Friday, May 04, 2007

Teaching Adventures

On a whole, I have more problems at DC primarily because of discipline problems. On my first day working with Loreto in the 7th grade class, I was horrified. I was horrified at the lack of respect the students gave her, and I was also horrified at how she could just ignore such blatant, and atrocious behavior. She walked into the class, greeted the class with the stamped and approved salutation of the Chilean English class:
Teacher: Good morning
students: (standing at their desks) Good morning Ms. So and So
Teacher: How are you?
students: Fine, sank you
Teacher: Sit down please.
students: Sank you ms.
Normally this is the most tame part of every class, but this particular class, takes the disrespect to an all new level of outrageousness. Maybe three students of the 40 stood up and responded to Loreto, the rest continued walking around and discussing gossip with the other students. She then had me try and teach the lesson since I was the token English speaker. The lesson first began with a worksheet with a word bank and a scene from a typical city block. The sheet had blanks next to objects such as a bus, a road, a newspaper stand etc. Dictionaries were handed out and the work was to begin. A couple students completed the worksheet and the rest just copied after thirty minutes of talking and ignoring the worksheet staring up at them. I found this particular worksheet humorous because it used all British terms such as Zebra crossing for crosswalk and others that I can't think of at the moment. After this worksheet was completed, the teacher had me read a passage from the brand new English books. Before I continue, I must say that I think the new English Books designed for the Ministry are great, colorful, and entertaining, but are way too high of a level for my seventh graders in Pichilemu, who can't answer the question "how are you?" The passage, "A tour of Babylon, a city of the past" included words such as "divided, unequal parts, Euphrates River, consisted, King Nebuchadnezzar, Hanging Gardens, impressive ect." Basically, in this passage, the kids could only understand the word "the." She wanted me to read this two paragraphed passage to them out loud and not only expected them to listen but to understand anything that came out of my mouth. I did as she asked but I tried to make it interactive and have the kids figure out the vocabulary as we went. They stayed interested for half of the passage probably because I made a fool of myself and they found me amusing for some time but after I was no longer interesting, they returned to their normal activities of yelling, screaming, climbing on desks and generally being animals in a jungle. I then tried to teach the clapping method of attention grabbing. I clap once, they clap once, I clap twice, they clap twice, I clap three times, they clap three times and so on until everyone in the class is paying attention and silent except for their hands. However as soon as they figured out how this clapping thing worked, they erupted into cheers, and hollered even louder than before the clapping. My exhausted voice failed me and I sat down as the teacher failed to get them to pay attention.
The second time with this class I nearly walked out. They had behaved better than normal for my first visit because a novel person was in the room, but as soon as I became old news, life resumed back to chaos. It was the same story as before except for worse and with less attention. I should note that this is not the only class I have wanted to walk out on. Last week while teaching the 6th graders basic questions, I decided to remove ten students, about half of my class, from the classroom because they refused to pay attention and didn't listen to a word I said. They don't seem to understand that the more time they yell, wrestle, play their recorder, scream my name and tattle tale on each other, the less time they will have to play the game... if I have a game. This particular day, I was planning on playing musical chairs with an added twist of English, but this class didn't have time to play because I had spent so much time just trying to get them quite.
At Divino Maestro, I have more problem students rather than problem classes, not to say that I don't have problem students at DC, but the situation is different. In one of the 7th grade classes, I have a 17 year old who has been held back at least three times and loves to make teachers wish they had never entered into the teaching profession. He is at least a head taller than me, and last week proved this to me by sticking his chest in my face as an intimidation method. He also grabbed another kid by the shirt and yanked him around. His parents were called, who knows if it will help. Other students like to hang and swing on the railing in the library. And I have a couple of girls in separate classes who refuse to speak or participate.
I don't want it to seem like everything about Chile's schools are bad because they aren't, the bad is just more apparent at the moment than the positive attributes. There are kids in the groups who are surprisingly knowledgeable and intelligent, and there are also kids who genuinely want to learn English. I have these kids in every one of my classes and I wish I could just teach the ones with genuine interest, but as that is the wish of all teachers around the world, I will just have to continue teaching them all. Some positive aspects include getting notes, drawings and gifts from my students almost daily. My first day of observing at DC, a little girl drew a lovely portrait of me in my kacky skirt and red shirt with stars circling my body. At DM I received a note from a little girl entitled "Tia Banesa" This note was not only cute for it's misspelling of my name, but also the content. The girl wrote "I hope you are happy and I hope that I have class with you because you are very pretty and nice and your husband too." She then drew a picture of Kyle and me at the bottom of the note, both holding briefcases and wearing pink shirts. At both schools I am a celebrity and get swarmed by little girls who want to hold my hand and ask the gringo questions as I walk to the teachers lounge . I appreciate the attention because, lets be honest, we all know I like attention, but sometimes it feels a little weird to have little girl ornaments every time I walk the halls in my school. But after a frustrating class, it is nice to have that little girl hug.

A side note: Because the kids had a hard time understanding my name, they started calling me Tia Vienesa, which is a hot dog brand. And it seems that no Spanish speaker can pronounce Kyle's name correctly so the students gave up all together and call him Tio Gringo. The other volunteer here in Pichi also has a very difficult name in Spanish; Bethany. The "th" sound comes out like an "s" so what you hear is "Tia Bessa me" which translates to Tia Kiss me.


Karen said...

Oh my goodness Vanessa, these are terrifc stories! You should put them in a book. I like how all the kids call the teachers or volunteers aunt or uncle, and I love that you are being called a hot dog. How fun!!

Thank you for explaining it all so well so that I can understand what it is that you're doing in Chile. Hang in there and good luck with your classes. I think you're on the right track by doing new things each day to catch their attention. Just think of yourself as Michelle Phieffer in Dangerous Minds (but set in Chile) and just ask yourself what she would do...

Love, Karen

Cameron said...

Hey Tia Vienesa, very entertaining blog, and I could definitely relate to most of what you wrote. Only thing is it isn't as cold up here and my school has 4 classes at every grade level, which I think is equivalent to working at two schools, hehe. Anyway, keep working at it, everyday is a learning experience and an opportunity to refine your technique. Tell Killa Kyle I said "what up!" and take care of yourselves. Smile, you're in Pichilemu!!!

Jennifer said...

Vanessssssa! I love your posts! I need to get better at reading these regularly, they are great! And I think you are becoming a better writer the more you do these, too, what with Italia and now Chile. They're very good. :)

That all sounds so frustrating!! How can the whole system be so crazy?? How do any students ever learn anything? Have you tried letting loose your caged tiger? I know you have one. RRRrrowr!! Kyle is tall, and I bet he could be intimidating if he wants to.

Pamela said...

Vanessa, WOW. What courage. I love hearing both the positive and the difficult of your days. It's such a challenge to figure out how to touch kids and get them to be curious. Great stories.
Thanks. Love you, Pam