Approaching the end of our second full weekend here in Chile means we have entered our third and final week - extremely surreal! The past few days have been well spent, including another school experience, horseback riding through the Andes Mountains, and cultural learning experience of Santiago!
On Friday, our group visited Colegio Universitario Ingles, a private school for students in Pre-K through 12th grade (In Chile, "high school" is not "9th grade, 10th, etc., it is "first year" "second year" of secondary school). We were divided into pairs, and Katie and I were placed in a 6th grade classroom for an hour. We prepared an activity ahead of time, which we were very excited to have the opportunity to implement. We used Carmen Lomas Garza's book Family Pictures to teach about family in English. We wanted to further practice students' vocabulary of mother, father, cousins, grandparents, aunt, uncle, etc. The students wrote about their families, including memories they have with different family members, which is reflective of the story (a young girl shares memories of her family through photos). To wrap up the lesson, we played a "bonus" vocabulary game with small white boards. Katie and I chose some tricky words from the text, drew a symbol for each word (e.g. constellations, laundry, etc.). We verbally reviewed these bonus vocabulary words by repeating the word aloud and asking the students to draw the corresponding symbol on their white boards. This showed us, as the teachers, that the students were able to make the connection in English and express the definition through a quick sketch.
The students were well-engaged throughout the duration of the lesson. We were unsure of how many students to expect, as we have seen nearly 40 in a single classroom, and have heard the numbers can reach up to 60 in Chile. However, this private school seemingly makes attempts to restrict the class sizes to smaller numbers. We were with 23 students in the 6th grade classroom. I thought that the students responded very well to our planned activities, and it was appropriate for their age level. Katie and I had to adapt it upon learning we'd be in 6th grade, as most of our planned activities are geared toward younger kiddos. The students spoke fantastic English! One young girl in particular recently spent a few months studying English in Ohio, which she was excited to share with us after learning we're from the United States. Overall, I was impressed with the students' enthusiasm, participation and questions! They had many questions for us at the close of the lesson, mostly related to our lives in the U.S. We spent the remainder of the time observing their math lesson. I have my very last field placement this evening at Republica de Haiti.
Saturday was our "Free Day", and everyone was welcome to spend it any way they like - rest, walk around Santiago, go shopping, plan a group activity, etc. Six of us chose to do an activity through ECELA, which sent us horseback riding through the Andes Mountains! Though there was a lot of smog in the distance while overlooking the mountains, the view was just beautiful. We rode for about an hour and a half up the mountain, where we stopped for a delicious BBQ complete with mini pork hot dogs, steak and chicken wings - REAL chicken wings - and grilled vegetables. The wings were so tasty, as they were not fried or processed. They were grilled with a special sauce and tasted great. That's definitely going to be something I miss about Chile - the minimally processed food that is consumed. Many foods are fresh or cooked in a healthier way than most foods in the States. After a couple of hours of enjoying the beautiful weather, great food and company, we made our way back down the mountain. I am so pleased with our decision to spend our free day this way! It was a relaxing, fun afternoon!
Our days have been filled with exploration of the city of Santiago and its surrounding areas, discovering all that it has to offer. On Sunday, however, we explored Santiago in more of a cultural respect to the city. We saw La Moneda Palace (the house of the President) and visited Museo Chileno de Arte, which displays pre-Columbian artworks and artifacts from Central and South America. It was interesting to see the large collection of artifacts from several different time periods in and around Chile. This was followed by a delicious lunch at Donde Agusto, a seafood restaurant in Mercado Central (the Central Market) in Santiago.
Margarita (de Universidad Mayor) volunteers to teach Spanish at Centro de Servicio Migrante, a place that offers assistance to adult Haitian refugees in the learning of the Spanish language. The classes take place every Sunday for two hours – offering various different levels. Our Buffalo State group had the opportunity to sit in on these classes as language learning students, allowing us to take a step away from our teacher mindsets. Initially, sitting in this class as the students filed in, I admit that I was moderately out of my comfort zone. The majority of the students did not speak any English – only Creole, French and Spanish. When the class began, I was able to participate in the whole-group activities they were doing to practice vocabulary. I began to get more comfortable, however still had to rely on my Spanish to communicate with anyone other than my (Buffalo State) classmates that were in the same class. Similarly, we later on divided into groups to complete some additional practice with sentence structure in the Spanish language. We, as visitors, only helped with these exercises, which I think the other students enjoyed. The language barrier during this, however, was certainly not nonexistent. If they did not understand something in Spanish, it was difficult for me to effectively explain it, as they spoke minimal English, and I do not know any Creole or French. I resorted mostly to using my Spanish as best as I could, as well as drawing pictures to get my point across.
Though I was only a student in this class, I was able to understand my place in this class from the view of an educator. My initial discomfort was a strong representation of how some students feel when walking into a new class composed of students and teachers who do not speak their language. I’ve been able to gain more of an appreciation for how refugee students feel, no matter what country they have moved to. Imagine moving to an entirely different country, going to an unfamiliar school, walking into a classroom in which you can communicate with very few or no people, and feeling like you stand out because you don’t look “the same” as the other students. It must be terrifying, and I was able to have a glimpse of this in their shoes last night. I am thankful for this experience, and I feel that it has further helped me grow as a global educator.
Later in the evening, a few of us went out with Universidad Mayor friends to the mall, where we had dinner and easily the best crepes I’ve ever had. I ordered a strawberry and Nutella crepe, and it was mouth-watering.
This week will be filled with last minute “must-see’s” in Santiago before leaving on Saturday. I cannot believe we are in our last week in Chile!
Until next time,