Oh, How Time Flies!
It almost feels surreal. The sudden realization that we’ve been in Guatemala for nearly three months and have been teaching English for over two months astounds me! Time has passed so quickly, and it is hard to believe that next week is the last of the current school year for our students. During the past eight weeks of class, we have formed new relationships and begun to bond with a number of students at La Primaria, come to recognize some of the joys and challenges of teaching, and learned so much from the wonderful people in Chaquijyá.
Because the English program at La Primaria was our inaugural, and has thus far been our only, program in Chaquijyá, it has been the focus of much of our efforts. When we began teaching English in early August, it quickly became clear that most all of our fourth, fifth and sixth grade students were at a very basic level. It seems as though our students had previously been exposed to a lot of material but that they had yet to master much of it. Nonetheless, the majority of students showed great enthusiasm for the subject, as did their teachers and parents, which I found very encouraging.
Despite everyone’s eagerness, the fact that we, being some of the few rare gringos seen in the community, were initially somewhat of a spectacle at the school made the first days of teaching a bit challenging. There is a definitely a balance between presenting yourself as an authority figure as a teacher and, at the same time, befriending your students, perhaps by playing basketball with them, as we did. While the team debated and searched for this balance at the beginning, I believe that we’ve done a good job at establishing ourselves as in control in the classroom and as teammates out on the courts.
As far as English goes, our students have, for the most part, seemed to respond increasingly well to lessons, especially as we become more familiar with the teaching methods most effective in our respective classes. Similarly, some of the students, specifically some of the girls, in my and Dana’s sixth grade class who were once shy and timid about speaking up have become more extroverted and now sometimes even volunteer answers during activities. Likewise, there are several boys who once had a “too cool for school attitude” that have become more and more engaged in class. For example, Josúe, one of my students who sits in the very back of the room and on occasion needs to be reminded that we’re having class, became a voluntary contestant when we played a few rounds of review jeopardy recently (a game that was a surprising success – the students loved it). I could tell he was a little nervous, but with a little encouragement, he did great!
It is those little moments we have in class that make teaching so exciting and fun. Even though the official school year in Guatemala is coming to a close, I feel that we’ve made some solid new relationships and are on our way to earning the confianza (trust and confidence) of our students. This will be very beneficial when we implement future programs in Chaquijyá.
And, speaking of future programs, we’ve all been working hard to get ready for summer camp! We will be running a six-week camp for a group of first through sixth grade students in Chaquijyá during the vacation they have between late-October and January. We’ve chosen an “Around the World” theme for camp and will offer science, art, English and sports programs, as well as a variety of special community-oriented activities. I’ll be heading up art and can’t wait to break out the glitter glue and watercolors to teach our students about ancient Egypt and Japanese traditions, as well as about the cultures and customs of other countries.
So, in these past few months, we have already had such a good time living, serving, and learning down here in Guatemala, and we have so much more to look forward to in the weeks to come. Check back with us again soon to see how camp is going!
Until next time,
Karen and the MPI-G Team