Written: October 14th, 2016
Well… we made it to the Galapagos island of Isabela where our volunteer organization is located. The town is tiny, everyone knows everyone. We work from 7 (for me)/8 (for Daniel) in the morning to 12 (for Daniel)/1 (for me) in the afternoon. We eat lunch and dinner at local spots that participate in the organizations program….so traditional rice, meat, and juice….for. every. meal.
The first day I went to the school lots of emotions were happening. Even though I’ve been a teacher for the last 5 years, it still was… Terrifying. I thought I knew some Spanish but for some reason when anyone talks to me I can’t seem to say anything in Spanish… or English. Super helpful.
After a 5 minute walk from home I arrive at the school, which is adorable. Every grade has a different white washed circular house with tile floors and open windows. The first class I stepped into was 3rd grade. I didn’t have much time with these kiddos so I said “Hi”, my name and that I was from California (which was a HUGE hit, thank god).
Little did I know that on my first day I would jump right in and lead a lesson but the next thing I know I’m in a 4th grade class teaching a lesson about science ….. in English to Spanish speakers… 2 out of the 3 topics I don’t know a lot about… but after a lot of hand gestures, pictures and a lot of “Profer, que es esto?” Not everyone seemed completely confused. That’s a win in my book.
After lunch I taught a level 3 class, which are 13-15 year olds. Finally, something that’s in my wheel house. Teens. Again, I just thought I would be observing the class since it was my first day and all. However, I should have caught on to how the next 2 weeks were going to go by then because I was wrong and ended up teaching a lesson about global warming to a group of 10 kids. Let’s hope they already knew how to recycle.
The first day was the hardest but the rest of the 2 weeks turned out pretty great. I got better at Spanish, had more confidence in the classroom and speaking and the kids all were extremely welcoming, curious and helpful.
A couple of takeaways from my first international volunteer classroom experience.
- It’s way easier to practice Spanish with kids.. mostly because they don’t judge and if they don’t get it … they just keep asking until you eventually come up with some mix of Spanish and English explanation that they (and you) can understand.
- They are super curious about you, so they constantly are trying to speak with you, touch you and help you.
- The kids were adorable and hanging on me after a couple days.
- Being a teacher is definitely a universal skill and jumping into a classroom is like riding a bike.
- Teenagers are teenagers wherever you go.
Overall, it was a wonderful first taste into teaching internationally and I can’t wait to head off to 6 whole weeks of more teaching and hang time with the kids in Panama!