Thursday, October 9, 2008

Getting Into a Groove

It's been kind of difficult getting adjusted to being a teacher. Deep down, I still want to be sitting in the mess of chairs looking at the board, daydreaming while looking thoroughly interested. I have my routine now, and that's fine, but I still feel like I'm a student. It was a tough week for classes, knowing that we have Friday off. Even though my classes don't start until 1 p.m. I was walking in feeling tired and not wanting to deal with it.

There are those days when I just don't feel like talking much, but I am the teacher, and I have to be on for 2 hours.

I was afraid that my students could tell my enthusiasm had dipped a little in the second week, but no one seemed affected. I teach at a university, and a prestigious one at that, but sometimes I feel like I'm dealing with children. They complain and whine as you would expect from Ecuadorians, but it's frustrating. I know that I'm not here to change their educational system, but there are just some parts of their society that drain me.

An example of this is the way students talk while others are presenting to the class. I hated this as a student and I still hate it, maybe even more, as a teacher. It's hard to speak a different language in a big class, and it's even harder when someone else is talking or laughing. I've instituted a policy whereby I take away 10 cents every time someone speaks Spanish, uses their phone, or speaks while someone else is speaking. But no one really seems to care.

They almost find it funny. When I take away the money everyone giggles and talks even more. I don't want to take their money, but was told that it's a part of the education system to use fines. Today, students started ratting out others and were constantly telling me I should take away ten cents. They think it's a joke.

There's also the problem of keeping people interested. I feel like I'm a monkey up there sometimes, asking over and over for volunteers or if anyone would like to share with the class. The same thing always happens. No one wants to speak, finally out of pity someone shares, and slowly more and more people want to. But it takes so much to get them to speak. It's tiring just to be up there in front of the class.

I usually give a 5 or 10 minute break because they are 2 hour classes. Even though I remind them to be on time, some are always late. I understand that the concept of time is different, but it's so frustrating to feel like I'm talking to a wall. I told everyone to be on time for the test, and most of the students strolled in late. This is to be expected, I suppose.

Over the last two weeks my respect for all of the teachers I've ever had, even the awful ones, has increased in triplet. Maybe the hardest part of teaching is just thinking of what to teach, and gauging how long things will take, whether or not students will enjoy it, and if you're grading too hard or being too lenient.

Today I gave my first test, and though I thought it'd be nice to finally be the one giving it, it was still some work. I remember my teachers used to sit behind their desks and read or do other work, but after sitting for 2 minutes I realized I would have to walk around to make sure no one was cheating. It was interesting though, to finally not be the one stressing over the test. Test day was actually relaxing, because I didn't have to talk much.

I thought the test was too short and easy, and when everyone was done in 40 minutes, I thought that was confirmed. But after grading a few, I can see that most of the people are probably going to fail this test, which at the level they are in, they should pass with ease. I wonder if it was my bad teaching (very possible) or the education system as a whole. I just don't know yet.

But enough about the teaching troubles, because now it's Thursday night and there's a long weekend ahead, wahoo! President Correa has declared Guayaquil's Independence Day to be a national holiday, so everyone gets an extra day off. From time to time, apparently, he'll just announce that it's a holiday. Cool with me.

A few of us are heading up to Banos, up north by Ambato for a couple of nights. It's 8 hours away by bus, and we're taking a 5:15 a.m. bus. Ouch. That means I have to wake up around 4 a.m. and get there a little early to buy my ticket. There's supposed to be an active volcano and some good hiking in the area, so I'm looking forward to it. When I come back, there will be more pictures and hopefully good stories too.

Above: Yes! It's the second picture of Cuenca. Next to the Rio Tomebamba.

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