Blog blog blog blog, how do you start a blog? That is what I am currently asking myself as I swing from the hammock on our balcony. I have never in my 31 years attempted one of these, so if it is bad, please blame Jeremy from first grade who tired out my brain with his constant screams of excitement today.
I suppose the task is to write about my experience of life in Cofradia with CBS so far. I would love to say it has all been positive, but I think blogs are meant to be truthful, so I will start with the negatives and then work my way up to the positives. I arrived here at the end of September, just over a month after classes had begun and was teaching the day after my arrival with little idea of what to expect. My first day with the kids started off super fun (that is a phrase), but from there it went downhill. The kids I teach are 6 years of age and my experience with kids this age is close to zero. I have no younger siblings, and until 2 years ago I never had any cousins, I have no nieces or nephews and, perhaps surprisingly, I have never babysat in my life. As you may be able to guess, this led to some slight issues when trying to discipline 29 excitable youngsters who could not understand 98% of the words I was saying, especially in my, to them, fresh Scottish accent. At the end of the day I was beyond tired and just hoped that things would be better the following day.
Unfortunately for me, this did not turn out to be the case. The second day the kids were even more difficult to control than the first. I had kids fighting in class, kids crawling in to cupboards while I was trying to teach and others trying to draw angry birds on the desks with whiteboard markers. I just didn’t know how to get them to sit still and in a vain attempt to do so, I was confusing them even more with my severely broken Spanish learned from the internet.
This routine continued until the Friday when, fortunately, we had an extended holiday from school for a week, which gave me the chance to think of how I could get through to these little dudes and dudettes. Sadly, after the return to school, my techniques I had spent so long dreaming up, failed miserably. It was at this stage that I did what I should have done in the first place and asked advice from teachers currently here and the teacher who had taught the kids the two previous years. I honestly can’t overestimate how much that helped me. I found out what worked with my kids and was relieved to know that the previous teacher had faced similar issues in the beginning that I had.
I still have days when the kids test my ginger Scottish patience, but I can honestly say that since week 3-4 I have enjoyed teaching them and I can now really see the difference in their language skills between when I arrived and today. It might sound sadistic, but I love that they now run in to the class after recess and lunch when they see me out of fear of getting a warning rather than continuing to play until I rounded them all up individually.
The only other negative that I would mention is the dust, it is literally everywhere and makes me look like I finally have a suntan, until I shower, when I return to being a snowman and the beer, which is cheap, but dreadful.
1. The house that we live in is 100 times better than I thought it was going to be. We still have to share rooms and the water often does not run, but it is spacious, has a hammock on our balcony with amazing views of the hills and is just pretty western looking, which came as a shock.
2. The food is edible and sometimes pretty damn good. I am a fairly fussy eater, but our school chef Bessy manages to cater to my tastes quite well (aside from putting salad on the plate, “you don’t win friends with salad”) and she is cool, so that helps.
3. The other volunteers. We don’t hang around together enough due to lots of tutoring and napping after school, but I really enjoy our midweek card nights at the small house and our Friday/Saturday night swimming activities. Sometimes people get on each others nerves as will always happen when living and working together, but I know they all have kind hearts when I see them with the kids and I know they all care about what we do. I also see how hard our volunteer co-ordinator works when she could be off earning a gazillion dollars as a high flying lawyer, but instead has to listen to all the gripes of 10 volunteers as well as be the vice principal of our school and translate for all of us when a local wants to communicate with us.
4. The town. I am not going to lie, it is not the most interesting place to live, but it is exactly the right size and has pretty much everything you could need within walking distance. More importantly however, it has amazing locals, who won’t rip you off like in other countries I have travelled through, but who will actually tell you if you have overpaid or even offer you a discount because they know you are a teacher.
5. The opportunity for travel. We are like 90 minutes away from the carribean. That is SICKKKKKKKKKKKKK. The buses are cheap and the little towns to go to are numerous. I have only been to 2 places so far, but they were both amazing and I will definitely be visiting a fair few more in the near future.
6. The Kids. I honestly don’t know what to say about them. They are beyond brilliant. Actually, they are indescribable. If you want to find out for yourself, get your ass over here.
Andy, First Grade 2015-16