Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Struggles of my Job

Quite honestly, I've always admired teachers. They mold and shape the minds of youths, while simultaneously filling them with knowledge. They instill confidence in their students that makes you and I able to do whatever it is we want. Or at least that's what I feel my teachers have done for me. But I have to be even more honest: I don't know how on earth they do it.

This week marks the third week of my teaching experience, and not one day has been an easy one. A typical day involves me waking up at 6:00 (alright fine, 6:15 with my snooze button), and getting to the center for 7:15. Once there I finish up last minute preparations, and get to the school prayer for 7:45. At 8:00, after prayer, I have class for 4 hours, not including a half hour break in the middle. After lunch, I help run activities and workshops for the girls. At 5:45, everyone goes to rosary and then dinner follows at 6:00. Every weeknight, the church has an event such as mass, holy hour, or scripture reading. That starts at 7:00, so after dinner, I help bring the girls there, walk them back home at 8:00, and am usually home by 8:15-8:30. Long story short: Days here are pretty full. I blink and suddenly a day has already passed!

I'm with these girls all day, every day. I'm their teacher, I'm their mentor, I'm their friend, I'm their supervisor, I'm their big sister and more. So it's tough to find a balance between being a teacher they respect and a friend they can goof around with. During class, they just want to play and have fun. I get frustrated that their disruptions don't allow me to teach and I start to lose control of the classroom, so I put on my serious face. Once I get stern with them they get upset and tell me I'm mean. I don't care if they tell me that because their emotions have a 2 second rebound rate, but it still wastes time trying to get them to quiet down! Despite that, their questions usually take up a lot of time for no reason other than it takes a few minutes for me to understand what their saying. I've been getting better at differentiating between the important questions and the one that are completely irrelevant to life. (por ejemplo: Christina can you paint my nails later? Christina can I color during class? Christina what are the names of your cats?) Aye! Shush you little children! But like I said, it's a tough balance because part of me just wants to sit and paint my nails with them and color and share stories about our pets and our lives. I know my responsibility to them, however, and whether or not they like it, they have to learn.

Which brings me to my next struggle: TEACHING! Even despite the distractions, it's so difficult to teach! I understand the central nervous system. I can tell you about the different parts, I can tell you about sensory and motor neurons, and I can tell you what's happening in your body when you prick your finger on a needle. But understanding it and explaining it to students who have never heard of such things are two very different things. My method of teaching can be classified as a learn-as-you-go method. It's good that I'm learning and becoming more aware of what they can and can't do, but I'm so worried I'm not going to prepare them enough for their exams!

Though I did have a good lesson last week with my segundo ciclo. I explained the flow of blood through the heart and body, and taught them about deoxygenated/oxygenated blood. Afterwards one of the girls came up to me and pointed out her dark veins on her wrist and told me how that was deoxygenated blood. I asked her where that blood was flowing to and with a half second's hesitation she confidently responded, "Mi corazon (My heart)." I couldn't stop smiling. (The answer was correct.)

Hopefully I'll have more accomplishments to report in my next post.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I'm Officially a Teacher!

This past week we finally began the main service project of the year: teaching. The Centro Marie Pouseppin is an all girl’s school that has 5 different grades. Primero ciclo, segundo ciclo and tercero ciclo are roughly the equivalent of 7th, 8th, and 9th grade, respectively. The primero baccillerato and segundo baccilerato are roughly the equivalent of 11th and 12th grade, respectively.

The little chicas I’m in charge of are the segundo ciclo and tercero ciclo. I teach a science class for each of those grades, and a math class for tercero ciclo. My neighbor Sonia teaches the other classes for those grades. But at one point or another during the week I have all of the grades – whether it be for my theater class, drawing class, other drawing class, or my gym class.

Most of the girls live in aldeas (towns/villages) in the mountains, which are at least a few hours away from the school. Therefore, the girls live at the school all week. This past Monday when they moved in was the big day that I met them all! The only problem was that I was so nervous and so unconfident in my Spanish that I think I talked to 2 of them. I don’t know why I didn’t try harder because Tuesday I started teaching! Every Tuesday morning I will be taking my segundo and tercero ciclo to the finca (the farm) but this past Tuesday we stayed at the school. That meant it was 25 girls and me… for 4 hours. I was horrified because I had no idea what to do with them! I had an introductory activity where I had them write their names vertically on a piece of paper and for every letter of their name, they had to write a sentence about themselves. I was hoping they would take it seriously, but I was also hoping it would really make them think and bring out a creativity in them. It ended up being a good activity and even better, it killed 2 hours. Unfortunately as I interacted with the girls during that activity and got a feel for their personalities, I realized they wouldn’t want to do the other activities I had planned. But quite fortunately, I didn’t realize my neighbor Sonia was also joining the class. She took over from there and the next 2 hours went by smoothly. Regardless of how good the day went, however, I was still not very happy Tuesday night. I didn’t enjoy teaching and quite frankly, I had no desire to go to class the next day. I didn’t communicate with the girls very well, and I didn’t think they liked me at all.

As per usual with my experiences here, I was being a bit overdramatic. Wednesday taught me that the girls actually liked me! I was stunned. My tercero ciclo are a small, very calm group of girls who have an eager desire to learn. The best part is how much they love science. They have been making it so fun to share my knowledge with them. My segundo ciclo is a larger group of girls with energy that is purely contagious. They have a constant flow of questions and smiles that once more, makes me eager to teach them everything I know right then and there. I am so so so lucky to have all 25 of those girls. Really, my favorite parts of the week have been getting to know them. One of them was sharing with me how she was born in Argentina, and moved here when she was 2. Another was telling me how she rides the bus for 3 hours, then walks for an hour to get to her home from the school.

They have welcomed me into their lives with open arms, and I realized after this week, I’ve let them into mine. They love hearing about my family, and about differences between American culture and Honduran culture. I have to be careful with that one though, because I don’t want to them to get the impression that one culture is better or worse than the other. I just want to teach them that cultural differences exist. For example, I learned that all of the girls have four names: two first names and two last names. In America, however, most people have a first name, a middle name and a last name. They found that so interesting. What they found even more interesting is what Jr., Sr., and III mean when it’s at the end of a name. I used my dad as an example of that one. Another thing we learned from each other was “okie dokie” and “cheque lecque panqueque.” When they say, “ok” they say, “cheque.” So their version of “okie dokie” is “cheque lecque panqueque.” Panqueque is pancake, which makes that phrase all the more funny. What’s even funnier is when I run into them in the hallway and they scream, “OKIE DOKIE!”

Speaking of Spanish, I’ve been learning a lot of it this week. It’s frustrating though because I have so much I want to tell the girls, but I’m at too basic of a level to tell them everything I want to. Communication was probably my biggest challenge this week. Well, that and the challenge of killing the scorpion I found in my bathroom. (Cue a horror movie theme song.)

So at the end of the week, I can say with confidence I’m going to enjoy this year. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, and I’m still not convinced that teaching is for me, but I have a feeling it’s going to be worth it.