I have officially been here one month, with one more month to go! It is amazing how quickly time has gone, and how at home I feel here (don’t worry, mom, I promise I am coming back!) We just got a new volunteer on the compound, Karen, and that is what has made me realize how comfortable I have grown here. I am able to show her around and explain to her things about the agriculture or the city that only a month ago somebody explained to me! Then, there are other things she asks, like “what is that person saying?” and I have no idea usually. But, it’s kind of nice to not be the only person who can’t speak the language!
I honestly wish I had more time here to learn the language. I am still learning it, and picking up little bits every day just from listening, but I wish I could take a class or some lessons, or even just have more time that I could study it on my own. I am so busy with planning, teaching, and working in the house, that when 9:00 pm hits, I am usually on my way to bed!
We got a new girl in my house this week – a little twelve year old girl, who looked about nine. She had come from the mountains, but had come down to the city to get “an education,” which means she was sold as a “housekeeper.” This is not uncommon around here, and many of these situations end up being abusive. She was removed from the house and walked into our place on Sunday night, terrified. She cried silently at the dinner table, and held my hand underneath. Within a day, she was smiling and giggling with the other little girls. And then, as fast as she was here, she was gone. Her parents came down from the mountains to take her home. It’s hard to know what that situation will be like, but she was welcomed warmly here, fed, loved, and even if only for a day, I think it will be a kindness she will remember.
Teaching this week has been better. It’s easy to make everything seem peachy in a blog post, but I have struggled with some of the classes. The grade 2 class in particular has always been challenging for Hannah and since switching over, it has been no different for me. The class is large and has 22 boys and 5 girls. There are some major respect issues in the class, and it is not uncommon for 4 or 5 of the boys to have to leave the class on a daily basis because they are fighting or yelling or pushing or just plain not listening.
I think part of it is the classroom, because it’s really small, and they all sit at little tables and chairs that they are way too squished into, and they’re in each other’s space. They are also busy little boys that need something to do with their hands, and they don’t always have the opportunity to do that. So, this week, we are studying animals, and we decided they should get to make some animals with play dough on Monday (The four year olds also did play dough on Monday, and only one ate it, which I thought was positive. He quickly realized his error, and spit it on the table…)
The grade two boys were changed men. They were so excited about getting to make these animals, we had the calmest, most well-behaved children that I had ever seen. We also positively reinforced (aka bribed) them with letting them listen to music while they worked, which they were thrilled with.
I feel like I am still figuring out what works and doesn’t work with them. They are eager to please, and really do thrive on positive reinforcement, so I spent a lot of time this week with a huge smile on my face saying things like, “OHMYGOODNESS, look at you colour! That is amazing!! I love your purple bird!! You are doing a GREAT job!” while Hannah laughed her head off at the back of the room. However, two of the boys that usually caused a lot of trouble, were giving me high fives every 10 seconds about their good colouring… which was a definite improvement from pushing each other off of their chairs.
All of the other classes this week also studied animals. It is nice that the curriculums follow some of the same themes. Kindergartener’s got to colour and cut animals and glue them to their habits, and grade ones learned about jungle animals, and also about the letter “Hh.” Although the kids are a lot younger than I have worked with in while, I am really enjoying the teaching here.
Friday was parent-teacher interviews which if I could describe in one word, it would be: hilarious. I didn’t say much, because I can’t speak the language, and because Hannah has been with the kids a lot longer. But I watched as one mother swung her hand back and forth while talking to Hannah. After she left, Hannah said, “she said if her kid is misbehaving, just hit him. She won’t be mad and she won’t tell anyone.” Another mom told Hannah if her little girl wasn’t listening, just pull really hard on her ear. I wonder how well that would go over in Canada…
Also, it is Hannah’s last weekend here before returning to America! It is sad in a few ways! She has become a good friend, and I have enjoyed spending time with her outside of the classroom! BUT, she is also a HUGE help in the classroom, and she has the Spanish skills that I don’t have to communicate with the kids! So I think next week will be very … interesting. I have the classes for 4 weeks before she returns! I told her if the grade twos tell her I just let them do play dough every day that she shouldn’t believe them. But, I feel like it’s a good option.
XO – kb.