Teaching in the Schools

Dealing with Challenges

~ By Carlee

After living on the island for two months, I have finally started teaching at my school, Julio Sauri-Vespertino (afternoon). After having our first two days of classes postponed due to chaos in the school system, I have noticed that organization is very different here on Isla when compared to the system in the States. Here, not only do the people and businesses operate on island time, but the school system seems to as well.

We officially started teaching on August 24. Each lesson completed with each class was a simple introduction lesson to get to know the names of all the students. Names in Spanish are much more difficult to learn and remember than names in my native language. In the past, I remember having teachers and professors from different countries having a difficult time pronouncing American names, but now, I have experienced the feeling from the other side. Many times, the students will correct my pronunciation and I feel as though I said the name exactly the same way, but the accent is always off a little bit because the kids tend to laugh when I butcher the pronunciation of their names. I’m glad that I can give them the opportunity to poke fun at me and also show them that even the teacher isn’t perfect at speaking another language. Showing my imperfections helps the students to feel a little more comfortable speaking English in the classroom. I only wish I could hear my American-Spanish accent through their ears.

After teaching small classes of 7 and 16 students during summer camp, starting teaching 12 different large classes has been a challenge. There are at least 30 students in every single class so keeping the students’ attention is very difficult, especially when speaking a completely foreign language. The kids can easily tune out everything I am saying, especially the first graders who cannot even read or write in their native language. This is a challenge I am learning to work through and must try different techniques to engage the full class.

Teaching the younger kids is the most difficult for me because they have the smallest attention span. They also are not exactly sure how to act in school because it is the first or second year they have been in school making it difficult to get them to sit in their seats and not run in and out of the classroom.

Another difficulty I have found thus far is teaching sixth graders. The sixth graders at the schools have had the least amount of English compared to the other grades. Thus, teaching a class completely in English to them is very difficult for them to understand. I rely on showing the students how to complete a task in addition to telling them because they get confused with the English instructions. Although they are difficult to teach, the sixth graders and the fifth graders are the most capable of completing tasks. They tend to have the best behavior because they know exactly how to act in a classroom. However, they do have some sassy attitudes occasionally.

I am so excited to continue teaching in the schools and get to know my students. It is going to take some time to become familiar with names, but I am already beginning to learn the class personalities and will continue to learn as the semester progresses!