Since being here in Honduras, I have adapted to the early to bed, early to rise mantra that seems prevalent in many parts of the world where the daylight hours dictate sleeping schedules. This definitely seems to be the case for most Hondurans. Every morning I wake up at 5:50am to get ready for school and we are out the door on our way to the bus stop by 6:15am. The bus stop is about two blocks away from our house located by the gas station. It passes here every morning to pick up students, teachers and other staff at the school.
The teachers always sit in the back of the bus so that we can get some space away from the kids who we will be with for the entire day. As much as I love my students, boundaries are absolutely necessary and sometimes they are few and far between in Honduran culture. Any small boundary that is already there I am sure to take full advantage of.
We arrive at Santa Clara school around 6:45am. I take a few minutes to myself to make sure that my classroom is set up for the morning and the bells rings at 7am to summon everyone to the outdoor cafeteria for the morning meeting. The morning meeting takes about 5-10 minutes and usually consists of a prayer led by one of the students and a short announcement. Then students are dismissed by grade to quietly walk in line to their classrooms to begin the day.
Throughout the day I am the main teacher in charge of my second grade class and I have to make sure that they are where they need to be at all times. This means that I am responsible for them during my classes and making sure that they get to their other classes. I probably teach an average of five or six 40-minute periods each day. The rest of the time I make sure the class is with their other assigned teacher or at recess while I grade, make lesson plans, organize my classroom, or eat lunch.
Each day the kids have two 30 minute periods for recess and for them to eat their lunch or breakfast. One is mid morning and the other is around lunchtime. Some periods I am assigned a spot in the cafeteria or the field to supervise the students, but other times I have an off period. The volunteer teachers at the elementary school are always assigned to teach the ELA curriculum. This includes teaching the English Phonics, Reading, Writing, and Grammar classes. This takes up about 40% of the students classes. Another 40% is the core classes that students receive in English including Math, Science, Social Science, and Spelling. The other 20% of their classes they receive in Spanish and include Religion, Spanish, Ciencias Sociales, and Matematics.
Sometimes at the school we have power, and sometimes we do not. During the hotter months of April, May, and June it is typical for the power to go out during the day sporadically and sometimes for extended periods of time. Many rooms at the school have fans, my room does not though, but luckily it gets a nice cross breeze and is usually pretty comfortable.
Teaching English to students as a second language has definitely taught me to be patient. My second graders are getting a lot better at English and their understanding is pretty good. I never speak to them in Spanish except for rare occasions. The kids often speak to me in Spanish and sometimes I have to remind them to speak English. It is useful to know Spanish though for the times when a kid just wants to translate a word, or they are struggling to find the words that they are looking for to say something in English.
English levels vary throughout. Since it is not student’s native language it takes extra effort from them to pay attention and to understand. Because of this a good number of students often do not pay attention to what I am saying, or have trouble paying attention for extended periods of time just because of the extra effort that it takes. I see a big difference between the level of participation and attention in my classes as opposed to the Spanish classes just due to the simple fact that these kids are learning in a second language. It seems to me that while it is easy for kids to multi-task in their native language ie work on something and listen at the same time this is difficult for them to do in English. I am very conscious to make sure that I speak slowly, repeat myself, and explain things as simplistically as possible.
School ends every day at 2:45 and the buses leave at 3 to take teachers and students back home. Every Wednesday after school we have a staff meeting that goes until 4. Once I am home I often have a snack and take a nap or just relax because I am so exhausted from teaching. I usually spend a little bit of time lesson planning, but not a huge amount and only a few days a week. Around 6 or 7, if the power hasn’t gone out, I usually make dinner. After dinner I will take a shower and go to bed. Once a week the teachers play soccer in the evening at the church gym and I often spend my evenings on Netflix, grocery shopping, looking for a new restaurant to try, or just chatting with my roommates on our patio. I am usually in bed by 8:30.
One lesson I have learned from this experience is that teachers deserve the utmost respect and gratitude from not only students, but also parents and the community in general. The fact that there are individuals who devote their life to educating our youth is a blessing we should all be thankful for. The work is tough, but the reward of seeing a child grasp a concept or get excited about learning is worth the effort.