Departure! The countdown is on...

July 9, 2009

Teaching at the Himmelman

My placement started in Escula Himmelman, a school in Cayambe. I was placed there as an assistant to the English teacher, but his grasp of the language is so minimal that I understand him better when he speaks to me in Spanish than when he tries to speak English to me. He has decent sentence stucture but he would always say half the words in Spanish and conjugate the verbs wrong and mispronounce almost everything. Each school day would start at 7:30and run until 12:30. This is divided into 6, 45 minute periods and a half hour recess. Each grade has 45 minutes of English class once a week, except for the grade 7s (the last grade in elementary school here) who had a double period once a week. The students all had workbooks with lessons prepared in them and activities to do after the lesson was taught. So I would go into class, the English teacher would show me which page to teach and I would basically teach the lesson. He would interject to translate everything to Spanish for the students, anad as a result they know almost no English because everything was always translated for them and they became dependent on it. As a result I worked with seventh grade students who could barely write a proper sentence and most students didn´t know the numbers from 1 to 20 in English even thought it is taught in second grade.

The school system is very different here, teachers talk on their cell phones in class and if another teacher comes to the door to ask a question, even if they are in the middle of a giving the students a dictation, the teacher will go to the door and talk to their co-worker for a while leaving the children sitting in the class. The English teacher would often be on his cell phone or texting while I was teaching lessons, he would put his phone under the teachers desk or stand at the back of the class with his back turned, I guess he thought I wouldn´t notice. He would also leave the class for long periods of time and I would have no idea where he was. Sometimes though when he left the class it was good because I could teach the lesson without him interrupting to translate everything in Spanish. Sometimes though this didn´t work out because he would still come back and translate, and everything that they had understood was immediately undone. Sometimes in the last period of the day he would let me get started then pick up his briefcase and leave, giving me instructions that if they didn´t finish their work they couldn´t go home, and then he wouldn´t come back at all, so I think he just went home early.

The students here are really aggresive, even the girls, and when a teacher leaves the classroom they go crazy. They fight with each other, full out fist fights between the boys and hair pulling and kicking from the girls. They run around the classroom stealing other students´ books. backpacks, hats anything and run around to avoid getting caught. Sometimes when the English teacher left they would be good for a while and then go crazy on me. This was the worst because I was really powerless to control them, I didn´t speak Spanish well so usually I would help those who wanted to work and let the others go as long as they weren´t killing each other. Whenever I did tell them to stop hitting each other, they would always say they were only playing.

Most days I enjoyed, if only for the odd student who worked really hard at English and I would help them because they were interested and trying hard. I had one girl come up to me in class and say ''May I please go to the baƱo please?'' I explained to her what bathroom was in English and that she didn´t need to say please twice. She didn´t understand right away but I let her go to the bathroom anyway, about ten miuntes later she said I understand now and asked me again, this time with everything correct. I asked her who taught her how to say this and she said that she studies at home by herself so she taught herself. This happened on a day when I was particularly frustrated, but after that day whenever I was frustrated I would always think of that one little girl who tried so hard. I tried to keep in mind too that there are probably more students who want to learn too so I would just keep trying.

The school year is ended now though so I am still teaching at the same school offering free summer courses for anyone who wants to come. More about that in another post :)



Post a Comment