Posts Tagged ‘teaching English’

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Hilary: life in Cotacachi

November 22, 2011

Many weeks have passed here in Cotacachi.  I have spent a lot of time with family, friends and students.  I have exactly three weeks left in Ecuador, one full week here in Cotacachi and two more in Quito.  My English classes have been getting better with every class and with every name I remember of my students.  I have enjoyed classes with sixth, eighth and ninth grades the most, but have also had fun moments with the three year olds and the younger grades as well.  I have been trying to keep track of my monographia that I need to write as my final project in Ecuador but as usual have easily filled my time with good people and great experiences.  I am in the middle of an interview process with students, parents and teacher about the value of education and about the English language in schools in Ecuador, specifically in San Pedro.  Along with my research project I am hoping to leave the school my materials, summary of what I have done, and had hoped to do as well as suggestions for the future.

Ok, so what have I actually been doing?  I helped our students prepare the national anthem to sing for the inauguration of an ambassador of Ecuador who is from Cotacachi; I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mom going to the gym, going to dance sessions after the gym; making cookies with my host-sister; traveling to Otavalo with co-teachers for beers; spending time with friends in Ibarra, going on dancing on the weekends with my host-brother Santi; planning classes; avoiding young men; missing my friends and family at home; getting sick from bad water; and learning Kichwa.

Yesterday I climbed Imbabura (volcano) with my host-dad, host-sister Jhose, and younger host-brother Gabriel.  I was expecting it to be a bit tough since I am pretty out of climbing shape, but it turned out a lot harder than expected.  It took us a full six and a half hours to ascend and descend!  Gabriel basically ran all of the way up, my host-dad was completely fine at whatever pace, I was hanging in there, but Jhose, who is 13, had never hiked like this before and therefore took frequent brakes and drank a lot of water.  I put sunblock on my face once every two hours and still got sun-burned, the sun is so strong here!

So I have an obsession with mangos, but it’s finally Mango season here in Ecuador and I couldn’t be happier because the mangos couldn’t be sweeter!  Also, I love eating watermelon in November, especially when it is refreshing, sweet and not snowing outside!

This past week all of the teachers in the area of Cotacachi in rural school such as San Pedro were obligated to take a course to enhance their teaching and knowledge about social issues.  The issue of the week was sex, gender and sensitivity to how we as teachers express gender preference in the classroom.  Well none of the information was new to me, but the answers, comments and questions asked during the past week were culturally shocking to me.  Some of my “favorites” were: menstruation is a sickness, when girls are pregnant or menstruating they are dirty and will cause many problems, women automatically love their homes, the Spanish language isn’t sexist, our wives aren’t able to think in terms of money, I don’t let my wife go out with her friends because other men look at her, well the bible says women are supposed to be obedient and always obey the owner… and so on.  Well I did my best to add in my point of view and upbringing calmly and with patience, but there were definitely times when I either couldn’t say anything at all or I would almost jump out of my chair with frustration.  Anyway, by the end of the week some new ideas were considered about gender and sex and some minds were opened to the possibilities of equality and respect.

I’m sure there is more, but once again, I need to go write a paper!

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Hilary: Internship in Cotacachi

November 4, 2011

I have been living in Cotacachi for about a week now and it has been wonderful.  My new family is welcoming, loving and a lot of fun.  I live with a family of five, six total counting me.  Mom-Marcia, Dad-Victor, Brother-Santiago 19, Sister-Jose 13, and Brother-Gabriel 11.  Marcia and I go everywhere together; work, home, the gym, and we even go out together!  So far the hardest adjustment has been getting used to turning on the water outside to use the bathroom, or just knowing that the water isn’t there at all. 

Cotacachi is a small little city north of Quito, it is super safe and very peaceful. It seems like everyone knows each other and everyone is very friendly and open.  This morning Victor and I went for a run, then to the Sunday market to buy fresh produce for the week, then Jose and I went to a soccer game to watch our team lose 4-1.  Soccer is really big in this area; I think there are 5 or 6 teams just within Cotacachi itself. The teams are made up of cousins and friends anywhere from 15 years old to about 40. 

My Spanish has improved a lot, my family tells me I’m speaking perfectly and that I am one of the best students they have had yet.  I feel confident in school and at home, the only person I am having trouble understanding is Victor (my father here) because he talks faster than anyone I have ever met!  Although I don’t have very much trouble with the language barrier I am having trouble with Kichwa.  Kichwa is the indigenous language of the area, and all of my students and half of my co-teachers are fluent in both Kichwa and Spanish.

I am having fun teaching English here, all of the students are eager to learn and very intelligent.  What concerns me is the quality of the English program here.  At the end of my internship I need to write a monographia about my experience here.  As a concerned educator I want to help develop the English program here and work with the teachers and materials they have to better prepare their students for university here in Ecuador.  I have a lot of work to do and about 3.5 weeks to do it!  Soooo here I go!

Not much else is going on, I’ll try to upload some pictures soon, I have to remember to take some first though!

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Hilary: Looking forward…and backward

October 23, 2011

Today I find myself in the middle of the last Saturday in Quito before I start a six-week internship on Monday!  I have enjoyed my time in here, but I am ready to say chau, hasta luego!  For I know it will be all too soon when I am back in Quito on a Saturday preparing for my flight home.

On Monday, I am moving to Cotocachi, north of Quito by about 2 hours and about 20 minutes away from one of the world’s biggest artisan markets in Otovalo.  I will be living in Cotocachi and working in a school called, Nascota Puento, in San Pedro (about 15 minutes by bus).  I will be living with Marcia Tapia, a very experienced and influencial teacher at the school.  For the six weeks, I will be teaching English and helping the English staff plan a better English program.

My goals for this program are for the English curriculum to be: relevant to the students, the families, and the community; for the English to be of a high quality (yes vague, but I don’t feel I’m qualified to extrapolate); for the classes to be interactive, dynamic, and sequential; and for the program to be open, flexible, and adaptive for the future.

It’s been real Quito; my favorite things to do:

  • Going to the teleferico and climbing pichincha
  • Going running in the Carolina (big park)
  • Dancing to live music (rare, but it happens)
  • Shout out to the salsa club Mayo 68, excellent music, great dancers, safe and friendly place!  It is in the Mariscal, but its all locals!
  • Eating breakfast at the Colombian pan store just down the street
  • Listening to the music on the buses
  • Watching free Andean dance shows
  • Getting serenaded by guitar trios
  • Drinking candelasos in la ronda (A candelaso is a hot drink kind of like a cider with sugar cane alcohol)
  • Running into people who recognize my dreads but never my name
  • Watching telenovelas with my host-mom in her bed when I don’t want to go out
  • Only paying 25 cents to go all the way across the city
  • Walking through the Artisan markets
  • Meeting Mari at the supermaxi in Cumbaya
  • Forgetting how to speak/write in English
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Hilary: Beautiful sunset

October 14, 2011

I am sitting in my room writing an analysis about a short story called “la vuelta” or “the return,” it is a very abstract story and I need to write my final Spanish paper on it…  Its about 9 pages long and has a lot of colloquial language… goodness!  Anyway, so I was trying to finish this paper, and was longingly looking outside at the mountains that surround this valley city and saw this amazing sunset!

 

It passed within about five minutes, as I type this now the lights of the city keep the sky bright instead of the sun.  Today was an amazing day in Quito, the weather held off, no rain, just sun and a little wind to keep the heat off of our heads.  As I spend more time inside observing classes, schools, and teaching methods I long more and more to be outside listening and learning away from the politically charged classroom.

I have been missing music so much here!  I can’t wait to get back home and sing and play the piano and guitar and just listen to music!  I am so lucky at Lawrence with everything we have there, its amazing how much music has become a strong part of my life since going there.  Tonight I am going to see an Ecuadorian guitar trio, classic and Andean folk music, should be wonderful!!

My Quiteñan lifestyle is ending in about a week!  The time has gone so fast its incredible!  I have two months left!  In the next two months I will be creating and teaching a six week English program, living in Cotocachi, writing a monograph about my experience, visiting Cuenca over a 5 day break, spending a bunch of time in the northern Andean highlands taking day trips to lagoons and lakes and hopefully getting a lot more exercise than I have been here in Quito, and a lot more!

Over the past weekend I visited what is known as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” or Puerto Lopez and Isla de la Plata.  It was a great weekend!  I went with two girlfriends and we had so much fun bumming around the town, getting to know the local scene, eating delicious ceviche, and seeing amazing sights, like whales, blue-footed boobies, and sea turtles!!  There were many proposals from locals for marriage and so much more, I think next time I go to the coast I will wear a burke and not speak!  I made the mistake of getting up to dance for a few seconds, and then the whole town flocked to the bar, asking to dance and so much more.  I am actually shielding phone calls right now; Ecuadorian men are so persistent!  I just wanted a boat ride; really, you don’t need to come to Quito and visit me, I promise I don’t want to see you again!  Or to solve my problem I will just say that I am married.

 

I need to get back to finishing this paper now; I hope you are all healthy and happy, and enjoying being where you are.  Enjoy the people you are with and the nature you are surrounded by.

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Meghan: 12 year olds & Thanksgiving

November 29, 2010

During high school, I would spend hours imagining what my life would be like in the future. Just as, I’m sure, almost everyone reading this blog has done as well. I feel like a different person, from those days when all I wanted to do was work with animals, or travel the world as an anthropologist. I am a different person. I never would have imagined that during my Junior year of college I would be sitting in a comfortable, yet bare bedroom on the third floor of an apartment building, overlooking an ancient and unique city, reminiscing about the previous week as my pumpkin pie takes its precious time baking in the oven.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I don’t think I could have had a better one, aside from being home with my family. Each day leading up to Thursday seemed to drag on, as I monotonously went to class…too excited for upcoming weekend full of celebrations, food and friends.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday I willingly set myself up to go slowly insane…via twenty-five extremely curious, and outright hilarious, Italian twelve year olds. For the last couple of weeks I have begun working at The Scuola Media Gandino, and Italian middle school about twenty minutes from my apartment, teaching English… or really, facilitating any form of conversation from the rowdy kids. The first couple of weeks were more than entertaining: filled with “getting to know you” games and hundreds of random questions about my personal life. Typically, the class begins with a simple “what did you do this weekend?”, followed by a serious interogation of their new American teacher. Here are some examples, in order of importance (according to them):

  1. “How old are you?”
  2. “Are you from Scotland?” No. “London?” No. “Australia?” Do I sound Australian? “New York?” Nope. But you’re closer! “Miami!” “California!” Too far! “L.A.!” I wish. Oregon!” Oregon? Really? “Texas!!” God, no.
  3. (Naturally, I had to tell them. Who knew that no one in Italy has ever heard of Milwaukee, or Wisconsin for that matter.)
  4. Have you Facebook? Yes. “What is your second name? How do you write your names?” (These are normal sentence structures for Italian kids…quite entertaining! Also, they only want to know how to spell my name in order to become my “friend” on Facebook. Pigs will fly before I “friend” 70 Italian twelve year olds!)
  5. “Do you have a boy?” Translation: Do you have a boyfriend? No.
  6. “Is your boy the boy of your dreams?”(All the boys look up expectantly. The girls all giggle. This is only proof that Italian’s are all romantics at heart—even if your only in the 7th grade. They need to time to hone their skills. Why not on an American teacher? Also, this is proof that they don’t listen.)

I could go on and on with the most ridiculous questions possible from 12 year olds, but I’ll let you use your imagination! Every hour that I spend with them brings not only new insight into the world of teaching (and discipline, for that matter) but the feeling that I’m doing what I love and feel passionate about! Be it lessons on movies, Thanksgiving, or the meaning of the American flag and the Thirteen Original Colonies (try to ask a 12 year old American today if they can list all 13 without looking… My Italian kids can!). I always leave the school happy and confident.

Now, to round things off because I’m tired and need to finish the never-ending blog post. This weekend I :

  • Had an amazing Thanksgiving meal at a local restaurant and ate so much food I pretty much had to roll myself home;
  • My friend Miche, from Tuscany, came to visit and we had an amazing time doing the following:
  • Going to three different markets, both normal and Christmas
  • Ate delicious Indian food
  • Watched three episodes of “Are you Afraid of the Dark” and “Monsters Inc.”
  • Had an American “Home-sickness Party” with the necessary Hamburgers!
  • Ate my weight in chocolate at the local chocolate festival!
  • Wandered around Bologna admiring the beautiful Christmas lights!
  • Pumpkin Pie!!!!
  • and finally: Played in the SNOW!!!

 

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