22 Feb

Wow! That was weird.

So. A student of mine, Natalia, has been wanting me to go to her sons’ high school and observe classes and help them improve their methodology. From the get go, she has been thoroughly impressed by my teaching style, which is more a comment on the failings of Ecuadorian methodology than it is a comment on my teaching expertise. Multiple people have told me that the methodology here is severely lacking. Class sizes are usually between 30 and 40 students. Each class is 40 minutes long. School starts at 7:00 and ends at 1:00 or 1:30. And the teachers pretty much just lecture.

In any case, I’ve been wanting to observe an Ecuadorian high school also, so Natalia and I kind of mutually asked each other if it would be okay if she set up an observation for me. Back in January, she wrote a letter or two to the powers-that-be at her sons’ school and then last week she informed me that we had clearance. Today, Tuesday the 22nd, we would go to the school and observe a class.

So we went. We got there a little late, as per usual, and it turned out that we were sitting in on an English department meeting to present our case. What case? you might ask. Good question. I had no idea, really. I turns out that the school had lost one of the letters Natalia sent. In fact, they had lost it twice (she sent a second copy after they lost the first one). So the English department only knew that a parent of one of their students was coming to talk to them about some North American teacher.

I was hoping Natalia would do all the speaking for me. But no. Before a very formal-looking crowd of 12 teachers, Natalia turned to me and said (in Spanish), “do you want to present them with what you’d like to do here?” The thing is, Natalia pretty much wants me to revolutionize the teaching methodology of these teachers. I really just want to observe Ecuadorian adolescents and, secondarily, the teaching methodology that I’ve heard so much about. I told them I simply wanted to observe some classes and that maybe we could try to share some ideas about instruction, etc.

(A brief aside. My students back home sometimes laugh at the fact that on, say, an in-class essay, they’ve “totally BS-ed” and they still got a good grade. Or they’ll express frustration with having to BS. I always tell them, “yeah, but the ability to BS is a good skill to have; you’ll use it on a regular basis in life.”)

I then launched into a big pile of BS about how it has always benefited me to share ideas with my colleagues, etc. blah, blah, blah. I wanted to say that I was flexible with however we decided to arrange things, but even though I can think of how to express that sentiment in Spanish right now, for some reason, at the time, I wasn’t confident that “flexible” in Spanish is “flexible,” albeit pronounced a little differently. I then told them that if they wanted to come to my classes at SECAP to observe, they could. Whoa. That got a reaction. They seemed pretty offended, actually (which is exactly how teachers back home would have acted, I think). But then we got to the business of scheduling some specific classes and they pretty much literally fell over each other trying to get me to come see their classes. I couldn’t figure it out.

So that was that. I didn’t see anything, but I committed myself to going to the school for two hours next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. A little more than I bargained for. And I’m not sure, but I may have given them the impression that I was going to be a regular teaching consultant and that I might even teach some classes there. Geez. I don’t really know what even happened. I’m gonna have to slowly backstep out of this one next week.