Some miscellaneous news. I’m attempting to write a couple of more polished essays to perhaps even submit to a magazine or two, so much of my recent writing time has been taken away from blog writing. I’m also on a strict 30-page a day reading regiment, which, of course, I’m not quite keeping up with. But it’s going alright. I’m reading Kavalier and Clay right now, and it’s wonderful.
This has been the week of the high school visits. I’ve seen three classes so far on two separate days, and today, I see three more. The first teacher was actually not that bad. She was enthusiastic and a little quirky, like all the great foreign language teachers are. Her main problem was her English proficiency. At one point, she had the students translate a little impromptu three-sentence story from Spanish into English. They wrote it on the board, and though she corrected spelling and other small details, she failed to catch some pretty major errors. Here is the final product, endorsed by the teacher: “There was a flood in La Bota the last month. Many houses fell down. Many people didn’t have where to live because the rain.” Yikes!
Teacher number two had better English, actually. Her problem was just that she wasn’t a very good teacher. She got mad at her students every four minutes or so while simultaneously conducting a pretty sloppy, uninteresting lesson that didn’t seem to be that coherent. Teacher number three also had tons of proficiency issues. His class was very disciplined and somewhat interesting; the lesson was on climate and he even included a little science demonstration in which a group of boys helped him make a barometer. Unfortunately, the experiment suffered some technical snafus and ended up wasting about 7 minutes of the 40 minute class. And he pronounced barometer not with the emphasis on the ‘o’ but rather like “barrow” as in “wheel barrow” plus “meter.”
Overall, my impression is that the class size (35 -40 kids) and time are detrimental to the kids’ learning anything. And the teachers are sub-par English speakers.
My own classes have been pretty unremarkable these past couple of weeks. I gained all of Westra’s students, and they’ve completed changed the classroom dynamics I was getting really comfortable with. It’s been a little stressful, though I recognize that I really have nothing to complain about because it hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as it can get back home. Still, there’s always a two or three week adjustment period with a new class; I’ve always hated it, and these past weeks have confirmed why.
Additionally, Ecuadorians don’t really have as honed a concept of tact as we do back home. They’re a little more blunt, or “straight-shooting.” This is a good thing in many ways; in fact, I think overall, I would vote for the Ecuadorian lack over the US excess of tact. They’re a little more sincere. There’s not as much sarcasm and irony and saying things you don’t mean. But they’ll also tell you that you’re a more difficult teacher than the one they’ve had for the past four months and that they’re having a harder time with you than with their old teacher. You learn not to take such things personally, in a culture where it’s a regular practice to nickname someone “the fat guy.” So it’s not affecting me like it would back home. Still, it’s not how you want to end your day. I’m looking forward to the weekend.
The recent stress has me a little homesick, but complexly so. On the one hand, I’ve been anticipating returning and not having to deal with the SECAP administration or the drawn-out process of getting from point A to point B via three different busses. Sometimes it takes an hour to get from the gym to home and then to Eileen’s school to meet her (a trip that would take 15 minutes by car). On the other hand, the recent taste of the more stressful life that I regularly live at home has me dreading the return to the never-ending work.
Fortunately, it’s March. Which means that I wouldn’t want to be in Wisconsin right now anyway, since March is, as Garrison Keilor puts it, “God’s way of showing people who don’t drink what a hangover is like.” And my sister Angie and brother Will are coming on the 22nd. Really, before we know it, it will be mid-April, and then we’ll be saying “Holy cow! We go home in three months. That’s not enough time to do everything we need to do here!”