Friday, May 04, 2007
Orientation into the schools.
My first experiences with these schools were very conflicting and confusing. In Pichilemu we don't have a coordinator and there is no one assigned from the Ministry of Education to help us. Our first week of orientation with the town and our schools, we were left to flop around in the cold, salty, treacherous sea of schedules and details, without any lessons as to how to swim or any possiblity of a rescue anytime soon. The second day in Pichilemu, we were handed off to different men from the provincial, who were taciturn, un-smiling and un-informative. The driver was plump with glasses and a lazy eye, while the other wore a black leather jacket and had squinty eyes. They took Kyle, Bethany and me out to Kyle's rural schools one by one so that he could meet his teachers and figure out some type of schedule. (This part will be an entirely different story so we won't go any further with the Kyle section, except to say, that the "schedule" didn't work out)
After a long day of riding in a small truck on bumpy roads behind two strange men, that never introduced themselves and obviously thought this was an unwanted chore, we were ready to jump off this welcome wagon head first. Still to this day, we remain unsure as to what their names are. Nothing of my schedule was settled and so we were off on another exciting journey with the two jolly men. Our shady guides took us first to Divino Maestro, where the principle speaks at the speed of light, to discuss my "horario." I was glad to go there first because my initial impression was that this school was friendlier. The motor mouth principle, on our first day, had been extremely excited to greet us and inform us that we were very welcome and that I would be very happy with them. He said they considered my presence a privilege. Bethany, our friend and the other volunteer in Pichilemu, was the mediator since she was the only one of our crew who spoke both languages. I had 25 hours of actual teaching time to divi up between the two schools, and 16 hours were assigned to Divino in that meeting. I sat in the cramped office, similing, nodding and listening as Bethany did all of the talking. The meeting with Divino was a piece of cake however, in comparison with Digna C. At our next stop DC, the principal was an unhappy camper when she discovered that 16 of my 25 hours had already been assigned to Divino M. Because I hadn't become fluent within 48 hours of being in Pichilemu, I sat looking from frowning face to frowning face, trying to figure out what was being said about me. They were allotted a measly nine hours, and they wanted more. They wanted me to either work more hours than my designated 25, or to work more extra-circular hours with them than Divino M. They also wanted Kyle to dedicate his extra time to their school. I understood why they were unhappy, but because we were dropped to the sharks without a life jacket, and left to figure out all of the nitty gritty details on our own in a foreign language without any help or protocol or official meeting between the schools, there was nothing to do except doggy paddle as best we could and hope survival was one of the options. The schedule at Digna Camilo was not decided that day, but later in the week. The schedule was ironic, because Digna C had decided that although Kyle was not assigned to them, he was to work 9 hours at their school anyways. Because Kyle's schedule was so confusing and he had no way of actually getting to his rural schools at the time, he didn't argue and dutifully followed the schedule.
After this rather painful meeting which felt like having all of my teeth removed without anesthetic, the easy part was to begin; the teaching! Har har har! Luckily, there was a protocol as to when to start teaching and it wasn't until after two weeks of observation of the real English teacher. DC redeemed itself with the welcome ceremony they threw for Kyle and I. A construction paper sign was hung on the wall outside stating, "Welcome At Our School." A speech by the principle, and the English teacher was made about how much we were appreciated. The national dance, which I have now seen at least 6 times at different functions, was performed. A Spanish and English color song with balloons was sung, the national anthem as well and little Chilean flags were presented to us gringos. Also a birthday song for "yours truly" (since the next day was my birthday), and a little question and answer session for me by two little girls. It was a lovely welcome ceremony and I loved every minute of it. They wanted to share with us how appreciative they were to have us volunteering at our school, and they succeeded. After the welcome ceremony with the whole school, the teachers held a separate wine and empanada celebration afterwards, with more of the "cueca" dance and more singing of Chile songs. A nice, but strange woman sitting next to us, who was missing several teeth continually chatted with Kyle and me as if we understood every word. She didn't seem to mind that our reactions only consisted of smiling, laughing and nodding, she continued to tell her life story to the new guests of DC. If this was my introduction to the schools, I had no idea what to expect for the "real life" part.