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.