New post from missionary Erin Mackenzie
Posted: 12 Oct 2020 06:50 PM PDT
¡Feliz día de la raza! Happy Columbus Day, observed here as “Indigenous Peoples Day.” And by observed, I mean I watched day 209 go by like any other Monday of late, meaning it included English class in Licey.
How’s teaching going, you ask? I continue to give mad props to people who do it voluntarily…with small children…everyday. Buuuuuuut at the same time, I’m pretty sure my face lights up under my mask when something clicks for one of our students, so there’s that. Ideas for new ways to introduce or reinforce concepts come to me unbidden while I’m running at the garden or in the shower, and the rabbit hole of TeachersPayTeachers is ever more alluring. And be still, my teacher heart, when one of our students asked for help outside of class with two exercises in the workbook from a secular English course she’s taking concurrently with the instruction Courtney & I are providing.
A few musings from the classroom that I’ve finally been able to synthesize:
1. Slow and steady wins the race (even though it’s not a race). Our teacher and student books are en route to Santiago as I write this! Top Notch Fundamentals is divided into 14 units of three lessons each. We thought we’d be able to get through a unit every two weeks, but we’ve revised our projection to a unit every three weeks. That’s neither here nor there, just different than expected and 100% OK.
2. Outside your comfort zone is a good place to be…I think. Classroom activities that don’t begin with copying something from the board that’s later recited are radically outside the norm. I can tell it rattles our students, and I can’t decide if stretching them is a positive that will translate into making learning more fun for their students, or if we should yield to the only learning style they know. For now, we’re sticking with the former…
Practicing stating the time and greeting classmates accordingly.
3. Honesty is not always the best policy. Said classroom exercises often involve writing simple sentences on the board or saying them aloud or both. Today in class, we had students draw from two stacks of index cards I’d cut in half and prepped in advance. Their task was to form a sentence with the subject pronouns and professions indicated on their cards by choosing the correct form of the verb “to be,” adding an article if needed, and pluralizing the profession, if needed. Did I lose you yet? Here’s an example:
You (pl.) (affirmative) + missionary = You are missionaries.
I had to laugh when one student drew “I (affirmative)” and “singer.” As we wrestled through each painstaking word together on the board, she looked me square in the face and said seriously, Pero yo no soy cantante (“But I’m not a singer”)! It wasn’t the first time I’ve been met with hesitation when, for the sake of practice, we’ve asked students to verbalize things that are untrue about themselves, their classmates, or the world around them. Commence a discussion about how the truth doesn’t always set you free…from learning proper English grammar!
4. There are no apostrophes in Spanish. I’m learning as much or more than I’m teaching. About patience, about pedagogy, and about my mother tongue. Midway through a lesson on contractions, a student commented that the word apostrophe is known in Spanish but isn’t used commonly. I wholeheartedly agreed: I can’t remember the last time apostrophes came up in the course of normal conversation for me (wait a minute…). Then it hit me. There are no apostrophes in Spanish. None. There are only two contractions, neither of which needs an apostrophe; apostrophes aren’t used to form Spanish possessives, either. A Spanish-speaker would have zero reason to ever use the word “apostrophe.” I’ve had similarly mind-blowing revelations about other things I do without blinking an eye, like changing the “y” at the end of a word to an “ie” when pluralizing it (missionary > missionaries), but only when preceded by a consonant (boy > boys).
Tomorrow, it’s my turn to be a student again as nine of us dig into our penultimate CHE lesson. Courtney & I have an online mission education planning work session after lunch, and in the evening, I’ll gather with the rest of the DR missionaries for a Bible study and potluck at the Krey home – our first since the Wildauer family arrived in Santiago for on-field orientation as they transition from Togo to Belize. I made Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies!
Until next time, blessings!
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