24 October 2006


Being a Teacher

I've gained a new found respect for all the teachers I've ever had...well, most of them anyways. It's hard work planning for classes, trying to keep everything interesting while addressing all the "multiple intelligences" and keeping it educational. Especially when most of the students are university students who just want to drink beer and hang out. Whatever it is they want to do, they definitely do NOT want to be in a hot classroom at 9 on a Friday night! Last Friday, I had a student show up to class drunkity drunk. He's usually a quiet, serious student so it shocked me when he dribbled into class, smiling and chatting away. I had half the mind to kick him out, but when I realized he was chatting in English, even tho his friends were talking to him in Spanish, I decided to let him stay. Of course, I couldn't read his handwriting on the journal assignment I gave the class so I've asked him to redo it.

The other volunteers and I have started to feel almost offended when students don't show up to class. It's not that we take it personally, as if we think "oh, Pablo didn't come to class because he doesn't like me," but more like "damn! I spent so much time planning to make this activity so it would work in a 37-person class, and I even spent money on the copies, and only 24 showed up!" Obviously, this is a side of teaching we're not so familiar with. But it continues to be fun (and funny), especially when they're having fun! (aww...hugs!) It's also an incredibly challenging subject to teach when you haven't learned it formally yourself. I was teaching my intermediate class "'it' clauses and adverbial clauses with 'when'" which are like "it bothers me when people talk during movies." I pulled an example from the book that went "It makes me happy when my friends remember to call me on my birthday" and proceeded to explain the "formula" (they LOVE formulas and equations here): it + verb + object + when + subject + verb blah blah blah and one student asked me "so what is the 'happy'?" I mumbled some crap like "passive mumbojumbo verb" cuz I had absolutely NO idea! I cringed and the sweat began dripping faster when she wrote down what I said. I later found out from an Ecuadorian English teacher that the 'me' is an indirect object and the 'happy' is a direct object. wHaTeVeRr. This is the stuff I have to read up on, but to be totally honest, reading grammar books(gerund!! ==> I've been teaching gerunds all week) is not my idea of fun. *sigh* guess it's part of the job tho!

So this Friday, I'll be giving my first quiz! It's actually really exciting...yea, yea, I'm a dork. I'm a bit nervous because we've been told time and time again that Ecuadorians don't look at cheating the way we do in the States; they're not really cheating, they're "helping" each other. John gave a quiz last week and caught a number of eyes wandering and had to set the example by taking the quizzes away. I'm nervous about doing that because I want to give my students the benefit of the doubt, but if I don't show in the beginning that I'm serious about the no cheating thing, then they'll end up cheating all semester and it'll just be hell for me. Wish me luck!!

I've realized that one of the more popular ways to write in English is by doing a direct translation from the original language. Obviously, every single language student in the world does this because it just seems to be the most practical! Unfortunately, it rarely makes any sense in the target language. I leave you with an anecdote: I asked my advanced students to write about a time when they got a good (or bad) impression from someone they'd just met. One student started off her paragraph with: "The last year, I went to work on the body of a firemen." If you just spat out something or guffawed, than we had the same reaction! For a second I thought "damn! I bet she got a good impression!" I just couldn't figure out what she was trying to say so I asked my host mom, Eliza, what this could possibly mean. She immediately translated it directly into Spanish and explained that "cuerpo (body) de (of) bomberos (firemen)" is a fire station. Yes, my student went to volunteer at a fire station. *sigh* working on the bodies of firemen sounds so much more exciting...

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