Archive for July 21st, 2006

Having “normal” fun for a day at the 4th of July BBQ at the Sheraton in San Salvador.
Making chicha, a fermented alcoholic beverage, behind the alcaldia or mayor’s office in what appears to be an empty petrol drum. Don’t worry, we didn’t have any.

I’d wanted to be an English teacher before coming here, but I never thought I’d be able to get in front of a group of kids and talk without getting so nervous that my heart beats out of my chest and lands on a student’s head. I’ve taught heaps of 1-to1 classes before in all types of settings. Yesterday I complied with a favour my host-brother asked of me: to help his with “to be” and “to have” in his class. My host-brother is 45 and is a math and/or science teacher at one of the schools in my town, by the way. However, the Ministry of Education here has this marvelous plan called PLAN 2021, where one of the components is to have all Salvadorans have a basic understanding of English by the year 2021. So everyone and anyone is teaching English in schools, that includes Math teachers and it doesn’t matter whether you know English or not. Being that I enjoy languages and am excited about teaching English I accept.

This morning my host-brother takes me to the school. It’s recess time and there is salsa music blasting from the PA system and kids running around, not to mention staring at the morenita. Before heading over to the class I ask him what exactly I’m meant to be helping him with and if he has any resources. I would not be helping him teach, but teaching a 45-minute class by myself and the “resources” he had was a horrible book on how to learn random things in English through singing songs that no highschooler in their right mind would ever sing in front of their classmates. I’m lucky I had spent a few minutes actually going over the details of how to conjugate “to be” and “to have” and when they are used. Turns out “to be” is troublesome because it means “haber”, “ser” and “estar” in Spanish. Anyone who has studied Spanish knows that “ser and estar” is a tricky lesson.

By the end of the second class, which had at least 35 students in it, I thought I was getting through to the students and felt pretty good about myself. That was until we did an activity called True or False with the following question:

Q. Which of these two sentences is true and which one is false?
I have hungry OR I am hungry

“I have hungry!!!!”, the students say. “Who can tell me why that’s correct?” I reply. “Because have means tener in Spanish!”. I wanted to say, “ERRRRR! WRONG! You lose.” But instead I just smiled and said. “Let’s review the definitions I gave at the beginning of the class. Now, is hungry something you can buy or hold in your hand? Is it something you can posses?”.

“No, maestra.” I didn’t think so.

Schools are crazy here. For those of you who had your formal education in non-developing countries be glad because you wouldn’t want a Math teacher trying to teach you English. And you probably wouldn’t want disease-stricken stray dogs roaming around the school grounds or want to have to sweep and mop your classrooms after you used them because the government doesn’t have enough money to pay janitors.

In case anyone was wondering, my heart didn’t end up beating out of my chest and landing on a student’s head. I did go home with a hoarse voice due to the fact that schools here have zero insulation from screaming children at recess and one must scream to be heard. For some reason every single school I’ve visited is built around a central courtyard/playground that always seems to be hosting a perpetual recess while other classes are in session.

Ah, the joys of teaching in El Salvadoran schools.

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