Today is the day before school starts, and we have now been here for two weeks--two weeks of lesson planning, activity/poster making, laboratory researching, and trying not to think too much about what the language barrier will be like between us and our students. I have definitely gotten to a point where I can understand a lot of what is said to me, but I am still lacking in vocab and it still requires an effort. I still find myself decoding what they said in my head, and then thinking of a response, but by that time I feel like I am making them wait too long and then get flustered.
I do a lot better when it is a low pressure situation. Certain people are just easier to talk to, like Mary from the health clinic, Andrea (one of the other tutors) and Manuel, one of the workers at the farm who will be doing the labs with our science classes. On Thursday I met with Manuel to go over my ideas for labs, which I was a little nervous about because I was the newcomer, this is the first time that I have talked with someone about my ideas, and I expected them to be pretty different from what they had done in the past. I didn’t want him to resent me as the new American know-it-all who tried to change the way he operated and how the students learned. Therefore, when we met I presented the labs to him as my ideas, and asked for his input, or if he had thought something different. Despite my fears, he was really enthusiastic about the labs and even my course outline. He recognized that parts of it were stronger than they were in previous years and said so, then also said that he has ideas and books for future labs. That conversation with Manuel really put me at ease about the relationship with him for the rest of the semester.
Hopefully by the end of the trimester I will have a collection of labs, activities, projects and lesson plans that I can pass on for the next year, so that there is a more sustainable curriculum. It seems like, in the past, things were kind of thrown together by whomever was the tutor that year, and completely followed the radio program. My outline already differs from it a little bit, by spending more or less time on areas that I thought were more important, and by placing more of an emphasis on hands-on learning, but by the end of the trimester I will know what works, what doesn’t, and how to fix things for the future.
Some of our recent work days, cooped up in the center all day long and shut off from any interaction, I began to feel pretty restless, so I’m pretty excited to start working with the students and to see how well all of our efforts pay off. Specifically, I’m excited for them to do the activities that I made this week to review last year’s material, which I think will be a good way to ease us into the school year. And, honestly, I’m a little proud of the work I came up with; for example, the poster I made is much better than many posters I made in high school when I was getting graded.
So, wish us luck this week! I think that, once we get over our initial nervousness, we will do well, but that’s probably going to be difficult to do for a little while.