Friday, May 7, 2010

Maestra Estacey


So I had my first day of teaching English! It was quite an primero vez teaching in a classroom and I was lucky to have a partner in crime. Cristobal de Carolina de Nor arrived on Monday, a volunteer from the States who heard about Loma Linda and came to lend a hand for a week. And just in time! My first class was with a room FULL of ninos, probably about 40 kids between the ages 4-8 and I had them for two hours of “How-are-you?” “I-am-good” “Good-morning” “Welcome” again and again and again. Just a handful of sentences repeated and repeated, taking turns between me and them or one side of the class to another, pointing at each other on the “YOU” and at themselves for the “I”. Two hours of this. Two hours. If I didn’t have Chris there to help keep everybody in line (he took the title of Crowd Control), I think I might have just run screaming for the hills. Aside from the fact that their yelling in unison sometimes melded together into “How are GOOD!” and “I am YOU!”, I know they left having learned at least something because the next day I had many “Buenas dias, Stacey!”s. So what did we learned? Two hours is way too long for a room full 45 very small children and the differences between the ages is vast enough that a lot of the youngsters got lost in the bustle. Our solution: Break the class up into two one-hour classes, the younger youngsters first and the olders second. When we finished, we both completely collapsed. Pascual and Rosa were there too and now and then Pascual lent a hand in wrangling back their attention as well. Never would I have been able to do that alone..maybe in the future but not the first time having ever done something like this every before in my life! Whew! I was kind of nervous for the afternoon class with the adults and older students but man, those two hours went so smooth and it was a fantastic group! Several members of ASODILL, Pascual and two of his daughters, a handful of teachers and a good group of teenagers who already had a good base knowledge. We spent some time on greetings and, while it felt patronizing to have them repeat and repeat and repeat,but they were wonderful and we joked and laughed and it was so laid back and we aNUNciated (wowweeerrrr) and I made all kinds of silly faces in the process repeating the sounds of the letters..R and T being some of the more difficult for them..and I found I really used my whole body in the process, to emphasize with hands waving and bouncing my knees on each syllable. It was great! We did the whole alphabet together, one letter at a time and it really was fun! I’d say the letter and they’d repeat it back, we’d do that 4 or five times and for the harder letters I walked to each desk and had every student repeat it back to me. I have no idea where all the energy came from because I did NOT sleep the night before (anxious girl not able to turn her brain off, nervous for her first day of being a teacher..) but man, I felt exuberant at the end of it, absolutely ecstatic! And I pretty much did it all by myself! I really felt proud of myself as we walked back up the street under a light drizzle and we just had to stop and gaze at the mountains, draped in clouds. It was a perfect vista to end a grand adventure of a day. Oh, I almost forgot! Rosa made us a celebratory “congrats on your first day of teaching” banana bread cake for dessert and yes, it was heaven on earth.
Sunday: Today I took Cristobal up to the wall waterfall and it has really amped up since last week with all the rain we’ve had! The walk to it is so lush and gorgeous, Chris is as in love with this place as I am and as all the other volunteers are who have had the luck of finding this beautiful haven tucked away up in the mountains. Sundays are my days off and oh what a day! Fruit filled: papaya for breakfast, bought some mangos to die for from the tienda up the street that we snacked on at the waterfall, that afternoon were each gifted a bolsa-full of bananas that afternoon courtesy of Conrado. I went for my first jog (Oh, so long awaited. I love my exercise and have so far not been brave enough to set out, as jogging isn’t a common thing, but as I’m getting to know the community, I figure they already think I’m strange enough so so what if this ups the anty?). I trekked up the steep hill and was managed to keep a steady pace despite the rough incline. I got up to the cancha de futbol (soccer field) and made 10 turns around the field to the giggles and banter of some local teenage boys goofing off around the far goal. As I finished up, some girls were arriving to play futbol and I asked if I could join. They were really nice and a couple were my English class students who chose me to play on their team (aw!) though I told them they actually really didn’t want me on their team. But I held my own, my offense is a disaster (I have no idea how to dribble) but I run fast and am aggressive enough that I was able to snag the ball a couple of times on defense and I even made a goal! Sure, I also fell flat on my side and got a punt right between the eyes (third golpe in four months on these glasses and they’re still in one piece!) but it was a blast! I skipped down the trail in wonderful spirits and joined Chris who was sitting on the steps of the deck of the albergue (volunteer hotel). We talked for about five minutes before a group of little boys came up and we kidded around with them a bit (they’re rascals, totally whisper and giggle and when you ask their name they’ll say some word or another, trying to keep a straight face and you know they’re trying to get you to say something you might rather not if you even knew what it meant!). A teenage girl walked up to us with two bags full of something and said her uncle Conrado sent her to deliver us bananas(!!!). This was a dream come true and so well timed as just that morning we were discussing our desire for bananas. Pascual had tons about a month ago but we finally finished them and his next harvest hasn’t ripened yet. We were beside ourselves and trying to express our gratitude when she added further to this to ask if we wanted to come up to the house to try “morados”, or purple bananas. So we went up to the house and found Conrado (on of my favorite ASODILL members, he’s younger and just the most smiling, genuine, thoughtful, intelligent guy that it’s just an absolute pleasure to be friends with, I’m being gushy but he’s just so freaking nice!). He introduced us around his house and we sat and talked with his abuelos for awhile and then he offered to take us to meet the rest of his family who all live in a line of houses up on the ridge. They were all great and we sat and talked with everyone, one house after another, explaining why we were here and raving about Loma Linda and its inhabitants. This was great for me, to get meeting more of the community and they were all so genuinely thankful for our presence, for our desire to be there to help. Each house welcomed us in and we talked the afternoon away, overlooking the beautiful vista, drinking cafĂ© con leche and getting to know better this beautiful community. What could be better?

Whew! So I’m halfway through my first day teaching Environmental Education. I did two one-hour long classes this morning with segundo y tercero basico (between 5 and 7 years-ish) and I literally winged it since I didn’t really have any good lesson plans to work off of and since it is the first day I really just wanted to get an idea of what the kids already know. Well, I first went into describing what the terms nature and environment meant and then I described the difference between domestic and wild animals. I had them give me examples of each and tell me what kinds of animals they’ve seen out in the hills surrounding community. They were all very gung ho to pipe up whatever animal came to mind and I felt secure knowing I once again had my crowd control Cristobal there for back-up but, luckily, since it was an actual school day the level of chaos was minimal in comparison to the weekend English lesson. So anyways, I had imagined that this discussion/lesson plan I’d created was going to take a lot longer than it actually did (in contrast with the English classes where you can repeat the same thing back and forth for what seems like ever!) so I suddenly found I had to improvise on what to finish out the second half of the class with. I decided to dive into the food web. This was fun because I had them call out ideas and I’d draw the different groups up on the board, which they got a kick out of: first with plants/fruit/flowers/trees/leaves; then various critters that feed on the flora; followed by birds and mammals that eat the insects and critters; and finally the carnivores that eat the birds and smaller animals…and then I turned it into a web, pointing out that birds and mammals also eat the fruits and plants, etc. and then I asked them if they could think of one animal that is found in just about all corners of the world and that feeds upon all of the various groups in the web..a kind of animal that live in cities, wears clothes…a few more hints and then there was a lightbulb-Humans! So I drew us in and had arrows going to all the appropriate spots, always asking the kids if they remembered what the arrows between the groups symbolized. The kids really got into it and I felt like I left them with a better idea of how we are all connected and that all parts of nature depend on each other..if you cut down all the forests you cut out a part of the web and those that depend on the lost part will die and this is why we have to share the environment, we can’t just use it all up ourselves and why it is important to set aside protected areas for wildlife to live. The second class went even better than the first and I finished my second hour with great feelings of success all around! It was fun, I actually might even kind of sort of like this new “profession” I’ve stumbled into. It also gives me a whole new respect for the actual professionals who do this every day, all day. Kudos, kudos, kudos. Two hours in a row is just about all I think I can handle, thank you very very much! Luckily I have from 10am til 4pm to recoup before I have to step into the secondary school and teach a class of thirteen/fourteen year olds. I’m quite a bit more nervous since this is getting into more of a difficult age where you can’t charm them with cute drawings on the board. We’ll just have to see how it goes, stay tuned!

It wasn’t so bad! In fact, it was really pretty great. I went more in depth on the theme of medio ambiente and all that it consists of-both living and non-living elements. The kids were taking notes and some of them were really on the ball, answering my questions and really thinking about the answers. I decided to keep the drawings and the kids really enjoyed them, it was a hit! I felt a lot more comfortable, on par with the age group (between 13 and 16) and they were totally patient and helpful with my Spanish although I actually felt pretty fluid throughout the entire class and to have the teacher to pitch in with some key words (“red trofico”-trophic web, or food web). Oh and to top it off, despite the teacher, I ran totally solo! Chris decided he didn’t really need to be there since even with the a.m. classes he didn’t really have to help much at all and, though I so appreciated his help, I felt great that I could walk in there and run a truly one-girl-show! I had a lot more notes prepared to make sure that I had enough to keep rolling along through the whole hour and it ended up I had more than enough and suddenly the hour was over and I still had more to say! Nonetheless, I was able to cut it short with style and the round of applause brought it to a close. Walking up the street with the onset of a cloud shrouded evening among a crowd of kids in their crisp uniforms and bantering back and forth phrases in English, I was happy to have made it through the day having completed another experience along this winding road that has so many surprises around every bend.


  1. whew! you are beyond awesome, sweet there anything you can't do? i love love love reading about your adventures and successes and i thank you so much for keeping us so well informed...i am bursting with pride over both of my incredible offspring!

  2. What an awesome period of time an soooo much going on in you your ALL.I'm OH SO VERY PROUD!
    Your BLOG gives us the feeling that we are close, experiencing your challenges and creative acomplishments. ENJOY>>Love you more than....Love DAD

  3. It doesn't surprise me that your teaching skills were a success.Little kiddos are fun , but can really wear you out. I can have 2 out of 4 of my grandkids here with me for a weekend and i'm exhausted when they go home, so i can NOT imagine 45 little mouths all talking for 2 hrs. I got your address, thankyou. I think you must of had really good parents that taught you well growing up, cuz they sure praise you and are so proud of you. i enjoy reading their comments as much as your blogs.You are a very lucky lady to have such a wonderful and loving family. My dad is doing well, still a little speach problem (since stroke) but all in all ...pretty good. I too am sooo lucky to have a wonderful loving family. Thanks to our parents heh! Happy Mothers Day to all.Love and miss you. Keep up the excellent work my freind. (WCM) Deb


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