20 January 2011

Trials and Victories

Today was one of the best days of Colegio I've had this year. I've had a more fun day (like the time we played frisbee with Maryam's class, or the time we just played Save the Fox the whole time). But today, it was just a regular English class. I mean, we actually did work. But my students paid attention. They actually seemed to be enjoying it, in an infinitesimally small way. They listened during the listening section, they spoke when I asked them questions, and only one of them asked to go to the bathroom once. When they didn't know an answer, it wasn't because they hadn't been listening 5 seconds ago when I said the answer three times. Everyone had at least attempted to do their homework, and one of the students who always copies his homework, didn't. And one of the girls who I was pretty sure hated me actually made eye contact and smiled. Yes, people, this is a victory.

Lets back up. Lets back up to here, a few months ago. Where it was a struggle to have them actually acknowledge me coming into the class. Where I saw having them make fun of my Spanish accent as a success because it meant they were engaging with me. And we could back up to here, where a student cheated on my test, and compromised it, so everyone had to retake it, which I wasn't even as bummed as I should've been about it because over half the class failed it anyways.

And then this trimester? Tamia doubled her test score. Everyone improved (except, not ironically, the one who cheated). My students will say "hi" to me in passing--or "hola," rather, they still refuse to use English outside of class. I think the idea of staying in class during class, and not taking 15 minute "bathroom breaks" has finally been fixed in their consciousness enough so they only ask me once or twice a class, instead of the 15, arm-tugging, whining times of last semester.

I attribute this success to divine confirmations, my family, and me not losing hope. My mom and dad have both shared a bunch of tips, of which some of the most useful have been written expectations and warm-ups before class. (a thank you as well to some very generous Alaskans who enabled me to buy each student a warm-up notebook, which was the first 100% participation assignment I'd had!) Maryam, too, supports me an amazing amount--I'm lucky to have someone who is going through very similar challenges as I am.

I still feel exhausted after every colegio day. I still feel like a fish swimming upstream, fighting against a school culture of Minimum Effort and a Bureau of Education that says a 55-65% is an "average" student. It still bothers me that a huge majority of the students, a huge majority of the time, do not "Have their Learn On". But this is an improvement, and so I am happy.

18 January 2011


Firstly: Widgets are fabulous. Just the name widget is worth paying attention to. And then the widgets themselves are very cool. Such as the countdown widget that tells me exactly how long until my amazing friends , other amazing friends, and sister come visit me. Or the fish widget that is like those old tamagachi toys except you don't have to clean up their poop.

Secondly: Maps are fabulous. Mercator, Projection, Political, Physical, any type of map is kind of amazing. Especially of the world, because things look so close together. Even Ecuador and Alaska are only a hand span apart...even the distance between Alaska and South Africa can be traversed in a quick spin. And maps are informative, without throwing information at you in the face. They have keys, little treasure maps to knowledge that will tell you everything you need to know with out understanding textbook definitions. They're colorful, and real.

Thirdly: When you put together two fabulous things (See: Firstly and Secondly) you get this widget (lovingly shown to me by Emily):

ITS AMAZING. Click on it if you want one. And how could you not? Its like blogger stats, but 3D-ified and instantaneous. Its brilliant. I feel like Joey Lucas on Election day. LOVE LOVE LOVE.