I have been teaching here in Pedro Vicente Maldonado for two weeks now. Pretty much all the kids know me, which is pretty impressive considering there are 984 students in this school grades 2-7. They all run up to me in the yard, calling me “Profe” or “Teacher.” The wee ones ask for high fives, holding out hands that I’m sure have been up their noses and in their mouths more than they have been gripping a pencil. When this first happened, I had to make the decision. Give them high fives and get my hands dirty, or distance myself from them physically, telling them not to touch me. In training, I was told I can tell them not to touch me and they won’t. But I still give them high fives, and let them dirty my t-shirts, because hands and clothes are washable. I try to become their friends, while still having the authority of a teacher.
But I have discovered that a teacher does not have as much authority as he/she would in the States. In my few weeks being here, I have witnessed kids goofing off in class countless time. When I tell some kids to sit down, they stand wherever they are, whether it be in the middle of the class or at a friend’s desk, and many times they just smile and laugh unless you threaten them with something like a 0/20. The other teachers, who teach the same class all day every day, don’t even have much authority, and either yell or threaten to talk to the parents. This does work, although I don’t see how the teachers haven’t lost their voices yet. After being threatened, some of the kids just continue to goof off, knowing that their parents aren’t going to do much, if anything.
There are a few reasons why kids here goof off in class and don’t respect the teacher. First of all, many kids end up working in the field, and being a manual laborer in the agricultural field does not require a high education. Also, the teachers do not teach in a style that encourages a lot of respect and motivation to do the work.
Because so many kids end up working in fields or manual labor, they do not find much value in the education they are being given if they are not aspiring to be a doctor or engineer. It does not seem that they are as informed on the importance of education. Why should they pay attention to history when what they really need to know is how to correctly farm plantains?
The teachers yell at kids often to sit down in class. They yell when a student isn’t doing his work. They yell when a kid hits another. Discipline is important, but I don’t think they use the right methods. The yelling just causes a lack of respect for the teacher. Instead of commendations for good work, I usually only hear reprimanding for bad work. This does not inspire a desire for working, except if they don’t want to get yelled at. When one teacher was yelling at a kid for not working, not sitting down, and bothering other students, the student just sat there laughing more and more as the teacher continued reprimanding him. Of course, some classroom dynamics are friendlier and I have observed that those classes are more successful and have seemingly smarter kids.
From what I have observed, I have created my teaching style. I am going to be a friend to these kids while still having authority. If they have someone to impress who will commend them on good work, they will strive for proficiency in English. I will try to teach them the importance of education, which will not just make them more excited for English, but other subjects too.
You would think these kids are just natural trouble-makers, but actually they are just disciplined poorly and taught in a bad classroom setting. When I got here and saw my first classes, I couldn’t help to think that these kids are malcreados, or badly-behaved. The other day, one kid in second grade drew on my white shirt with a black marker while three other kids were tugging on me for one reason or another. Of course I was not happy, and he had not done any of his work so I gave him a low grade, but still kept in mind the causes of his behavior. I will be here for many months, and plan on changing behavior such as his by creating desire and respect in the classroom. When you see a kid acting badly or not having respect, perhaps think what makes him act like this, whether it was failure to be taught good behavior or problems at home.
Kids hit each other. It happens everywhere, every day. Here, multiple times a week, a kid in the class I am teaching at the moment tells me that one kid hit another. When the teacher comes into the room, I inform her, and all she does to respond is say “no hitting.” No punishment at all, and I am told that the girl who hit hits people often. Nothing to try to correct her behavior, just two words. What do you think this make the kids want to do? It makes them feel the need to take justice into their own hands because the teacher won’t do anything about it. So the next time a kid gets hit, he will just hit back harder. I thought it was the kids that were badly behaved at first, but the teachers are mainly the ones that cause this behavior. Of course, kids with a bad upbringing or such things are more likely to hit in class, but if the teacher doesn’t do anything, the innocent kid who gets hit will also hit back. I plan on teaching classroom rules and actually doing something when they are broken, hoping this will change the attitude of the students and encourage them to use their words and not their fists.
On an unrelated note, I would like to inform all of my followers that donations are still open until I return to California. I want to emphasize the importance of donations, since 80% of all the fellows in Global Citizen Year have some level of financial aid. I couldn’t imagine if only 20% of us were helping like we are, making an impact on the world even if it is not on a large scale. All donations go to the scholarship fund for next year’s fellows, and since every year the number of fellows and applicants increases, scholarships become increasingly important. Thank you everyone for supporting my blog and donating, I really appreciate it and will be back soon with more.