Wednesday, February 25, 2009

#13 Jungle School Sunny Side Up

Jungle School has been in session for almost three weeks now and I have learned that I love and hate teaching. It is challenging and fun and active. It is also challenging, exhausting, and frustrating. I love learning and I love helping other people learn, but I am ready to lose my cool at least once a day due to one frustration or another. I could do without the misbehavior and lack of initiative, but they are small prices to pay for making what I think is a real difference in these kids’ lives. I will blog tonight about the positive sides of my work and return later to discuss the less positive aspects.

I am teaching Second and Third Grade, Monday through Thursday, from 7am to 1pm. Julia, a volunteer from Austria, and I trade classes for 40 minutes so that she gets a break from Kindergarten by teaching my classes’ Social Studies and I get a break from my kids and get to play and sing with the Kinder kids. On Fridays I teach music to the 5th and 6th graders; we are learning to play the recorder. Then I stay at the school with the younger kids while the older kids go down to the river with Toshi for karate lessons. I’m not a big fan of Fridays. My Monday to Thursday schedule looks like this…

7-7:20am PREPARATION Transportation is a pain for me and the kids, so this is time when they can finish the homework they forgot to take home, read books from our little library, and we can all finish getting to school.

7:20-8am MATH We’ve been doing the order of numbers and the place names as well as greater than, less than, and equal. The 2nd graders are working with numbers 1-999 and the 3rds are working with 1-99,999. I’m looking forward to getting to addition and subtraction next.

8-8:40am SPANISH I give them 12 spelling words a week that we then practice and use throughout the week before having a test on Thursdays. I am focusing on problem areas like v/b, c/s, h, rr/r and ll/y. It has been fascinating to see how often even adults here spell “hacer” (to do or to make) as “aser” because they are unaware of the silent “h” at the beginning or the fact that “c” and “s” have the same sound sometimes. My other favorite spelling issue is fairly particular to Honduras and is that “b” and “v” are both pronounced as “b”. Many of my kids spell 20 as “beinte” and one kid wrote his alphabet with “…Uu Vb Ww…” These are problems we see with adults too…
[The sign says "Don't vote for trash." They thought they were using the word "botar" which means "to throw out."]

We use the words to practice writing and how to form sentences correctly. We are also currently reading some simple poems and using them to learn how to answer reading comprehension questions.

8:40-9am RECESS AND MILK I have loved watching the kids play a game at recess called “The Lucky Bunny” which consists of standing in a circle and clapping hands with the persons on either side of you and saying a poem about a lucky bunny who comes to visit and kisses the boy or girl he likes best. There is one child in the center who is counting around the circle with the beat of the poem and whoever his or her finger is pointing at when the poem is done is the lucky bunny. This person then moves to the center and chooses who they want to kiss, and then this third kid takes to the center to count with the poem. The gender observer in me noticed right away that while girls kiss girls and boys, boys only kiss girls. Ahhh, homophobia…it starts so young.

9-9:40am SOCIAL STUDIES (aka My time to play with the cute kids who are ages 3-6 in the Kinder class.) It is fascinating how hard it is for a 5 year old who has never been to school to learn to differentiate colors or to recognize numbers or letters.

9:40-10:20am SCIENCE We’ve been working on what constitutes life, the life cycle, how we use things that aren’t alive, and the parts of plants. I’m looking forward to getting to animals soon! The kids enjoyed the chance to look close up at leaves with the magnifying glasses I brought with me.

10:20-11:20am ART, CALLIGRAFY, or HEALTH Depending on the kids’ energy level and attention spans, we usually do one day of art, one day of health, and two days of calligraphy (learning to write in script.) Most of my students’ penmanship is atrocious and painstakingly slow, so it is important to practice and I focus on the words from their spelling lists to help us practice those. Art is very basic. We used white chalk on black construction paper to mimic Lenca pottery (the Lenca are a tribe indigenous to western Honduras.) My plan for Health this week is to teach them to wash their hands for at least the duration of the song “Happy Birthday.”

11:20-Noon LUNCH Ahhh, rice and beans and either pineapple or plantain… the rice is from a program called “Kids Against Hunger” so it is specially formulated with soy protein and vitamins. I can’t say I’m a fan, but I always eat a little to make a good show of it. We also try to make sure the kids brush their teeth and take a children’s vitamin.

Noon-1pm TUTORING While Toshi, another volunteer from the US, and Julia teach English to the older kids, I keep myself available to the younger ones to help them with homework and basic skills. I have one second grader who is new to the school this year. He is very capable in math class but completely unable to read, so I am working with him at a very basic level to get him understanding phonics so that he can catch up more quickly to the other kids in terms of language.

I then go down to the road wait for the bus to pass by (which can be at any time between 1:15 and 2.) I try to stop by a house just down the road where one of our first graders lives. His grandmother has asked me to help him with his homework when I can because she can’t…she’s never been to school.

We have two Honduran teachers at our school. Angel is the director and is in charge of 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, although most classes for them are taught by the volunteers Maria (from Spain) and Toshi. Those three grades (about 25 kids in all) share one classroom. The other classroom is headed by Iris, who really only teaches first grade. Also in that room are 2nd and 3rd grades, with me. In total there are around 25 kids in 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Julia teaches about 5 Kinder students in the roofed space in between the two buildings.

We have approximately one textbook for every two kids, so there is a great deal of sharing. I have mostly given up on using textbooks, as sharing is not an easy thing and the time taken up in fighting over who will have the book on which side of the desk is precious learning time lost. I spend my own money to pay for copies so that the kids can have actual worksheets for math and science and a small book of poems that we use for Spanish class.

My biggest goals in my work over the next few weeks is to help set some foundations for these kids to learn HOW to learn, so that they are not completely dependent upon inconsistent and poorly trained teachers for all of their knowledge. I want to instill in each of them at least a kernel of self-esteem. I want to model consistent adult discipline and appropriate behavior. And I want to provide them with a sense that everything they learn has a practical, and maybe even enjoyable, use.

Part of me can’t wait to come back and teach some more. I love the work. Most days, I really love the kids and will miss them terribly and am trying not to think too heavily on that approaching departure date.

No comments:

Post a Comment