Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back to School!

¡Otra vez! Otra vez, seña,” several of my third graders eagerly yelled. Excited to see such enthusiasm, I quickly agreed and started to direct the students in singing their ABC’s again. The song turned out to be surprisingly popular among the kids, and it was a fun way for them to practice the pronunciation of the alphabet. While I went to my first day of English classes expecting a group of timid students, their readiness to participate and sing along really got me energized for the year ahead.

This school year we have some significant changes in store for our English program at La Primaria. We have expanded to include third grade, making this year the first ever that students in that grade level receive English lessons. This is a great opportunity to not only get to know more students at the school but also start preparing them at a younger age for the English courses they will have in years to come. In working with the three third grade classes, my goal is to help the students develop a strong foundation of basic English knowledge and to get them excited about learning the language.

In addition, our team has been hard at work creating a new overall strategy and structure to the English program. As mentioned in previous posts, the concept of sustainability has become a key element in the preparation and execution of our programs and projects. This year, we are making a considerable effort to work more closely along side the third through sixth grade teachers at La Primaria and involve them in both the planning and implementation of English classes. The teachers, who have each been given an English curriculum developed by Hudson, meet with one of us each week to discuss and prepare lessons for their students.

Though nearly all of the teachers at La Primaria have been very receptive to this idea of planning and leading English classes together, some are also understandably nervous and hesitant. In my first meeting with two of the third grade teachers, one of them described how she felt like she had nothing to contribute since she has never taught English and does not speak the language. I explained that we would teach as a team; she will use her extensive experience to help create engaging and successful classes, and I will use my knowledge of English to make sure the material is presented accurately and the words pronounced correctly.  Nonetheless, her hesitation is understandable. As Dana noted, it would be like someone asking us to start teaching German tomorrow. I know that I would be completely intimidated considering the only thing I can say (and probably not well, at that) is “guten tag.”

Despite the teachers’ concerns, I believe that this new partnership with them will be very constructive and that such collaboration really promotes sustainability of the English program. Our aim is to both equip the teachers with a curriculum and train them to teach English so that they will eventually be able to lead an English class without our assistance. And, once they are ready to do so, the teachers can then share their materials and know-how with other instructors, increasing the impact of our program. Clearly these are long-term goals, but I think that we are moving in the right direction. I am very excited to see this partnership with the teachers take root this year!

In all, we have many things to work towards and look forward to this year. Check back with us regularly to see how it’s going!


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