Pensamientos is the Spanish word for thoughts. Often times when I write a post I have two or three main ideas that I’d like to touch on. This week, however, I have smaller, meandering, seemingly random thoughts thrown together into a single post. I skipped last week because I wanted the Facing the Future Video to be the focus. At the time of this writing, there is no internet or power. But like most things in life, give it time and it will work itself out. I would like to share a quick anecdote from this morning. I woke up later than I had anticipated and was expected in the town for a meeting shortly thereafter. Since my fan wasn’t running I realized there was no power. I hopped in for a quick bucket shower, dressed, and made my way to the kitchen to whip up a quick breakfast. Turning the stove on, I put a pan on to warm up and placed two eggs on a different burner. I pulled out a plate, spread some beans on it and inserted into the microwave. It was only when I went to press the buttons on the microwave that I realized my humiliating error. In the midst of my haste, the fact that there was no power had slipped my mind. I had to put everything back and wash the plate that had gone unused.
This past week I made the transition from the fourth-grade classroom to the first grade. It was a much-needed change. As much as I enjoyed my time with the older students, there’s something special about working with the little ones. I can speak a good amount of English with the fourth graders, but there were other elements of the classroom that were causing constant frustration. There are two boys in that classroom that do everything in their power to disrupt learning for the other sixteen or so students. One clearly has ADHD and perhaps another learning disability. He is constantly talking. Sometimes he has an audience, other times it’s as if he’s on his own planet. The other student is much more malicious with his intent. He is always making noise with his hands and getting up from his seat. I’ve never seen him do any semblance of work besides quickly copying a fellow student to get credit for an assignment. He’ll look and see if I’m watching before opening up another app on the tablet to play a game when he knows he should be doing the KALite activity. It’s these two that prevent me from teaching and make me more of a babysitter and disciplinarian. I spent a lot of my time focused on these two to create a better learning environment for the others. I wish I could say I was successful. They’ve had meetings with the parents of the students, but this issue runs deeper than merely school behavior. It’s a result of the lack of punishment received by some kids at home. There are numerous factors that cause this: both parents work, one parent lives in another part of the country or world, a lack of daily structure, cultural differences and perhaps negligence. It’s not my place to solve this issue, but it made for a challenging first month.
Since I made the change to the first-grade classroom there remain obstacles, but on a much smaller scale. The biggest issue is getting the kids to stay in their seats. They all come running up to show you that they’ve completed their work. You have to remind them that you will be walking around and will get to them. I’ve developed a couple successful methods to help with this. The first is that the students love to give a high five and then a fist bump. They would ask for one after writing each and every letter if I’d let them. Instead, I entice them by saying once the task is completed and correct I will distribute the handshakes. There is a rush of fervid determination to be the first. The other technique, which is my personal favorite, regards a wand that I found on one of the first days. As the students were slowly copying the words from the board I found myself needing to encouraging a few to pick up the pace. Using my newly acquired magic-related vocabulary from my Harry Potter translations, I raised the wand and pointed it at a pokey student. In Spanish, I said, “I’m going to put a spell on you. I change you into a frog!” The students howled in laughter. “Hechizame! Charm me!” They shouted. I offered them the opportunity to be ‘saved’ from spells if they completed their work. I spent the next twenty minutes saving students from spells while converting their classmates into a whole host of animals and inanimate objects.
Outside of school things remain constant. The majority of my free time involves studying, translating, reading, and exercising. As you know from previous entries I have absolutely no qualms about a strict routine. However, I have made time for a few other activities. I went on another exploratory exhibition this past weekend. I picked a looming cell tower on one of the nearby hills and set off resolved to find the path that reached the top. After about five miles and two hours I stumbled upon the route and made my way to the apogee to revel in the expansive view from the top. This coming weekend I will be adventuring in a new direction and so on and so forth. I’ve also made a new acquaintance in town. His name is Elmer, and he is Honduran. He is the former host brother of the volunteer Jair. I met him when his family had us over for the farewell meals and we got along very well. He was interested in all of my travels and asked me question after question. He has an extensive movie collection and invited me to join him for one where we could watch in English with Spanish subtitles or vice versa. Last night we watched Inferno, one of the Dan Brown books turned movies. Having someone to practice speaking with is invaluable, and it makes it even better when you thoroughly enjoy their company too. He is a teacher in town and I’m sure that there will be more movies watched in the near future.
Lastly, the most exciting event from this past week took place yesterday, Saturday. All week the students and teachers had been planning for a huge meeting that would occur over the weekend. It involved an organization associated with the indigenous group Lenca, to which the majority of people from town belong. Our school applied to have them fund three of our teaching positions. A great number of people from the organization made their way to the town to see the school, hear presentations, have a debate, and maunder for hours and hours in true Honduran meeting fashion. The presentation and debate section drew a massive crowd of parents and supporters from the town. It was inspiring to these folks, who have invested so much in this school, come out to defend and promote it. I also had the honor to meet with the CEO of Shoulder to Shoulder, Wayne Waite. His first words to me were that I “Was a legend.” He had seen my videos and had several ideas about other media projects that could significantly help Shoulder to Shoulder’s educational outreach programs. My first impressions were that he is a caring, dedicated, and smart individual. I never knew that everyone on the executive board of Shoulder to Shoulder is there pro bono. It makes everything that they do even more impressive.
The bilingual school has the next week off from classes. We were supposed to have just a few days and then the President of Honduras said to take the entire week so that ‘families could go on vacation.’ Don’t even get me started on the prioritization of education in this country. However, I am going to take advantage of this time to start working on graduate school application essays. Cheers!