Friday, September 28, 2012

Year Two

It's Been a While
It's been a while since I have updated my blog. A long, long while: over half a year and there is good reason for it... I have been busy as a first year teacher! Here's what happened where I left off:

Summer in February
February was a very interesting and fun month in Antofagasta. The city has a Latin American culture festival with traditional dances from all different countries in South and Central America. Actually, they have free shows every single weekend, including: rock concerts, beauty pageants, dirt and motor bike shows, etc. They also have the city's anniversary on February 14th, which they celebrate with an elaborate fireworks display.

Pageant Photos:

"The Golden Years"

Pageant Photos: The university competition 

The best firework ever...

March Madness
March is the start of the school year in Chile, and it ends in December. The school year had just started, and no more than one day in had a teacher hurt his leg. I did subbing for two weeks until the teacher came back, but four weeks later he left, rather abruptly, on a Wednesday afternoon in April. The school immediately hired me and by Friday morning I was a full-time teacher. 

I won't lie. There were six weeks left in the trimester and it was very challenging suddenly being thrown in full-time during the middle of the trimester. Some of his classes didn't even know he had left when I walked in, and those six weeks were some of the busiest I've ever spent in my life.

We had a two week break in June, and I had plans to go on vacation. That never happened due to a visa issue and the amount of work I had to do. Before the teacher left, he met with me for one hour to pass me the books, and basically told me his English lesson plans and curriculum weren't working and to re-do his plans for the year. That is what I did almost the entire break. The second trimester the school also changed my schedule, so instead of teaching his history and English classes I was moved to all English. Here is what I teach:

One block = 90 min

1 CAE workshop (Cambridge upper-level ESL class), one block a week
6A/6B ---> Three blocks a week each, plus one 45 min class each
9A/9B---->Two blocks a week each
11A------>Two blocks a week 
12th ------>One block a week (we're in TRI 3, TRI 2 had two blocks a week)

The teachers switch classes and there is a 15 minute break in between blocks. Also, kids are divided into different classes and are with the same students all day long. They are completely mixed ability- there is no separation for honor/regular/lower level, or for low-level English students who have just entered the school. But the teachers decide the classes each year, and when you have two classes of the same grade, you can kind of tell that one class seems to have an overall higher ability level or behavior difference.

This is a private school, and maybe the public schools are different. But it isn't like the US- if I'm right, any school can choose not to have a student. If you have Down's Syndrome, for example, you must go to a special school for kids with disabilities. 

Students have to apply to any school they want to attend (public, private, or semi-private). I knew someone who was rejected from a public school for having a low IQ, but wasn't accepted into the disability school because his IQ was slightly too high!

My schedule is different each day, but my day starts at 8:15am most days and some days I teach until 4:50pm. One or two nights a week the high schoolers have class until 6:30pm. I am very grateful I do not teach that last block. Any teacher reading this can imagine teaching high schoolers from 5pm- 6:30pm, after they have been in class since 8am... 

The Trimesters
June 18th- Sept 7th: Trimester Two

Sept 8th- Sept 23rd: Two week break

Sept 24th- Dec 14th (21st for teachers): Trimester Three

We are in the last part of the year! Trimester 2 was still extremely busy and I adjusted to a lot of new things. Being a first year teacher anywhere is a large job, and I have been learning by trial and error. I do like the job, and I feel like this trimester I might finally have a minute to breathe. I have learned more about my own language than I ever imagined I would. I hear mistakes that native speakers make and can tell you what a phrasal verb is.

However, I am not too proud to admit I can improve some areas. I am a young teacher, and I need some advice on issues. One problem I have had is kids not bringing their books to class. Ironically enough it isn't the 6th graders where it's a big problem: it's the high schoolers. They constantly leave their books at home or flat out lose them. Then they share and of course, start talking. Or if they don't share they will get bored and start misbehaving. It is kind of hard to keep track of who has it, who doesn't. And if I gave them detention, it would literally be all the time for this issue. I was taking away points but that didn't make much difference. I am thinking of making a chart next year of the times they don't bring the books, then assigning a punishment if they forget it X-amount of times. Any ideas??? 

A World Apart in 20 Minutes
There are a lot of differences between this school and where I volunteered. One fantastic thing about this school are the small classes- between 9-20 kids. The kids at this school (generally) have a high level of English. They are bilingual. It is easier to communicate with them and you can do so much more with the language! But they have had many gringo teachers and I am no one special to them. 

The other day in 6th grade we were reading an article about Dubai and one 12-year said, "Oh, I went on vacation there!" Plus I've talked to at least 4 students who did or will do foreign exchanges to improve their already-high English or just to have fun. One kid learned Dutch in his year abroad. I haven't mentioned that this private school is the most expensive one in the city. The monthly tuition here was the monthly salary of a teacher at my old school. Think about that for a minute.

English is so normal to them because they grew up bilingual. I am their regular teacher, not a volunteer, maybe that is why they don't try to "teach me" Spanish like the students did at CODEMA (Corazón de María).

And the staff! The staff at this school is amazing. There are many young foreign teachers, and somebody is always having a barbeque, a party, organizing a sports team, etc. Teachers here stick together and always help one another out! And we have access to resources that aren't normal in many Chilean schools. For example, at my old school you had to submit photocopies 48 hours in advance. Nobody made photocopies except for tests. All the lessons were taught by powerpoint or something else. Here we can make as many copies as we want. 

A 20 minute drive away is Corazón de María: middle-low to middle class families, had 40 kids to a class, and the other staff members didn't take much interest in me. But to the children at my old school, I was a celebrity. I was someone who might have known Justin Bieber. And even still, that school had created a special culture and the students (generally) treated their teachers with a sort of respect I hadn't seen at most schools (including in the states). Yes, they talked in class. Yes, they acted like kids. But they seemed grateful you were there and would tell me they loved me and even kissed my cheek all the time. Most of those kids couldn't speak English. Most of our conversations were in Spanish and they seemed intent on helping me learn more, like we were exchanging languages. When I visited the school during my vacation one little girl even cried and wouldn't leave my side.

But back to my school...

Special Events
We have had a few special events at this school, including International Day and Fiestas Patrias. Some of the costumes were incredible, and we even had a teacher dance with our fabulous staff. 

AIS had an anniversary like CODEMA did, a week where the kids celebrate and play games. 

This is from the lower school anniversary, and the kids had a fashion show made of recycled materials. Some got help from their parents and their costumes looked practically professional.

Can you guess which girl received a little extra help from her parents?

And now for the celebration of Fiestas Patrias in school, Chile's celebration of independence:

Teachers' dance:

The school's empanada lunch for us:

And a teacher asado (barbeque):

Salta, Argentina
This September break I finally took my post-poned Argentina trip. I went with my boyfriend and several friends. Argentina might be my favorite country in South America: the meat (world renowned steak), wine, landscapes, and culture. Me enamoré de ese país. The prices are cheaper than Chile and they have all the same kind of things. We went horseback riding and had an asado with cowboys, ate steak a million times, and visited all the incredible landscapes Salta has to offer. One day we took a tour to a village called Cachi. It started as a subtropical forest, then changed to desert with cacti within 10 minutes of driving, then mountain highlands with pure shrubs, then back to a desert with a huge cacti reserve and gorgeous rock formations. The best part of the trip was seeing my friend Paola. She was an exchange student in Ohio and I hadn't seen her for about 4 years.

A lot of pictures were taken on the bus, and some are from tours.

Purmamarca (taken from the bus window- not bad, right?):

Beautiful church in Salta:

Eva, Paola, performer at the restaurant, Felipe, me:

Felipe and I on the Cafayate tour:

Llama love:

Playing with cool rock formations:

Don't worry, I am not that crazy. It is just an illusion!

There were wildfires on the hills! 4 people died

The forest we started out in:

Then a beautiful desert...

Now we are in the mountains, altiplano. Notice the cloud layer in the background. 

Nothing but shrubs at this point. Apparently condors fly here, but I didn't see any.

Group shot:

15 minutes later, a new landscape:

This is the same road the Incas took, and now it's a regular paved road:

Inside the cactus reserve:

Colores y colores:

Inside the town of Cachi:

To see all of Salta and the surrounding areas, click here.

Hasta luego
Well my friends, that is a summary of the last 8 months. Thanks for reading all of this!
I don't know when I will update again, because I have to plan, plan, plan for the upcoming weeks. My contract ends in December and I am considering two paths:

Option One
If the school offers me another year and if I accept, I will be here for another year, but will visit home for the holidays in December.

Option Two
If I finish my contract in December and do not renew it, then I won't go home for the holidays. Instead, I'll spend them planning an epic South American trip for January. I'm tossing around the idea of backpacking for a month-ish, then return to Antofagasta for two or three weeks to lay on the beach, pack up, and say chaoito...

This entire Chilean adventure started out as a 5-month commitment then turned into something ridiculously longer than anticipated. I still haven't visited home, but I suppose that's what happens when you buy a one-way ticket. ;)

I am torn as to what to do, and it involves lots of personal reasons. I found myself in this same situation a year ago and it worked out pretty darn well. The days are sort of going by routinely. Chile doesn't feel at all exotic or exciting. I have been here for over a year, and it feels as mundane as Ohio did, which now looks pretty exotic with Starbucks and green forests. 
Buena onda

I am going to leave you with a present. This is for anyone who teaches Spanish- in my opinion, it's super bacán (or bakan, as everyone here spells it):