Friday, 8 May 2009

Teaching Report

I thought I'd take some to talk about what the teaching experience is like - apologies for any clichés which pop up during this.

The most striking thing here is the enthusiasm of the kids to learn English. They are forever asking me for translations of randomly selected words, and for how to say their names in English. For some, this is easy (Juan = John, Carlos = Charles, etc.). However, loads of them have English names (Kevin, Percy, Roger, Richard, even Doris) and are a bit disappointed when I tell them it's the same! For others (e.g. Grimanesa), I don't even know where to start.

They have enthusiasm for this sort of learning English, but when it comes to the actual lessons, many if not most are very shy when it comes to answering questions and taking part in activities. I have a feeling this is because the teaching style in Peru is very old fashioned - listen to the teacher, copy notes from the board, and little more. The moment I write anything on the board, the kids want to start copying, and quite often I really don't want them to! The solution, which I am getting better at using, is to practice whatever you are teaching them many times before writing it. That way it might just go in, instead of being blindly (and mostly wrongly) copied in their books. The other thing, of course, is games. My fourth year class the other day got so excited about a comparatives and superlatives race I couldn´t hear myself think.

Nonetheless, I sometimes feel like I am only really teaching a handful of the students from each class. And there are some really talented students - a couple are exceptional. Striking a balance between keeping them entertained and not letting the majority fall behind is pretty difficult. Some volunteers in the past have run extra classes for these kids... I am wondering whether I should do something similar.

I have had a victory with regards to the curriculum, in that I now have relatively free rein over what to teach, which is good since the recommended curriculum here is massively optimistic. That said, I can see the good work of previous volunteers in my older classes, some of whom have at least a bit of retained knowledge...and here, that is wonderful.

In all, the main problem with education here seems to be the triumph of form over substance. The teachers [and, as a consequence, the children] quite often seem more concerned with the neatness of their exercise books than the content inside them. I cannot begin to explain how long it takes the kids to copy from the board. Once the coloured pens come yet, you know that disaster is looming. I found one girl who had [at home, I hope] made a title in her book by gluing bits of pasta into the shapes of letters.

I moan about this, but it does sometimes have a positive side. Like the school sports day this Thursday, which had a magnificent sense of ceremony and occasion. This included our own Olympic torch, the obligatory singing of the national anthem, and of course marching. I was named "padrino [godfather]" of the 1A football team, and for the honour was practically leading the parade, and had to buy the kids a football [which they promptly broke]. All a bit surreal, but I felt like everyone was making a big effort to make me part of the day and of the school, and appreciated that hugely.

That is more or less all I can think of for now...this weekend is in Cusco, having a goodbye part for all the volunteers leaving next week [a lot]. The turnover rate here is pretty high, and as a consequence I almost feel like one of the old guard already.

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