During my first week of teaching English in Guachapala, Ecuador, I encountered my worst nightmare: a crying seven-year-old in the middle of class. Her name was Kelly, and she was one of the shyest girls at my school; I never talked to her before. So, when she started bawling loudly mid-class, I didn’t know how to approach it — honestly, I felt the urge to panic.
However, as the teacher, I knew I had to maintain my external composure. I needed a way to stop the crying, and I figured it’d be best if I talked to her one-on-one. So, I stalled the class by assigning them old worksheets, escorted Kelly via piggyback outside, and asked her what was wrong.
This made her cry even more.
I had to distract her. I made silly faces, and started dancing with her — which, in turn, made her grin. I, however, wanted to make her laugh. When I saw bananas from the snack shack on the second floor, I thought of the perfect idea.
I transformed into the “Guachapalian Gorilla” — scratching my armpits, jumping up and down, and chanting “hoo-haa-hah.” To my luck, she started cracking up. When her eyes lit up with joy, I felt exactly like when teachers would tell the class that the test was open-book: full of relief.
Through cheering Kelly up, I’ve discovered another side of myself — one that’s more open with others, and through this, it’s helped my students to feel like the classroom doesn’t have to be a place flooded with cold desks and pop-quizzes; it can be a jungle of excitement in learning as well. Through introducing interactive vocabulary games like Mad Libs, I’ve seen an increased number of hands raised during class, including Kelly’s.
Needless to say, taking the time to cheer up Kelly has paid off as I’ve gained not only a new friend, but a new approach in helping others. If there’s ever a day where my students need consoling, they can rest easy knowing the “Guachapalian Gorilla,” will always make sure they are in a position to succeed.