Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Educational Weekend

After years of negatively answering the question "Oh, you're an English major? So you want to be an English teacher?", on Saturday I taught my first English class. Of course, being a Peace Corps ESL teacher is a little different from assigning essays on Steinbeck to grudging freshmen. I showed up at around 8:45 on Saturday morning for my class that was supposed to start at 9am. Much to my surprise, I had 5 students there by 9am--the most punctual Dominicans I've encountered! It turns out that they are my only students, but I'm quite content with the small class size, especially since these guys are so punctual and dedicated.

My class is 3 hours long, which seemed way too long to me--my project partner had wanted me to do a 4-hour class, but I rejected that. But I tried to give my students a break halfway through, and they said they just wanted to keep going. Then they asked if they could leave at 11:30 instead of noon, and I said sure, since we didn't have a break or anything. But when 11:30 rolled around, they wanted to keep going again. Kids these days, they just can't get enough ESL.

I ended up using my entire pìece of chalk in the first two hours--I'd forgotten that Dominican classrooms are BYOC (bring your own chalk) and I had to run out and buy a piece of chalk from the stationery store on the corner before class. I didn't realize how much chalk wears out throughout the course of a class. But this lack of chalk didn't deter my students, who copied things down directly from my notes.

Afterwards, I met up with a group of volunteers I'd heard about; it's hard for gringos to spend much time here before I hear about it. They're from an American Catholic group who apparently come to my town every year to do a camp. They told me that this year they're doing the camp in a different town but came back here to do a mini-camp for the weekend. I helped them pass out crayons and stuff and talked a little bit about their organization, which apparently sends money to my town every year and also does this camp thing.

On Sunday I went to teach my other English class--I'd planned to do a beginners' class and a more advanced discussion group, since people are always telling me about their son or daughter who speaks English really well and would just love to practice speaking to me! But apparently none of these mythical children loved speaking English enough to sign up for my class. This is fine with me, I wasn't really looking forward to having a Sunday morning class but my project partner pressured me into it.

Then I went to hang out with the Catholics again, since they'd told me they'd be in town again on Sunday, but I didn't see them. I suppose there are children in other towns with greater need for Biblically-themed coloring sheets. Having a free afternoon, I decided to go visit a guy who'd been pressuring me to come visit his house to speak with--guess--his daughter who just loves speaking English. Unfortunately, said daughter felt incredibly embarrassed about speaking English with me and didn't have that much to say in Spanish, either. I endured an hour of awkward bilingual small talk before taking my leave. I'm definitely going to need to improve my tolerance for awkwardness if I'm going to survive 2 years here.

The upcoming highlight of my week is scheduled to be Fourth of July. I'm going to the big Peace Corps party down south at the Bahía de los Aguilas (Eagle Bay--Stephen Colbert would approve). Apparently PCVs go there every year for the Fourth. It's supposed to be beautiful, and it's very secluded--to get there we have to take a 6-hour bus ride from the capital, and then a short boat ride. Hope the rest of you have a great Independence Day, too!

1 comment:

Keith said...

i think a good way to increase your resistance to awkwardness would be to watch like, all of lars von triers movies. but that might also just be a way to convince yourself that suicide is the answer, so maybe don't.