The biggest and possibly most important part of this trip to Peru is the in-school work we are doing. We were finally able to start in the class rooms today of a local private school called Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is an all girls school with students of all ages. I was blessed with the opportunity to help teach in a first grade class room of 25 students. Since the education system in Peru is quite different than in the U.S., most classes have around 40-50 students. Luckily for me there are two first grade rooms, meaning each one only has about 25 students. We prepared lesson plans before arriving in Peru with little idea of what the students would know, what they would be learning, or how the class room dynamic would be. Needless to say, the lesson plans we made were pretty useless (at least for myself) because the material the students were learning had nothing to do with what we had put together. When I met with their teacher last Friday and got a better idea of what they were currently working on, I threw the lesson plans out the window (figuratively speaking of course) and started from scratch. How will I communicate with them? I wondered. Will they understand me?...But one question above all the others amplified in my mind, How will I make the students WANT to learn English?
The problem was, as many teachers openly expressed to us, the students here in Peru don't want to learn English. They don't like it, it is too hard, and they don't see its importance. Truthfully I had to ask myself how I would feel if I were being forced to learn a language that was only used in other countries, or other continents for that matter! In Texas you can barely get students to learn Spanish and the use of that language is not only useful but necessary in many parts of the state. So why? Why force them to learn a language they could go their whole lives without? I think tonight I will ask Ana and Eduardo (my host parents) why they think English is important since Eduardo knows it and Ana is learning. But until then, I'm left with nothing but speculation. Maybe it is because the tourism industry has been growing now for years in Peru, and in order to keep the economy growing the tourists speaking English must keep coming. Maybe it is because knowing English will prepare the students for international careers, or careers involving business and communication. Whatever the reason, students are expected to learn it, and I am here to teach it.
I started my morning bright and early (well maybe not so bright but definitely early), and enjoyed my usual wake up call from Diego and Alonso, "Good Morning Kristina!!" they say as they stand in my door way, "Buenos dias Alonso, Buenos dias Diego!" I say back, pulling myself from sleep. The morning slips by fast and before I know it I'm walking out the door with a breakfast sandwich Ana made me in my hand. I meet my friends that live near by at the park and we walk to the main road to find a taxi. As nervous as we were to be late we arrive at Santa Rosa about 15 minutes early and have to wait outside with the rest of the group. Little girls run by us smiling and waving, their perfectly pressed uniforms identical to one another. Finally I see my teacher, Senora Cecilia Luna, and she takes me to her class room. We talk about the work book and what the students will be doing that day, then she explains to me that if I want to teach a lesson myself I should stick to songs and games. Soon the first grade girls begin to spill in, each one staring at me like I'm an alien, and they start to ask the teacher why I am there. Once everyone has taken their seats I introduce myself and tell them I will be helping Senora Luna teach English. We start the day with songs, Jesus loves me was sung as a group in English and in Spanish, then Senora Luna asked me to teach them one. I was put on the spot so I taught them the only song I know in English and in Spanish, "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes". Luckily they loved it and Senora Luna asked me to teach them songs every day if possible (I guess I have to learn more songs...). Once the girls were settled down from singing and dancing we sat down to do book work. I walked around the room stopping at each table to make sure everyone was on task and keeping up. Some of the girls had every answer written in correctly before I even got to them, and when I came by to say "muy bien!" I could see how proud they were.
The rest of class went on without a problem in the world aside from a bit of classroom control I may need to work on. The teachers at Santa Rosa seemed to have a difficult time getting their students to pay attention or to listen. I told Senora Luna as we left class that day there were many things you could do to get the class focused. Especially since they are learning English, using English rhymes would not only get their attention, but teach them new words and phrases. For example: The teacher says, " 1 2 3 Eyes on me!!" and the students say back, " 1 2 Eyes on you!" this is a fun and easy way to let the whole class know you have something to say. Another example is this one: Teacher says loudly (when students are being very loud) "Clap once if you can hear me!" then students paying attention will clap. With a lower voice, teacher says, "Clap twice if you can hear me." and more students will clap twice. By now the room should be quiet and the teacher can whisper, "Clap three times if you can hear me." and all the students will clap. Anyone who has been in an elementary classroom before knows kids like to clap, they like to make noise, and they like chants and rhymes. I plan on using this to my advantage rather than fighting it; hopefully I will get positive results. I have two weeks to spend teaching at Santa Rosa every morning and I look forward to seeing not only what I can teach them, but what they can teach me.