First full day in Santiago, Chile & what a learning experience it was. Personally and professionally. We had our first day of Spanish class at ESCELA beginning at 8:00am. I was welcomed with a paper & pencil assessment, followed by an oral exam. No surprises, I wound up in the "beginner" class. We take two classes-grammar and conversation. The teachers are great and I really enjoy both classes. ESCELA hosts people from all over the world. Yes, there are students from Texas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin but there are also students from Canada, Peru, Brazil, and Australia. There are only 4-7 students per class so we have much more time to interact with the teacher. Very helpful to someone like me who struggles!
After both classes and some quality time with my girls from Buffalo State, we finally met up with our Chilean pen pals at Universidad Mayor. They welcomed us with open arms, kisses on the cheek and yummy food! They have some amazing adventures planned for us over the next three weeks & I am very excited to explore with them.
After spending time at UMayor, we headed back to ESCELA for some dancing and a BBQ. We learned a traditional Chilean dance called "cueca." From what I gathered, it had something to do with mating birds..? A lot of stomping, clapping and dancing in circles. We partnered up with some other ESCELA students and had a blast. Lots of laughing. Here was my ah-ha moment as a classroom teacher. All of us at ESCELA are there to learn the Spanish language. Most of us only understand little. The dance was taught in full, from beginning to end and then we were expected to repeat. Directions were given in Spanish...muy rapido. It was modeled for us, however, was a lot to take in. I am the kind of person who learns in small doses. I needed that dance to be broken down, into more feasible steps. Taking what I've learned in EDU689 about teaching students who are English Learners and what I've experienced in the classroom on a daily basis, I know that teaching students in small steps leads to a greater understanding of the topic. The expectation of the dance instructor and the product she received from us as a group, did not match. She stopped us and realized that we needed more instruction before moving on. Eventually we watched one step, repeated that step. Watched the second step and again repeated...and so on. In the end we got the thumbs up!
We ended the night with a welcome BBQ at ESCELA with many of the other students attending class there. If I were home in Buffalo, I'd be spending Memorial Day with my friends and family enjoying a BBQ...it was no different here in Chile. It was a little piece of home. I played ping-pong, attempted conversing in Spanish with some new friends, ate a ton of really good food and tried my first glass of vino. Muy bueno!
My name is Natalie and I am a graduate student at Buffalo State College in the special education program. I have been given this amazing opportunity to really grow not only as a student, but as a teacher and a person. Through this experience my hope is that I get to know myself better as an individual; develop a deeper understanding of the Chilean geography, culture and language; and gain a different perspective on the possibilities within the classroom. I hope that you follow me on this journey and learn right alongside me.