I’ve often talked with my mom, a high school teacher, about the seven fifty minute periods at her high school being crazy and wondered how she could be expected to keep track of grades for two hundred plus kids, let alone remember their names. So far, my teaching schedule here has made that look like an intimate book club. I say this with complete acknowledgement that, unlike teachers at Bend High, I have no obligation to grade homework, or impress district evaluators although I strive to at least appear competent. With my current schedule, I teach each every class in the local high school for thirty-nine minutes every week. The lack overcrowding of the school district necessitates a two shift day where one group of students show up at seven and leave around one, while the other batch shows up at one thirty and stay until seven. I work parts of both shifts.
All in all, there are around 1,300 kids in the school. The ages range from three to six in the basic levels and fourteen to eighteen in the high school. Students in the high school are divided based on their focus. Since it’s a technical high school, these focuses are subjects like electrical engineering or machines and motors. While all subjects are available to the male students in the school, females have a more limited array of choices. Because of this, I have numerous classes with only boys in the room but none with only girls. The students stay in the same classroom with their subject group all day. When I say I teach every class, I mean that I have thirty-nine minutes with each focus, morning and afternoon, and therefor can claim to teach every single kid in the high school. Not that I neglect the younger age groups; I co-teach a class of about forty six year olds and classes of twenty three year olds, twenty four year olds, and about forty five year olds.
My only curriculum with my high school students so far has been an introduction to the United States and my life in it. Students’ understanding varies from class to class, but they are generally pretty thrown of by my accent and vocabulary varying from the classwork. I Find my students have a much easier time understanding the Ecuadorian English teachers’ grammar and Ecuadorian accent in English. I will read a passage, sure to annunciate and read exaggeratedly slow, only to look up to a landscape of blank expressions. After I fail to provide an understandable reading, the other teacher will read the same passage and the students will light up with understanding. I have a difficult time gauging my students understanding due to my mind’s insistence on measuring this by asking questions to the class like my teachers back home. This almost never triggers participation but rather a cacophony of laughter and mocking targeted at the brave yet unfortunate student daring enough to answer. I can only imagine the class reaction after I leave the room, having spoken half incomprehensible English and half broken Spanish.
In almost every class there are students who truly do want to learn English and about the United States, and will not hesitate to answer my questions. I have students who want to go to a community college in the States, apply for a visa, be an actor in Hollywood, or want to provide themselves with a large advantage against their peers when seeking future employment. In the near future, I am planning to start an English club outside of school for the kids who really are hungry to learn the language and my host mom eagerly gave her approval to use the family living room for these sessions.
Between teaching students to learn about some small town in a State they’ve never heard (Bend, Oregon) of or teaching three year olds how to say hello and how to not fall of the slide, I’m enjoying the life of a rural Ecuadorian English teacher and all its associated challenges.