This week, my Colombian teacher counterparts, Ines, Faride and I put together a lesson on goal-setting and life plans, all cleverly disguised in a grammar and verb lesson (future tense verbs ftw.) Ines said that this is such a new concept–planning ahead and thinking about actual steps to take to realize a goal isn’t a very common pastime in the culture here, but we both felt passionate about getting the kids to think in depth about their futures. I enjoyed challenging them to dream bigger and more specifically.
I’m wrapping up the school year and preparing to go home for Christmas, which means it’s about time for a standard-issue update post! Aka, what’s been happening lately, the current state of affairs and a preview of next year!
The past few months have been pretty hectic, both in the school and in my secondary projects (not to mention personal travel and a few sick days.) The first half of the school year was my chance to observe, learn the school culture, build relationships with the faculty and the students, and generally settle in. But the second half was go time!
I’m finally feeling a bit more settled. After over a month of living out of my suitcases, I have once again starting unpacking into a more permanent place. I can finally find all my accessories and my books will have a home as soon as I get a bookshelf in my new room! It’s nice to be establishing a new routine and integrating with my new host family.
I didn’t anticipate the effect that being between houses would have on my work, my energy and my organization. Not to mention the stress it caused. It ended up being a pretty draining process, with a lot of diplomacy lessons along the way.
Now that my home life is a bit more settled, I feel better equipped mentally and emotionally to get back on track.
I am re-focusing on my goals for the next few months. I can’t believe we have already been here for 9 months!
Some of the things I’m working on:
Developing and implementing a curriculum for our Call Center-hopefuls in 10th grade. We are trying to combine a customer service/telephone class with our English conversation laboratory. Any input is appreciated! 🙂
Environmental Committee: I’m the new chairperson of a fairly new committee, and we just had a successful first meeting! We’ve seen that trash and conservation are big issues for us on the coast, so we are designing some projects that PCV’s can implement in their sites, such as awareness campaigns and hopefully some field trips.
Co-teaching and co-planning: this is our primary project. I have great counterparts and a supportive principal, and we’re working to make the English program strong and effective. It’s actually a lot of fun to co-teach–the teacher and I can bounce off each other’s ideas. And she can tell them all to sit down and be quiet.
Primary teachers: with one of my counterparts, we are putting together some workshops for the primary teachers. I’m hoping to target their English skills in order to have stronger English in the students coming from primary to secondary.
English clubs: when you’re the token native speaker, people stop you in the street and even show up at your house to ask for English tutoring! I have an adult class, a high school club and am hoping to start a class at my friends’ foundation and one with the preschool kiddies at the convent. What could be better than singing English baby songs for an hour?
That’s a brief overview! Throw in gym time, sit-on-the-sidewalk-and-talk-about-nothing bonding time, and thinking about studying for the GRE, and I’m keeping busy.
But it’s a good busy, a settled, productive, fulfilled sort of busy. And that feels good.
I haven’t made time to write much lately, but I promise there are a few posts in the draft queue. In the meantime, I thought I would give you a quick introduction to my new home, Puerto Colombia. This is my permanent site on the Colombian coast, where I’ll be living for the next two years!
According to the official statistics, Pto as a municipality has about 45,000 habitants, but our “pueblo” claims about 5,000. There are several little townships squished together, and you can walk between Puerto Colombia, Pradomar and others in just a couple of minutes.
Puerto was the main, bustling port of the coast about a hundred years ago, when the pier linked Caribbean shipping lines with the Colombian railroad. Over the years, as Barranquilla built up its port, Puerto Colombia has quietly downsized to a sleepy fishing village/bedroom community to B/quilla.
In Colombia, high school is 6th-11th grade (I know, can you imagine being put through the high school experience 5 years?), and at 11th grade they graduate, usually at the age of 16 or 17. From there, kids either go straight to work, attend public or private university, or attend a technical college.
My school is K-11th grade, and I’ll be working mostly with 9th to 11th grade (at least in theory.) Since a large part of my job is facilitating the professors’ work, I’m hoping to work in depth with them, improving their pronunciation and English conversation skills, as well as contributing ideas to curriculum and materials design. I have five counterparts to work with, some of whom teach mostly grammar and others that teach English laboratory.
I’m assigned 18 hours with my school, which will be partly working with the English faculty, partly working with the primary school teachers, and partly co-teaching classes to our 10th graders who are prepping for the ICFES (now called the Pruebas Saber). This test is their qualifying exam for university, and it measures the usual math, science, literature, etc. as well as a huge portion of English grammar and conversation. Because of the importance of this exam, I’ll be spending a lot of time with both the students and the faculty in making sense of the speaking/listening/conversation part of the English language.
Fun story about the above photo: My first “teaching” moment happened in front of a film crew. I showed up on a weekend to help out with a segment at my school, and ended up teaching a brief English lesson for the camera and my future 11th graders! Apparently, a cable channel in Bogota is doing a show on technology in the public school classrooms of Colombia, and our school was chosen to demonstrate said technology. One of our students placed in the top category on a recent national test, as well, so Cisneros has been featured several times lately. This class of 10th graders was the most-behaved and quietest that I’ve ever seen (or will see.) Once the cameras turn off, they’re back to their usual vibrant and costeño selves–loud, excited, curious and not at all excited about studying!
Now that school is out for the holidays, I’m spending time integrating into the community. I’m meeting my neighbors, learning my way around town, and trying to get a feel for the porteña life! I’ve already been warmly welcomed and people are receptive to the idea of English clubs, community work and teaching me to dance salsa! I’ll be here for the holidays, so I’m looking foward to getting the full experience, Caribbean style.
Hello from my site visit! Here I am, laying on the bed that will most likely become mine in a month, in my new house. The town is just what I have anticipated: motos and kids everywhere, dusty streets and tropical plants, hills and the ocean at opposite ends of town. Walking between two little English teachers and juggling my backpack while trying to dodge puddles in my ridiculous heels, I finally feel like I have arrived.
I´m in the Peace Corps.
I´m going to live in this town, with these people, for two years, learning how to share la vida porteña. I´m on my own, meeting the faces that will soon become familiar. In some ways, it´s already a familiar process, but in the back of my head I´m screaming, ¨this is it! this is the backdrop to the next two years.¨
The school is beautiful and simple, with two stories of classrooms around a covered gym area. A little hut says ¨coffee shop.¨ All the students greet the principal as he gives me a quick tour and introduces me to the kids who will be my ninth graders (or at least, that´s what I understood.)
The host family’s house is a five minute walk, which I think is about half of the way to the plaza in the center of town. We show up on the doorstep and the host mom ushers us into her beautiful home, decorated with her own artwork and her two daughters’ photos.
There’s Internet and a hammock and an international relations student and a medical student and no animals and a papaya on the counter–hooray!
And presently, I decide to take a descanso like a good porteña. Tomorrow I will meet the rest of the teachers and students, and will have to explain what the peace corps is and why I’m here at least 1,200 times, I am guessing. 🙂
This morning at 10 o’clock, our site placements will be announced. These sites have been carefully chosen, vetted for safety and security, prepped with school officials and outfitted with host families. Our assignments are unique to our personalities, skills and preferences, at least in theory!
And here we go, gotta run catch the bus! Stay tuned for the big announcement!