Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Dominican Teaching Experience

Everyday that I am in the classroom, I find that I enjoy it more and more. The first week was rough. I felt in the way all the time and very inadequate. I did not know the rhythm of the school and felt so very lost especially in the midst of all the Spanish. Then near the end of the first week, I found out that I would be teaching a classroom of four and five year olds in Spanish. Basically, I quaked in fear to the very center of my being. I had never taught a class in English before. Exactly how could I be expected to teach a class and in Spanish, too?

I got the lesson plans in Spanish (of course). After reading through the lesson plans, I realized that I understood about half of the lesson plan and summarized the rest in my head. When the teacher called upon me to teach the class, I taught the class about the color red and the rules of the playground. Of course, my Spanish vocabulary was vastly lacking and so in which case I found that the students were teaching the class. That was a new thought to me – that the students could teach the class. Instead of me telling them the rules of the playground, they told me the rules of the playground. To be honest, I am not sure how many were actually the rules of the playground because the children were talking at me so fast in their childish Spanish. Yet, it was good to know that the teaching environment was very laid back. My first teaching in Spanish was not a complete fail at all. I definitely have room to improve.

After the teacher, Angelie, watched me teach the first day, she has not been in the classroom for my teach time since. Of course, that does take some of the pressure off of me. Yet, it feels strange that she would trust me to teach her class. Of course, I am never completely alone because Angelie’s Dominican helper, Caralina, is there. Another time, I taught the class about hot and cold. On the chalkboard, I drew a coffee pot, ice, fire, and ice cream. Together we went through and figured out what was hot and what was cold. Suddenly, one boy in the classroom must have gotten bored or tired of listening to me struggle through my Spanish. He jumped up, ran to me, and enveloped me in a hug. A moment later, the entire class followed and I found myself to be hug tackled. Laughingly, I tried to call out, “Sientense! Sientense!” (Sit all of you!) It was a bit difficult to restore order to the entire class but with the help of Caralina the children eventually sat down. Of course, I don’t think that I will forget that moment of hugs for a long time.

As I said, every day I enjoy working at the school more and more. It is incredibly awesome to be walking down the dirt road of El Callejon and hearing little child voices call, “Bi-bera! Bi-bera!” (That is how they pronounce my name) Generally, I turn and I can respond likewise calling, “Hola, Victor Manuel” or “Hola, Suilainy.” There is something wonderful about connecting like this within another culture where children in the roads call out your name excitedly because you teach in their classroom. It has taken a while to adjust to a different culture and feel like I have a place where I belong. I can say that I have found my place.