Teaching English, sharing, and other things that have been harder than I thought they would be…

Abby Lindsay - Ecuador

October 4, 2012

As part of our Spanish classes in Quito, we have been going to a high school in the northern part of the city to teach English. My group was assigned to work with the 8th graders (11-12 year olds, so what would be 5th/6th grade in the US), little did we know, they spoke almost no English. Wow! I have a whole new respect for people who teach in general, but especially as a second language… We finished after teaching three groups of 8th graders for a total of 5 hours. Our lessons felt repetitive and frustratingly ineffective at teaching English to the kids, but they seemed like they were having so much fun!!! They were just so thirsty and excited to learn that they eagerly participated in the games we prepared, but it’s still unclear how much of the actual English they really learned…They ended the class by repeating after their teacher: “you’re welcome” and “I love you”. Maybe a little bit of a weird way to end a lesson, but that’s okay!

The English teachers here have poor skills, but not for lack of trying. The teacher we worked with for the first half of the day was so desperate to practice her English it made me sad. She was telling us that she hadn’t slept much recently because she got done teaching at 4 and then would go home, be a mom until her kids went to bed, then study English from an online course until wee hours of the morning. She wants to practice her English with us in Quito while we’re here. I didn’t realize that in an effort to improve education in Ecuador, high school English teachers must get a certain score on the TOFEL exam (I don’t remember exactly what score, but it sounded like it was hard to get). 80% of the university professors also need to have PhDs by 2017. I think this increase in standards will be really good for the future of Ecuador, but will be hard to implement.

I’ve realized this before, but after visiting public schools to teach and a public university to do interviews it became really visible to me: simply by being born in the US, I won the lottery. Even though what I see in school at home sometimes strikes me as less than ideal, I have absolutely no reason to complain. Everyone in the country is guaranteed an education, healthcare, and social security just for being born within the political boundaries of the United States of America. It’s hard to imagine from that vantage point that those benefits don’t exist everywhere, but they really don’t.

That being said, the people here are so willing to share the little that they do have with you. The culture of sharing here is something I’m not at all used to at home. I’ve never been a great sharer, but it hasn’t ever been a real problem because culturally we don’t share much in America. Here, I am really working on that! I hope to come back from this trip a better sharer. Not because I feel obligated to, but because I know the importance of it in a real context. After having things shared with me by almost everyone I have encountered, I am still struck by that generosity. The irony gets me: in the richest country in the world, where people can afford to share, they don’t.  In a country where people hardly have enough food on the table, and can’t afford to share, they do. Needless to say I have been trying to get my sharing act together! It has become a sort of joke amongst my friends here.

I have also been blogging on Tumblr, so follow along there for more regular updates/pics!

I also just posted a video about my journey to youtube.

Abby Lindsay