Afternoon everyone! I can’t believe it’s September, let alone that Emily and I have already been in Chile for a week now. Here, trees are beginning to blossom again, and (I think) the weather is slowly but surely getting warmer. I have survived a week without a coat – a silly thing to forget considering spring isn’t *officially* here until the end of September – and we have spent a week at our project!
In case you don’t know, Emily and I are going to be working as English language assistants at Colegio Juan Luis Undurraga over the next year. Quilicura, the commune the school is located in, and also the commune we’re living in, is one of the poorer areas of Santiago, with a large demographic of Haitian immigrants. The children at the school come from a wide range of backgrounds and many also have additional needs. As we learned this week, there are a number of children (particularly in the older classes we went into) who don’t want to study English.
Anyway, here is a rundown of the first week at our project!
We get to school everyday for around 7:30 in the morning. Our school is in one of the rougher areas of Quilicura so Miguel has driven us in every day this week (although hopefully starting next week we can use the Micro, a bus, to get home). We met the English department (we forgot to get photos – sorry), and started the day by having a tour of the school with Fabian -the ‘head’ of the English department – and also by meeting one of Angela’s (a 3rd and 4th grade English teacher) 3rd grade classes. Needless to say it was….a bit of a shock to the system.
The classes here each include around 40 students, which means they are very noisy and can sometimes be very hard to control. The 3rd grade class was very energetic and loud, and the 5th grade class we went into with Nicholas (another English teacher) for the next lesson was equally as disrupted. I feel like we were partly responsible for that, though, as we are new and exciting. During one of the breaks, Emily and I were given (another) tour of the school by one of the girls in the 5th grade class, who was also very sweet and gave us lollipops.
In the afternoon, we went into two different kindergarten classes with Elizabeth, another one of our coworkers, and spent it singing various songs and answering questions that varied from ‘what’s your name?’ to ‘What is your favourite vegetable?’. I have also learned that people from Chile find it very hard to pronounce my name, and as such get called a number of different variations by both the students and the staff.
Needless to say we went to bed very early that evening! Below are some pictures of what you would see as you enter the school. The school is for ages 5-18, and consists of two buildings and the gymnasium. It’s a very big school, and has a lot of outdoor space considering it’s an inner-city school!
There are lots of Chilean flags about at the moment in preparation for dieciocho (Chilean Independence Day).
As Fundación Belén Educa, the foundation that funds the school, is a Catholic foundation, every morning school begins with a prayer in each class. On Tuesday morning we sat in on one of the 8th grade classes’ prayer. In each class a sort of prayer cloth is put on a desk and a candle is lit. In this class we were invited to tell God what we were thankful for and spoke about values and morals that the foundation seeks to promote in all their schools.
After this, we spent part of the morning in another 8th grade English class where we watched groups of students present one of the body’s systems (digestive, circulatory, respiratory…) in English – something Emily and I were very impressed with considering when we were around 14 we were just learning how to conjugate the simple future tense in Spanish!
We then spent the rest of the morning watching a Cueca competition. La Cueca is a traditional Chilean dance, and Undurraga was hosting a competition for all ages across around 6 schools, all part of Belén Educa. Emily and I were given permission to spend the rest of the morning watching all the children (and staff) compete, which is what we did:
As you can see, we got into the school spirit! The Cueca is a traditional courting dance and aims to mirror the courting ritual of a rooster and a hen. While I may have very little rhythm when it comes to dancing, this traditional dance is something I definitely want to try over the course of our year.
After lunch, Emily and I spent the afternoon in another kindergarten class with Elizabeth, where we were shown what all the children could say in English. In this class, all of the children were able to identify different animals and objects, as well as describe them (i.e. ‘this is a blue pencil’) – something else we were very impressed by as in the UK we learn how to say that in another language in secondary school.
After school, we were picked up by Miguel and taken home, where Emily and I began to plan a display board that we were going to re-do.
(We also went over apostrophes, hence the “Jesus’ disciples” sentence with no context)
On Wednesday, we began our display board, only to halt production almost instantly as we were invited on a school trip by Estefanie, another one of the English teachers. This trip occurs once every year for all of the classes in the school, and as such we decided to seize the opportunity and go.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos, but we accompanied the same 8th grade class we were with for the morning prayer to a sort of ‘retreat’ built specifically for Belén Educa and for its schools to use.
As such, we spent much of the day in a sort of classroom, where the students had to complete various activities that all centred around personal growth. These ranged from meditation in the morning, to learning to understand multiple perspectives of an event or choice they made (e.g. ‘can you understand why your parents may not want you to stay out after dark?’) and thinking about a personal challenge they want to set themselves next year.
Spending the day like this was really interesting. At least for me, our school never really did anything like this when I was there. As an newly-graduated student of secondary school, I can understand why trips like this may be tedious for the students, but I feel like they all enjoyed themselves – if not only because Emily and I were quite funny during the games we all played together (we had very little idea of what was being said by everyone).
Today was also the first day I woke up feeling homesick. While it wasn’t too bad, I feel like I was a bit grumpy in the morning. Thankfully this trip helped distract me and clear my mind (the naps I had on the way there and on the way back didn’t hurt, either).
On Thursday morning Emily and I finally completed our display board! As we were told by Elizabeth that students had difficulty telling the time in Spanish, let alone English, we decided to make our display around how to tell the time – coincidentally, we found out that Angela was also going to be teaching her students how to tell the time in English in the next few weeks!
Whilst we had various issues with not being able to access more paper because the office was closed for the day and sticking things in the wrong places, I feel like we did really well for our first display! Shoutout to my mum for dragging me into school that one day during the summer holidays – the knowledge of the art of making board displays was invaluable.
After our adventures in board displays, Emily and I had a short meeting with Angela about the work we will be doing in her 4th grade classes starting tomorrow (yikes!). We are going to be doing speaking intervention with the students in her class in preparation for the Cambridge Movers test they’ll be taking in October. It’s going to be difficult to start with, but I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to work more closely with the children.
We then went into an 8th grade class, the same one that we went on the trip with. This lesson was definitely the hardest of the week, as it definitely made me doubt myself the most. Despite this seemingly negative experience, spending time in the other classes made me remember all the positive experiences I’ve had so far. That, and talking to my mum in the evening.
Later on, Emily and I went to help Esteban in one of his second grade lessons. Due to a computer malfunction, we spent a lot of the lesson speaking with the students and listening to a violin performance as one girl in the class plays the violin! I have been told that there is a school orchestra and violin workshops that go on throughout the week, which is something I’m really interested in taking part in. Watching Laura play reminded me of when I first started the violin as she is around the same age I was (although I’m sure she probably practices way more than I did when I was her age).
We ended the day by going into another 8th grade English class with Alejandra. Once again, we were listening to presentations about the different body systems, however this time we were definitely more involved as we went around each group helping with presentation and getting to know the students more. Something interesting that happened was we were suddenly faced with lots of cameras at the end of the lesson – I don’t think I’ve ever had someone want to take some many photos with me in my life! The students were all really nice, and we said ‘ciao’ to the girls and were kissed on the cheek (the custom greeting and goodbye here in Chile) as we said goodbye at the end of the lesson.
One of the highlights from Friday was the 5th grade morning prayer. As the students are younger, most of their prayer time is spent singing songs and once again asking God for things (I think most people asked for good health for their family). Once girl gave Emily and I post it notes that she’d written a note on, which definitely brought up my mood from the morning difficult day previously. I’ve decided to keep it with the lanyard I wear everyday to remind me of all the great things about my project:
I honestly didn’t realise school could be so exhausting! We woke up shattered, and didn’t quite start functioning properly until well into the day, when we assisted in a 7th grade English class of Estefanie’s. At the moment 7th grade are learning about natural disasters, so after introducing ourselves and being subjected to numerous questions from the students (who were all really kind once again), we made sure that everyone was paying attention to the video and writing down the specified vocabulary. While I was scared about getting attitude back from the students when I asked them to put their phones away and focus, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, even though I had to ask a few of the, several times! With time left at the end of the lesson, Emily and I spent time talking to a group of girls (things we were told by them: apparently all Chilean boys are gross and ‘machista’, and that they wanted to come home with us in our suitcases so they could see more of the world). Once again, we left the class after a round of kisses and hugs and ‘ciao’s.
In the afternoon we spent time in an 8th grade class and another 7th grade class, both of which we more difficult. As I think I mentioned before, students are a lot more ‘free’ in lessons, which meant that the students were less focused on the work and more on, well, anything else.
Working in a school is exhausting! It’s a lot of fun, though. I’m looking forward to spending more time working with the children and coming up with ice breakers to use in the lessons. Emily and I have a lot of ideas that we want to do in school, and I’m really looking forward to what the next year will bring. For now, though, we’re going to prepare an activity to explain the present conditional.
My 10 words from over the weekend (I’m slacking, I know) will hopefully be up later on today (or in the early hours of Monday morning for all you UK residents). I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things over the next week.