This past week I had my first day of school – not as a student, but as a teacher. I am going to be teaching English 1-2 days a week to 4th through 7th graders at an elementary school called La Sembrador (the sower). These students have had very little English before, but it’s important that they know enough basics before they go to el colegio (high school). English is a required course in high school. When I arrived at the school, I was surprised to find that the group of 7th graders I would be teaching was much younger than 7th graders would be in the U.S. These kids were only 10 or 11, as here in Ecuador, kids start school at a younger age, around 3 years old. Suffice it to say, I was glad they were younger (13-year olds are quite a handful!).
I had one hour to teach the seven graders that day. We started by introducing ourselves and reviewing the few things they already knew in English: Good morning, teacher; cat, dog, horse; numbers 1-10, and a couple more words. Then I had them say the ABC’s, making sure they pronounced each letter correctly in English, and not the Spanish pronunciation. We went over the “hard” and “soft” sounds the five vowels make, which was pretty confusing for the students (in Spanish each vowel only makes one sound). For the rest of class, we practiced simple phrases like “What is your name?” “How are you?” and “How old are you?” The kids seemed to enjoy it, although some of them were really shy about saying the words correctly. We’ll have to work on that. It was a good class, and I’m excited to work with these kids again. My mind is overflowing with fun ideas for next time!
|La Escuela Sembrador|
During my time at this school, I noticed a couple of interesting things. One was the idea of time. I had known previously that in Latin America the concept of time is very different – it’s more laid back. However, I found myself becoming frustrated when at the time I had been told class would start, the teachers made no move to start class. But, instead of being pushy or offending someone by asking, I decided to just go with it. It turned out that one of the teachers was having a small birthday party, so we got to be a part of that! I guess I will just have to get used to being more relaxed about time…it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
The other point that fascinated me was the idea of discipline. Several times I noticed that kids were in a classroom with no teacher, and most teachers I saw had no system in place to correct or teach the kids how to behave properly. I automatically assumed that this was inappropriate and neglectful. Later I realized that my ethnocentric thoughts had caused me to judge the way this school operated, thinking that since it wasn’t how we do it in the U.S., it was wrong. I’m still learning how their education system works, but with time I’m sure I will see how it is effective for this culture. For the time being, I might have to come up with a reward system for kids to pay attention. Thank God I have experience working as a substitute teacher.