. we learned pretty quickly that they had never learned the sounds of english words, so we spent a good deal of time on pronunciation and sounding out words. we had to be very creative to keep their attention, especially since some of them knew they would never use english and were not too interested in learning it in the first place. but, we worked hard on games that challenged their brains in new ways, even if they didn’t retain the english words. and, by the end of the month we felt like we had finally gained some authority over the class and that they respected us as teachers. but, it was a long struggle of constant discipline (in spanish!) to get them there. one of the most positive pieces of the teaching experience was our practice with spanish at the school. teaching in spanish was such an amazing way to improve our ability quickly. some days I’m sure I sounded like a crazy person to the kids, especially when trying to discipline one of the boys in a stern voice while searching for the right words to say that would make them understand. it was a trial and was such a great experience at the same time.
and even though some of them were difficult at times, we really developed a relationship with each student. our last day there was spent playing with the kids and enjoying each other’s company. we jumped rope, played volleyball, and soccer. then we had a snack with them and they all gave us handmade thank-you cards. it was a pretty great way to end a crazy month. and, i think we all enjoyed it thoroughly. the experience only solidified the fact that i want to get into teaching when we head back to the US, even with the crazy days! so, that was another huge plus to the month.