Out of all the countries I’ve taught English in, this one has been the most challenging.
The major difference here is that I’m not teaching at a school. I’m actually at an after school program teaching free classes for students who want to learn English. No grades or passes or fails. Students can come and go as they please which makes it quite difficult to keep structure. There aren’t any consequences if they are absent or don’t study. There are always a few new students every week, which means I have to backtrack a bit each time so they can catch up.
Roxy has never taught English before but has learned to hold her own the past two weeks. She has an advantage. She is completely fluent in Spanish. It helps when both your parents are from Honduras. The downside is, it’s tempting to speak to the students in Spanish when they don’t understand something. My Spanish is a little less than basic so not speaking any Spanish to them is easy. Roxy only applied to be here for two weeks and now her time was up. The students took a huge liking to her because they were able to communicate with her better than they could with me. But I warned the kids that once Roxy leaves, everything will be primarily in English!
On Roxy’s last day, she wanted to give each student cookies and cupcakes. We handed them out to each class and took pictures with them.
She even donated supplies for the school to use. Spare books and writing utensils. Roxy was great at remembering all their names. I was not. It didn’t help that I was absent from class most of the week from being away in Monterrico and Semuc. I felt a little guilty leaving her on her own all week but I would pay the price the following week when I was all by myself, meaning I had to be there until new volunteers arrived. If I didn’t show up, it meant the kids wouldn’t have a teacher. I had no intentions on missing classes the next week though.
The next day, Roxy headed to Honduras to stay with her parents for a while before she headed back to the States. Roxy, I’ll catch up with ya sometime in the future! Also soon enough, Katie and the Italian guys, Mark, Valerio, and Marco would all be heading to El Salvador for the surf program over the week. Since it was a holiday week, there would be very few new volunteers arriving. None of them English teachers, which actually I preferred. I like having classes all to myself. I just had to figure out how to keep these students motivated. And I think I knew the way! I’ve gotta entertain these kids. Keep them coming back for more.
Since there aren’t any consequences for the students being absent and not studying, I began to implement fun English games with candy as bribery for the winners. Maximo prefers us not to give candy or gifts to the students because they will begin to expect it, but I will only give out candy as rewards and it won’t be everyday. I’ll be strict with it. I borrowed four small white erase boards from Maximo and broke up each class into small groups. I gave each group a board, a marker, and an eraser.
To ensure the students remembered the new vocabulary we taught them such as colors and numbers, I would say a word or phrase in Spanish and they would have to write it down in English. Each team that got it correct would get a point. For the older classes, I would ask them a question in English and they would have to write a proper response for it. I told the groups that the winning teams would get a pile of candy by the end of the week. It became quite competitive which is always a good thing. Over the days, I introduced new games like relay races outside of the class and other fun games all with the basis of learning English. Every time a student asked me something in Spanish, I would say to them “Only English!” Whenever they asked me to use the bathroom, I told them they had to ask me in English otherwise they’d have to pee their pants! No Spanish!
Some of the students excelled at the games. Some did not. Those students who did not, didn’t get any rewards. Hopefully that will motivate them to study and do better. I’ll find out how each student progresses over the next few weeks. There would be days where we would review everything and I would tell the students to pay attention because the next day we will play a game with everything we learned with the prize being a pile of sweets and treats! It peaked their interest and in order to maintain seriousness, I had to be stern. No sweets whatsoever for the ones who lacked.
I really, really enjoyed my time with the classes. They’ve grown to really like me and would stick around after the day was over to ask me questions. I found out from Johnathan that the next week I would be joined by two new volunteers. I’ve already got a rhythm going with these students so we’ll see how that works out. I asked the students to not come on New Year’s Day, I’ll be out and about.
New Year’s Eve was approaching and it was going to be a fun one in the city of Antigua, Guatemala!