This week marked the beginning of my Giving Back project here in Chile. It started on Monday morning at 8.30 AM. I should mention that my early- rising, have-the-whole-day-ahead-of-me self has transformed a bit here, i.e. the Chilean lifestyle (the day starting at 11) has affected me more than I’d like to admit. So anyway this was a bit of a challenge. My eyes were heavy on the metro ride to meet the Volunteer coordinator but I was so absolutely ready to add this next dimension of my life here in Chile.
I should mention that ESL education is one of my biggest interests and one that is an important part of my work in the states along with what I intend to pursue in my post graduate studies. That being said, continuing that work here in a completely different context from the type of work I know, was something absolutely exhilarating and important for me to do.
The coordinator and I walked a few blocks from our meeting spot, rode an ascensor, and then after a few more uphill turns until we finally made it to the building. This is a technical school comprised of mostly male youth that prepares them for the construction field. Additionally, it’s one that, I was told, has many students with recuperating families and that support is seldom at home. I would say that this school mirrors that of an inner-city public school in the states.
When I walked in I was exhilarated to be back in a school again, it was so nice to be discussing schedules and expectations and students and what I could do for them. We locked down a schedule and I was back the next day (early again) at 8.15, the start of the school day, and then again on Wednesday.
Essentially I am helping the English teacher conduct lessons, grade papers, offer tutoring to the students, and of course serve as the native speaker aid. I have been in a lot of schools and have dealt with youth of all different background for the past five years but…this was the hardest. I will say that my blonde hair, light skin, and blue eyes stand on the Chilean streets. This held even truer in a class with about twenty 16-year-old boys commenting…profusely on all of the above. Additionally, I was confronted with about 7 whistles when walking from the entrance across the terrace to the classroom. So, this was difficult.
In honestly they didn’t care about English and they definitely did not have the patience to hear me try to explain it in my shaky, nervous, and slow Spanish. I was intimidated and felt pretty low by the end of the first day. Wednesday was a bit better, understandably, because I as well as them had a better idea of what to expect.
Nonetheless, this is presenting itself as a challenge. I am driven to work with the teacher to improve these archaic lessons, to make them more interactive and better practice. Additionally, I look forward to being trusted by my new class so they can see me for who I am rather than a foreign-looking, funny Spanish speaker. Once they see that I am here to learn from them, that I am a friend, and a very passionate language mentor, things will be better. Soon enough.