Published: July 30th 2012July 30th 2012
So far, I’ve blogged about special days at school and the tropical paradises Keiron and I have visited since our plane touched down in Quito two months ago. But you may be wondering what our everyday life has been like. I was asked by one friend, for example, if we have running water and electricity.
I cannot let fundamental questions like this go unanswered, so I’ve decided to post an update, in several installments, about the every day activities that make up our new lives. Part One: 6:00 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. or “the Job”
Every morning, I wake up at 6:00 a.m., listen to some NPR during breakfast and head off to work. You’ll be happy to know that we do have running water and electricity, so I can make toast and wash my face just like any other person.
Keiron often wakes up at this time, too, and sets to work on his building. I don’t know how he does it – he literally works all day long, and when I get home it’s still difficult to pry his fingers from the keyboard.
I leave the house about five minutes to seven
to allow for my three-block commute. To avoid the horrendous construction occurring down the street, I take the road closer to the ocean.
Fixing roads in Ecuador apparently necessitates mountains of filth and the stench of things that are best to be avoided emanating from exposed sewers. In a way, though, it’s nice to start every day with an ocean view, and potentially a few florescent yellow tropical birds.
At the entrance to Génesis, I might find some students jumping and screaming my name, apparently surprised to find me showing up for work in the morning, but that’s just an added bonus. I’m always guaranteed a greeting from the super sweet Tío Paul, the disciplinarian and basically everyone’s go-to person – can I have the projector?, what happened to the extension cord?, my hair is on fire can you please deal with it? etc.
I imagine his job would be like spending all day in first grade while the kids are coloring – during those classes I’m basically a human pencil sharpener, always answering to “Tía Susan! Tía Susan!” and never setting the agenda myself. It does make me proud, though, that some of the kids say
“sharpener, please” in English.
Mondays begin with a ceremony which all of the students and teachers attend, and the first Monday of every month means fancy uniforms. The ceremony always includes: 1. the national anthem, 2. presentations by groups of students (last week that included my first graders, who sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”) and, if we’re lucky, 3. enthusiastic speeches filled with Latin bravado.
Until 1:15, I teach my little groups of kiddos.
The first graders, like little language sponges, can hear a song once and know all of the words forever. They can also be entertained for untested lengths of time repeating the same activity over and over – the jokes never get old. Classes with this group are always a lot of fun because they mainly consist of songs and arts and crafts.
It’s also interesting because I hardly have to use any Spanish with them. At that age, they’re so used to having to pick up their native language through immersion that following along in a new language isn’t so daunting. For them, trial and error is second nature.
At the beginning of every class I pick them up to
take them into the English room, and every day this involves a hug attack by the entire class, along with the younger group of preschoolers. When I catch my balance, I line them up with their pencil cases and say, “the English train is leaving!” to which they answer, “choo-choo!” At the end of the last unit, we made a real English train out of toilet paper rolls with all of our names on it.
The third and fourth graders are a different breed entirely. They’re still small children, but they’ve learned how to misbehave and basically how to maximize insanity in the enclosed space of the classroom.
If left unmonitored for a minute, they will literally be running the lengths of the room, scaling shelves, wrestling, swinging from windows and pulling out every book, game and art supply contained in the English room. If carefully channeled, this energy can be directed towards English, but it’s a dangerous task.
With these groups, I have a lot of fun as well, but it’s a different kind of fun. We can make jokes and play more games, and sometimes if I’m lucky they’ll let me do activities
in their books, which is really the goal.
Classes generally consist of a lot of small activities and games, a lot of energy spent cheering them on during writing and listening tasks and a lot of stickers being placed haphazardly onto my shirt.
My sixth grade class is every teacher’s dream: a group of highly motivated, enthusiastic kids who are sure to be fluent in English by the time they reach high school. It’s hard to find an activity that this group can’t do, which means I can bring a lot of creativity and experimentation to my lessons.
Last week, we ended with a murder mystery in which they all took on characters, including a detective who interrogated each suspect in English. They pieced the clues together to determine who had killed Mario (on his birthday no less) – it turned out to be Dora, who they renamed “Dora la Asasinadora.”
These kids also seem to be little sponges when it comes to music. Last year they learned all of the words to “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” by the Beatles, and still remember it perfectly – and that’s not at all an easy song. This year I taught them “You Belong With Me,” by Taylor Swift, which they now want to sing at every possible venue. Check out the video of them singing it at the farewell party for the volunteers we had here over the past month.
After classes end, the four English teachers generally convene in the English room with various classes of junk food. Vendors with little carts gather strategically at the end of the day by the entrance to the school; favorites include popcorn with spicy sauce and fried bread stuffed with cheese and coated in sugar.
Until 2:50, we have a mixture of socialization, grading, lesson planning and, for the other American teacher and I, working on the foundation aspect of Génesis. That’s been great for me because it gives me more variety. Check out the new English blogspot page for the Genesis Foundation: www.genesisecuador.blogspot.com
Kelsey, the other American English teacher, translated the information, and I reworked it and created the webpage.