Sadly, it’s almost time to leave! :( After experiencing so much here (of which I’ve enjoyed every moment), I can easily say that this past Monday was my favorite day in Chile!!! I got to work in a Santiago public school. I was a little worried that I might have missed out on this experience because teachers at the school that I was originally placed at went on strike which meant that I could no longer go there. A lot of the teachers in Santiago schools are on strike because they desire education reform and better salaries. Luckily, Natalie (who was also placed at my school) and I were able to join Chelsea and Kelly at their placement. I don’t know what it would have been like if I went to my original placement, but I am so glad that I went to the school I did go to because I ended up having the greatest time!
The students, though shy at first, were so warm and welcoming. At first, they crowded around us but didn’t say anything. They were clearly curious about these new foreigners at their school, but were apprehensive about interacting with us. They didn’t speak much English and they knew we didn’t speak much Spanish. It was like both groups were standing there thinking the same thing “how are we going to communicate?” Finally, remembering that I was the adult in the situation, I decided to take my chances with the little bit of Spanish that I did know. Shortly after, the students really warmed up to us. They did however; continue to speak to me in Spanish, much of which went over my head. Being children, and being very excited, they didn’t think to speak slowly for the sake of my non-fluent Spanish ears. Despite the language barrier, we did manage to find out some basic information about each other. They were very interested in learning about the United States.
After this initial interaction on the playground, we went to work with the children. Monday’s are a little bit different than the rest of the week at this school, so instead of being in classes, we were at English Club. This was great because we attended two different sessions and got to work with students from multiple grade levels. First off, this was a great teacher preparation moment because it was the perfect example of needing to be able to adapt to change and think on your feet. As I mentioned earlier, I was supposed to be at a different placement. So, there I was with my three lessons that I had planned back in the U.S. for a class of 30 students, walking into an entirely different situation. At first, Diego (our Chilean teacher candidate partner) wanted us to just talk with the students so that they could practice their English. So, we used a list of questions he prepared to start some really engaging conversations with the students. I was impressed at myself with how I was able to bounce back and forth between languages. I still don’t know all the Spanish that I hope to know, but I knew enough to be able to explain something to the students in Spanish when I needed to. Noticing how interested the students were in learning about me, I decided that it would be great conversation practice to find out what we had in common. With one of the students, I found out that we had four things in common and one difference. I called Diego over so she could tell him our similarities and difference IN ENGLISH! She was so proud of herself for being able to do this and that made me so happy! Also, she was genuinely excited that we had so much in common which was so heartwarming for me! Even more, we took a picture together and she decided to put it on her laptop as her screen saver! <3
The reason I am really excited about my interaction with this particular girl is because after the day was over and we were walking home, Diego told me that this girl never participates in class and he was amazed at how engaged she was today. If you saw what I saw, you would not have believed him when he said that she’s quite and usually shows no interest in learning English. The entire time I was there, I kept thinking how great of an opportunity it is for the students to have the chance to practice their English with native speakers. It’s great for their learning and a really great source of motivation!
Although Diego said that we could just talk with the students, I got too excited and had to pull out my materials anyway (I mean, I didn’t bring them for no reason, right?). One of the things I brought with me was opposite puzzle pieces; they had pictures with English words on them. I mixed the puzzle pieces up and would have students find the match. Then, they had to read me the words in English (I planned to use the cards a totally different way when I thought I would be using it as a whole group activity). I also had them tell me the words in Spanish, for two reasons; first, to make sure that they truly understood the meaning of the words since some of them could have been mistaken for other words (for example, the cards that represented light and dark could have easily been mistaken for white and black), and second so that I was leaning the words in Spanish too! Who knew that I would be able to learn as I was teaching; how awesome! The kids were really excited to know that they were teaching me as well.
Next, it was recess time and Diego said we could go get pictures if we wanted, but the teacher in me couldn’t stop teaching (but as you can see I did make time for pictures too, of course!). As the students gathered around me, without even putting my belongings down, I sprang into a quick lesson and taught the kids simple things like basic questions in English like how to ask someone their name, as well as how to respond to all of those questions. The students were so eager to learn. It was like teacher heaven. I mean, how often does one see kids give up play time for more learning?
I really enjoyed my time here. Hmmmmm maybe I should listen to Dr. Patterson and consider seeking another certification in ESL. I don’t know who from Buffalo State is still reading, but any chance I can dual cert in ESL with the Literacy Specialist Program? I mean, it seems like a logical combination to me! Or maybe I should just look into teaching English abroad. Decisions, decisions!
Hello all, or should I say “¡hola!”? My name is Crystal and I’ve recently graduated SUNY Buffalo State with a degree in Elementary Education (grades 1-6) and Social Studies Education (grades 7-9). I will soon begin my studies for Literacy Specialist Certification, but not before I embark on this wonderful journey to Santiago, Chile. For me, this trip beings the opportunity for me to immerse myself in another culture, experience language learning, and adopt new teaching styles; all of which will contribute to making me a teacher who is culturally responsive and able to cater to the diverse needs of students. I anticipate that this trip wil be filled with excitement, challenges, and new understandings! So please, join me for the ride!