Saturday, October 31, 2009

Working girl

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written. These days all my energy goes into working, planning, and making delicious dinners. I started on October 20th and I really wanted to get a blog post in there but it just didn't happen. The main reason for this lack of updating is that my day starts pretty early. I have to be in the classroom ready to go by 7am, so I've been getting up around 5:30. Hopefully I'll figure out a way to sleep in a little more, but cooking breakfast without a toaster is like camping, and the coffee just takes too long. I teach two-hour classes until 11am, then I am a sub from 2-4. I've been taking a Spanish class for an hour during my mid-day break, and that involves sitting around and chatting. It's good for me because I speak a lot less Spanish these days--I'm supposed to teach my classes in pure English and although I live with two Latinas, we often speak English at home. I should make them speak Spanish to me (even though I really can't understand Sara, la puertorriqueña). By the way, here's a photo of my rommates, Will, Sara, and Elsa.

Classes...My first class is the Academic 2 level, almost at the end of the road and only a few levels before the proficiency exam. I've been so busy and worn out mostly because of this class. The students are great--they pay attention, they want to be there, and they make the job easier. But I've been having to learn the grammar before I teach it to them because it's so complicated sometimes. And I really feel for them with some of this stuff (e.g., prepositions. what a mess). They have their first exam on Wednesday and I think they've been well-prepared, but it took a lot of work on my part. I have to teach at least one new grammar point every day, sometimes two. That's a lot for a student's brain to handle. We have a textbook but it was written by some folks who were/are coordinators of the institution, and although it has some pretty good materials included, the book itself is hard to use. I've been searching online for better explanations of the grammar and even if I think I've got it all covered, a student will ask a question that didn't even occur to me. I've explained to them that I never want to confuse them, so if I need some time to think about it (like, 24hrs) then I'll get back to them the next day, and they're pretty appreciative of that. I've told them that being a native speaker means my brain can't always retrieve all the possibilities of the use of one word or expression, and they get it.

Anyway, they're good students, my age if not older (though none are older than 27) and they laugh at my jokes. It's especially hilarious if I throw in some lingo here are there (like chuchaqui...Quichwa for hung over). They also love it when Brad Pitt shows up in my examples...Brad Pitt is hotter than most? Or hottest of them all?...hottest of them all, very good. I'm not even a huge fan, but being a teacher means sacrificing your dignity sometimes.

After my Academic 2 class comes Intermediate 1, the first level after the basic levels. This one is tough too, mostly because I still have to teach in English, but they really don't understand a lot of what I say. So I have to consciously tone it down while making it challenging enough for them to improve their listening skills. These students are just younger than me, 17 to 22 years old. For this class, I only have to teach two grammar points a week. But that means coming up with enough games and activities that they don't get bored. Sometimes a two-hour class flies by, and other times it crawls very slowly. That's my biggest challenge with these guys--keeping them interested, somewhat entertained, and learning at the same time.

All in all, the work is good. It's hard to get up so early, and the first week was really tough because I found out what levels I would be teaching the day before classes started. I was hoping not to get the Academic levels (because I knew the planning was hard) and I really didn't want the 7am class. That's exactly what I got, but it's not so bad.

We have this Monday and Tuesday off for a national holiday (fundación de Cuenca) but they didn't pay me for this month (another story) so I don't think I have the funds to go anywhere. Maybe I'll go to Mindo for a day--it'd be nice to get out of the city, and Mindo is so lush and beautiful.

Ahhh, I may sound melancholic but life is indeed good. I'm planning on seeing the volunteers from the CMT tonight for a little Halloween fun, and it looks like I'm doing free aerobics in the park tomorrow morning. I miss everyone, especially my ladies who have taken up craft night.

love you tons,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Proust Questionnaire and other things

View of the sunset from my house. Same time, same place, every day, all year. That's the equator for ya.

The Proust Questionnaire compares your answers to 20 questions to the answers of 100 celebrities. Unsurprisingly, I scored most like Yoko Ono and Hugh Hefner.

The beach was great--I'm bad at pulling out the camera to take pictures so if I get ahold of some I'll post them.

I start teaching on Tuesday. At a meeting on Monday I'll get my schedule and find out which level I'll be teaching. I was really gung-ho at the end of the TEFL course about 2 weeks ago, but now I'm just waiting for it (it refers to the job, the challenges, the fun) to happen.

I'm nervous about the work, and about the fact that I don't know what I'll be teaching until the day before class starts, so I can't even get any planning done in these quiet vacation days. Any suggestions for day 1 activities? Getting-to-know you stuff could be good, but day 1 is the shyest day for most students, so I don't think I'll do a "stand up and tell us about yourself" game. That doesn't even sound like a game. I have to remind myself that I enjoyed the teaching practicum, so I'll most likely enjoy having my own classes--I've just been doing so much waiting around, reading books, interneting (I only visit about 4 websites regularly, so that doesn't take up much time) and I've lost that excited momentum you get when everything is new. And I've been watching more Will and Grace than I ever did before, so...yeah, things are slow.

Luckily I'm going to Cayambe this weekend to visit Marcia (who works at the CMT) and her husband Rigo. Audrey (center volunteer working on year #2) and I have decided to bring cards and games, make dinner and enjoy this small town where the cemetery is the most interesting attraction. Going out to visit people like this is a lesson in forcing yourself to relax a bit and not worry about what task needs to be done by what time, etc. You have to be comfortable with silences and not having an agenda, which is why games are usually helpful for activity-accustomed gringas like Audrey and myself. We're spending the night, which is a first for both of us. I'm looking forward to it because Marcia is wonderful and Rigo is hilarious--the type of funny that only happens if you listen closely, because he doesn't say much. I have some photos to give them of my last visit about a year ago (a year!) and I hope they're pleased.

Well, I think I'll go back to my new book (I traded at a book swap in a bar at the beach). Haven't been in the mood to watch movies lately, but a friend loaned me District 9 and I'd like to return it to him, so maybe I'll do that too. Again, send me suggestions for the first day or 2 of classes. Thanks!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vacation from....?

At the last minute I've decided to join some CMT folks on a trip to Canoa. It'll be one last trip during my vacation before work starts, though I'm actually looking forward to working.

Oh, did you know that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month? I didn't until about 10 minutes ago. Also, when things get rough, I always try to:

See you after the beach.

love, Mare