Learning to Teach

13 Sep

The past week has been filled with enough stuff to make the average person’s brain burst. Every day I had to wake up at 5:20 am and would get back home until about 9 pm. Our days were filled with practice teaching at SECAP South in Quito, sessions for orientation, and Spanish lessons later on in the day. By the end of each day I was exhausted and only wanted to go to bed, so I didn’t get a chance to do many updates on the blog.

Learning how to teach can be a daunting task: it’s one thing to know how to speak your own language and be confident in instructing someone what to say, but it’s another to just get up in front of a class and be the expert, when you’ve never actually had any training in teaching or majored in English. Yesterday I taught my first 2 hour class, and though the hour I taught on Thursday was pretty rough, it went a lot better on Friday. One thing that really helps is playing games. Not only does it take the pressure off of you the teacher from talking all class, but it keeps the students interested and participating.

Students that otherwise would be text messaging their friends or talking in Spanish are forced to do their work because they know that I’ll be calling up their groups to talk in front of the class. Making a lesson plan is more than half the battle, and it’s a part of teaching that I never really considered. It’s very hard to think up new material every day, and I hope that I’ll get the hang of it after a while, otherwise it will be a very long and frustrating year.

Once you’ve got the lesson plan, you really have to just use it like a note card and work off of how the class is going. You wouldn’t read an entire speech that was written out, but rather notes and key points that you want to hit on, and a lesson plan is the same way. I found myself realizing things as I was teaching and having to interject new points into the plan. Simple sayings like “all set?” take more time as the students don’t understand these phrases, and it takes time to explain them.

I don’t know if there’s a cultural misunderstanding, but at the end of class I asked everyone what their plans were for the weekend. It’s a pretty common thing to ask in our culture, and it’s just a polite thing to do. I wanted the students to think in the future and name activities they would do. In retrospect, I think asking specifically what a person’s plans are might actually be a question of if they want to do something with you.

After leaving class I was approached by two of my students and four of their friends that I hadn’t met. They immediately asked me what my number was, and not thinking, I gave it to them. Then they asked me what I was doing on Saturday or Sunday, and I told them that I wasn’t sure but thought I was having a barbecue at my family’s house. I chose to speak to them in Spanish since we were out of the classroom, which might have been a mistake because I didn’t fully understand them, but I think they wanted to meet up with me. The tricky part about this is that we’re not supposed to have relationships with our students, obviously, and I’m not sure what the rules are yet about just hanging out. Also, these students were upwards of 40-50 year old women.

After the long day was over, our group met up in La Mariscal, the cool downtown area where all of the bars and clubs are. This area is also known as gringolandia, or foreign town, because all of the tourists hang out there, and after the sun goes down it sort of becomes a red light district. After going to a couple of bars where we got cheap shots and “jirafe” pitchers of beer, which were pitchers that went 4 feet or so up filled with beer for $10, we headed over to No Bar, a popular club. Everyone was dancing and having a good time, and later on in the night a 37 year old Quitena started to dance with me. She told me that she wanted to teach me how to dance and show me around Quito. I gave her my number and after a while, finally left to crash after one of the longest weeks I can remember.

Today we finally made the chocolate chip cookies we promised to make a week ago. Every day this week we were jokingly yelled at by our host sister Vivi for not making them. Proyecto Galletas went off without a hitch, and everyone enjoyed several. Tomorrow’s plan is to have a big barbecue at the house. It should be a nice, relaxing weekend.

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