Saturday, July 2, 2011

You Actually Work?

Yes. We do!

And to prove it, here is a compilation of our favorite teaching moments from the first part of this semester:

Everyday we come to class prepared with an activity to complete with our students. While we do whatever we planned, we practice the English necessary to talk about whatever we are doing. One day, I decided to make flowers with my Kindergarten class. I made a prototype out of a pipe cleaner, sandwich baggie, rubber band, and cotton ball that I thought looked pretty good. I was humbled, however, when I pulled it out of my bag and began the following conversation:

"Hey everybody! What did I bring today?"
Dead silence.
"C'mon, what does it look like to you?"
Confused stares.
"...a snake?"

Translation: "Teacher Brian, the slapstick's your bread and butter. Keep pretending to eat grass and pour glue on your head. Crafts just aren't your thing."

In case you are wondering, we made snakes that day.

During the course of a normal class, we ask the students to repeat what we say at least fifty times. We model the right way to say things and then they follow the pattern we set as best they can. For that reason, we try to say things that they would need to say based on the situation. For example, if your student drops their pencil, you might say "I dropped my pencil!" and have them repeat that same phrase back to you. It is incredibly effective but has sometimes gotten me into trouble.
I don't remember exactly what we were doing on this particular day, but it involved black markers. My student Julian needed to draw something and tried several markers without any success. They were all dried-out, old, or completely broken.
Finally, he gives me a look of total exasperation and I decide to model the language he needs at that moment. Without realizing it, I say "There are no working blacks!" and the entire class repeats it back to me.
Yeah. Just let that one sink in for a moment...

When I'm not teaching Kindergartners, I teach Sixth graders. Sounds terrible but it really isn't! Anyways, every week I am supposed to prepare one math lesson, one science lesson, and one social studies lesson. Whether or not they actually learn math, science, or social studies is completely irrelevant (the class we always dreamed of as children...) because we just want them to learn the English necessary to talk about it.
One day, I decided to prepare a social studies lesson on different parts of the world and the famous attractions and sites there. I showed them pictures of different tourism posters and then they made their own for whatever place they wanted. Raul chose Canada (which is wildly popular here for some reason), Ale chose Mexico City, and Nydia chose my English class.
I was flattered that she chose my class and was excited to see what she would put on her poster. My anticipation continued to grow as I watched her grab all sorts of markers and glitter pens. It was a bit like A Christmas Story when Ralphie daydreams about getting an A+++++ on his Red-Rider BB Gun theme.
Finally, I was brought back down to Earth when she proudly displayed her poster that read:

"Teacher Brian. Great. The best class of English!"

In her defense, I am great and I do have the best class of English.

Finally, I would like to share the events of one day that I have affectionately termed "The Perfect Storm".

In my Kindergarten class, there is one student that God put there as payback for everything I put my parents through as a child. As some of you may know, I suffered from some pretty intense separation anxiety until I was about ten or eleven years old. The student in my class, however, makes the tear-soaked panic episodes of my past look like the work of a mere amateur. Without further ado, I present "The Perfect Storm":

I arrive at the school to find that everything is surprisingly calm. Too calm. We manage to get all of the kids into our room and we start our normal routine: today's date, girls camp songs, today's weather, girls camp songs, classroom rules, girls camp songs, girls camp songs, and more girls camp songs ( Have I mentioned that we sing a lot of girls camp songs?).
About midway through "The Princess Pat", Michelle pulls on my shirt and points to her arm. Apparently it was hurting (I sometimes wonder if there isn't a children's fight club being run in Tehuacan because she shows up everyday with some sort of new wound or ailment that makes it impossible for her to participate in class). Apparently I didn't show enough sympathy because she started to weep and fell over onto a table.
After a few minutes of this, I persuaded her to stand behind her desk and look at the other teacher. Unfortunately, in turning to stand up she caught a glimpse of her Dad picking up her little brother at the classroom next door. (I still do not understand why he decides to have long in-depth conversations in front of our sliding glass doors everyday but I have resigned myself to letting his daughter cry until he decides it's time to make her stop himself or take her home with him.)
Anyways, after about ten solid minutes of what the Book of Mormon would describe as "weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth", Michelle decided that she could manage to sit in a chair and participate in class again. While sitting down, however, she noticed that her shoe was untied.
No big deal, right?
While tying her shoe, she caught a glimpse of the microscopically invisible wound on her arm again and started to cry some more.
Maybe it was all of the water running down her face, but, after another solid weeping session, she decided that she had to go to the bathroom at that moment or the world would end. Normally we don't let them go during class but sometimes you've gotta pick your battles.
I went with her to the bathroom and waited outside. While she was washing her hands, I turned around to get something and she immediately vanished. (Sweet! Problem solved, right?)
Lucky for me, the school is not that big and I was able to find her after only a few minutes. She was behind the lunchroom playing with her dog?!?!?!?!?
Really? Her dog? Can I just go ahead and award them the "Parents of the Year" award right now?
You can imagine the tears that were shed and the tantrums that were thrown as I persuaded her to leave her dog and join us again for class. Surprisingly, all went well for about ten minutes or so until the grand finale occurred.
Michelle jumped out of her chair, ran to the glass doors, and started to scream and cry. Searching for the source, I looked out the window and beheld something incredible: her Mom (Does anyone in this family work?) was standing right in front of our classroom talking with the principal. What were they talking about? I have no idea. I couldn't hear them over the sound of the dog barking in her Mom's hands!
This was one of those moments when I truly just gave up. After about five minutes, her Mom noticed the crying and came over to our room. She gave me a look of "Why aren't you taking care of this?" and waited for an explanation.
I probably should have handled the situation better, but I didn't. I just looked at her Mom, said "Why is her dog here?!?!?" in English, and went and sat down.
I had fought the good fight but it was over. To this day, nothing has rivaled that day (not even the day when the school threw a party during our class and set the Dance Dance Revolution arcade game right outside our door!) and I hope nothing ever does.

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