Thursday, June 26, 2008

a fun day for everyone

yesterday i made a fool out of myself, but in a good way! i had english class with the third and fourth graders and we talked about clothing, so i thought it would be a good activity to bring a bunch of clothes from home and put them on. i had a big bag of clothes and i gave each kid a chance to pull out a piece of clothing and if they could tell me what it´s name was in english, i would put the piece of clothing on. i had everything from huge sweatshirts to underwear to big flannel pajama bottoms, and i had them on all at once. it was hilarious. i didn´t care that i looked like a complete idiot because the kids were in stitches and they were actually learning the names of the clothes in the process. elba thought it was funny too. then i asked if there were any kids who wanted to put the clothes on and so abby, this really outgoing girl, volunteered to come up front and put on my gigantic clothing and it was even funnier. good times.

i know these pictures are a little dark, but here´s abby with my clothes. totally hilarious!

this brings me to my almost end of service evaluation of my work here. i´ve discovered that i´m a much better teacher than i ever thought i was. while i don´t feel like i want to teach in a traditional school setting, i´ve learned from my work here that i do want to work in some kind of educational setting. the things i´ve been most successful with here have all been related to working with the kids and teaching the teachers new techniques in the classroom. for example, anytime i do an activity with elba´s kids where they´re participating and being creative and having a good time, she notices whatever activity it is and makes really positive comments about it. with mirna it´s completely different because i´ll notice things she changes about how she teaches and she never inferences that it´s because i taught her this different methodology, but like she came up with this idea all on her own. which is a great thing because it´s exactly how it´s supposed to work! she needs to think it was her idea because she´s going to be the one teaching here forever (well, maybe not forever, but for a very long time). the deal is, as environmental education volunteers working in schools we teach the teachers in a way that they start emulating what we´ve done, but also in a way that they are thinking of these things on their own (when we are gone), making changes in their teaching styles in order to get the kids participating and being creative.

i never ever thought i´d enjoy teaching english. i always said that i´m not here to teach the kids english, they need to learn spanish first. this is why at the beginning of the year i told elba and mirna that i didn´t want to teach english to the kids in first and second grade because i thought they needed to spend the few hours they are in school learning spanish grammar. but i agreed to teach 3-6 grades and although i was a little reluctant to do it at first, having an actual english class with those grades every week, i have come to really love it. i like being creative and thinking of new activities and teaching methods in order to make teaching english more than just giving them a list of vocabulary words every week. i´m not trying to get them to be english speakers or anything, but just introducing them to english beyond the whole ¨i love you¨ and ¨goodbye¨ and ¨hello¨ that they normally remember is actually quite fun. i really enjoy doing environmental activities with the kids´s such a good way to be creative and get the kids to be more outgoing and participatory.

being down here and having salvadoran men yell stuff like ¨goodbye¨ and ¨i love you¨ and ¨hello¨ because that´s all they have ever actually learned of english makes me think how dumb we americans probably sound (or at least i did before i learned spanish) when we go to mexican restaurants in the states and say ¨gracias¨ and ¨adios¨ or whatever. latinos probably think we sound like idiots. i´ll never forget that tourist i saw in ataco who was had just got off this big, clean, almost antiseptic tourist bus in front of one of the artesanias there. he was wearing one of those big, bright hawaiian shirts and was drinking the beer and in front of the artesania were these little wooden chairs (i might have written about this before, so if i have and it´s a repeat story, you can stop reading here….i hate it when people repeat the same stories over and over again and i don´t want to be a hypocrite!). anyway, one of the salvadoran workers from the artesania was outside and the tourist walked by and in this really southern accent drawls ¨that´s pequeyyyyño right?¨ and laughs heartily while pointing at one of the wooden chairs that was small. the salvadoran working in the artesania just gave him a look like ¨uh, yeah¨ and i was thinking that salvadoran probably thinks americans are sooooo weird! i just cringed and turned to walk the other way so i wouldn´t be mistaken for being with this group of people.

anyway, nobody´s perfect, and i don´t expect them to be. but, my point is, if i have a chance to teach these kids something in a way that they´ll more likely remember the information and not be those salvadorans that only yell out ¨i love you¨ at whoever, i´m all for it. i´ve definitely felt more successful educating in the school than with the adults in the community. i know i´ve made a difference in terms of the trash and forming the committee and all that, but i feel like i´m not the greatest at motivating people on a community-wide basis. i guess i have motivated people, but it´s been more on an individual basis. actually, though, most peace corps experiences come down to that….it´s not the big projects you work on that end up making the difference, it´s the little, everyday relationships that do it. i feel more effective in the classroom, working with the kids because i can be there on an everyday or weekly basis. and let´s face it, it´s easier to motivate kids than it is to get adults to change their ways of thinking. i mean, i haven´t avoided working with adults, i´ve put myself out there, worked with the community. but i definitely feel like i´ve made more impact on the kids and teachers in the school.

and you know what? these salvadoran kids are great. they´re all super smart and creative….they just need to be given the chance to work at their own pace and actually be given the opportunity to work creatively. there are so many kids here that i can see going on to university and i just hope that they and their families find a way to make that happen. people give peace corps volunteers all this credit for what we do, but it would be impossible to do it without the participation and willingness to learn and teach by the people of the countries we are working in. so, you know, i have to say, i´m really proud of the kids in my school. they come to class every day (if they can) and they are ready to learn. with the classes that i teach, the kids are excited about english and environmental classes and reading. they come prepared and with their minds open and i just feel like the least we teachers and volunteers can do is spend our time making their educational experience a great one. so one of my biggest priorities before i end my peace corps service here in el salvador is getting the teachers, who will continue teaching the kids when i´m gone, to foster that idea of giving the kids a great educational experience.


p.s. noticias importantes!! so the euro copa is down to the final two......germany and spain. who´s gonna take it? i don´t know, but i´ll be cheering for germany as my family name makes it impossible not to. antonio´s grandmother´s family was from spain (actually his father´s last name literally means ¨spaniard¨), so i guess it´s safe to say he´ll be cheering for spain. sunday´s the day!