Ok, let’s clear some things up. I’ve been in Nicaragua for over a month now and started to get the hang of this English education business. I won’t lie, stepping into that classroom for the first time was pretty scary. It was actually in my opinion a bit of a disaster.
The theme of the day’s lesson was Environmental Protection. Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education requires themes in a lot of their classes that sometimes don’t seem to be something that fit with language learning. None the less, my counterpart and I tried to find a way to work it in. We decided to work on the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle; all of these are cognates in Spanish and should be easy to teach.
We came up with some interactive ways for the kids to learn them, but the first big hurdle was our use of Spanish in the classroom. The teacher was used to teaching in Spanish extensively in class, and he wanted to translate everything I said as I said it to the class. Took some work, but I managed to convince him to let them mull over what I said and try to understand it themselves.
After the kids fully understood the vocab came the grammar, and things just went down hill. Gerunds were the subject and they are completely foreign to Spanish speakers. Where we would use a verb with the ING ending as the subject of a sentence, they never would. But I reacted as best I could simplifying as much as possible. When the bell finally rang I was ready to get out of there.
It wasn’t all bad. The vocab was understood it just came down to assuming prior knowledge. That’s where we always trip up here. It’s really very unrealistic to walk into the class, just throw down a completely new structure and expect them to get it in just one class. It takes multiple tries, and you’re bound to have classes that just completely bomb.
I’ve come a long way since that first day, and I’ve had many successes. I’ve had classes that I feel that every single kid completely understood what I was teaching. I think it’s really important to celebrate those small successes, they’ll keep you sane.