Thursday, March 3, 2011

Teacher, teacher

February flew by and it´s hard to believe that it is March already. The past month was filled with new beginnings, new experiences, and several new challenges. I am now in the third week of classes and I thought it would be fun to give you a glimpse into my day-to-day life.

Here’s a typical day for me (although each day is filled with its own unique conversations and events):

                I wake up at 5:30 am. Yes, I actually get out of bed before the sun comes up! I leave the house by 6:20 or so to catch my bus. The bus that I take only comes every 15 minutes so I have to be sure I catch it so I will be on time for work. (I have already missed it twice now and I´m confident that I looked ridiculous running down the street after my bus.)
Classes start at 7 am and end at 12 noon for most of the students. A little information about the school I teach at: the school is called Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) and is a Fe y Alegria (Faith and Joy) School. This means, among other things, that it is a partially private school. The teachers’ salaries are paid by the government but the rest is funded by Fe y Alegria. The school provides the opportunity for children from pre-escolar up through the 5th and final year of secondary to receive an education. This is the equivalent of preschool through senior year of high school. Due to the number of students, fifth and sixth grade have classes in the afternoon from 12:30 until 5:15 pm.
                All that being said, in the mornings I mostly observe (and sometimes co-teach) English classes for first and second year of secondary (approximately 7th and 8th grade). I also am observing physical education classes and this week have started teaching the kids (in all of secondary) a mixture of gymnastics and cheerleading. This is both absolutely entertaining and enjoyable for me. I love being able to get out of the classroom and share my love of gymnastics with the students. I am also grateful for the opportunity to interact with them on a different level. These next couple of weeks, I will be looking for the students who seem to have the most potential in cheerleading/gymnastics. Then, I will pick a team of about 20 or so and we´ll practice once or twice a week in the afternoon. Vamos a ver… (We´ll see…)
                I eat lunch in the teacher´s lounge with a few of my co-workers. They are wonderful and very encouraging and supportive. In my opinion, talking with them is one of the best aspects of my job. Although my Spanish is no where near where I hope it will be one day, we are able to joke around and talk about a wide range of topics – even though there are numerous words that I don´t understand.
                In the afternoon, I do a lot of waiting around. I am observing the phys ed classes and I teach 4 different English classes (there are 2 sections of 5th grade and 2 of 6th). The thing is that some days I wait around until 2:30pm or even until 4pm to teach my one class. These English classes are usually the most challenging part of my day and I´m thankful I only have one each day, except for Mondays. I am by myself in the classroom, unless I ask a teacher who has a free hour to accompany me and help me with discipline. The average class size is about 35 students but some classes have over 40 so it is definitely a challenge for me to get all of them to pay attention. Also, while it is true that I´m teaching English, I mostly speak Spanish in class because they only know a few basic words. I have had some really challenging days and then a couple where I feel pretty proud of myself. Throughout college, I gradually developed a sense of admiration for teachers and that has certainly increased even more since being here. Teaching is hard work! Most days, I am not sure that anything I said sank in but I am definitely learning a lot.
                After I teach in the afternoon, I head home. By the time I get home, I´m exhausted. We eat dinner as a community every night and we all take turns cooking. Mondays are my nights. I am slowly learning how to cook, which my co-workers find amusing and offer me advice on what to make. We have one community night and one spirituality night each week. On the other nights, we might watch a movie or have some Nicaraguan friends over for dinner or read and write letters and catch up with each other. I try to get to bed by 9:30 or 10pm every night. I know that seems early but I do have to get up at 5:30am!!
               The nine of us Jesuit Volunteers here in Nicaragua just went on a retreat this past week and it was a great opportunity to spend time together and process our time here thus far. We were able to get out of the city and travel north to a little community up in the mountains. Our last morning there, we all woke up at 5am and hiked up a mountain to watch the sunrise. The natural beauty that surrounded us was incredible.    
Overall, I feel good about being here. While things have not been easy, I continue to be grateful for my community and the people that surround me. At the end of the day, I am exhausted and mentally drained from trying to think and speak in Spanish all day but I also feel very full.