My first “Solo” Day in Ecuador was today. The best way I can describe my submersion in a foreign classroom environment is by comparing it to learning how to swim by getting thrown into a ocean.
My teacher had Parent/Teacher Conferences today, which are very different than those in the United States. Instead of staying before or after school, teachers have their assistants substitute for the day and then spend the entire school day in an office. Each teacher in the grade has their own Conference day so that they don’t overlap and the assistants can cover the classes.
I thought that while my teacher met with parents, I would just be helping the assistant teach the class but continuing to teach the math unit I planned on my own. I didn’t get to float down the Lazy River though! The assistant wanted me to teach the whole day! In the U.S., I wouldn’t have been phased by this development. Here, though, it was a little startling. I’m still getting used to the very different routine and the stark changes between a school in the States and Collegio Menor.
Overall, the day went VERY well. I got to teach an awesome creative writing lesson today that I loved! I also got to spend more time one-on-one with my students. I definitely had some obstacles, though. For Mackenzie, Rachel and I, the biggest challenge has been getting to used to the way students behave in class. By no means am I a strong disciplinarian in the States. I rarely expect students to work in silence and often allow them to socialize, to an extent, while they work. But, at Collegio Menor, students aren’t ever expected to sit quietly and work. Socialization is valued and emphasized at our school. Sometimes it’s hard for them to follow the rules in school! Bless their sweet little souls, they are loud and rowdy all the time. They have amazing spirits that are just overflowing sometimes.
Because I’m still getting used to this difference, I was more strict today with my Ecuadorian angel babies than I have been with other students. When I talked to my teacher after the day was over (and after I stayed an extra 30 minutes to tutor kids for their spelling test tomorrow) she said that it was a GOOD thing I was hard on them. According to her, they were testing me and seeing how much respect I would expect. Because I did push them to work hard and to learn, while still loving them, hugging them, and encouraging them, they did respect me at the end of the day. As I sent them home, each child hugged and kisses me goodbye today.
Today was a learning experience for this soon-to-be-teacher. You have to adjust to the climate in your classroom, and that isn’t always easy. You do have to meet your students diverse needs, in every way. Teaching is about meeting your kids where they are, and helping them grow. In a way, my students are doing that for me, as well.