On Monday, I headed to my SENA center to check things out. SENA stands for Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje and it is kind of similar to a technical school. On Monday and Tuesday, I was introduced to all the faculty, given a tour of the school, and familiarized with the platforms I would be using to enter grades and attendance. I got my schedule on Tuesday and started class on Wednesday.
I have 3 different groups of students who have 2 hour classes 4 times a week. The other 16 hours will be spent doing lesson plans, and giving lessons to the English teachers at the center (they all speak really good English, but would like to take advantage of having native speakers available to help improve their conversation, pronunciation, etc.)
I was a little worried about the classes, since 2 of my 3 groups have more than 30 students. The third group has about 25, but I was warned that they were a really hard class to control and that I need to be strict (but not too strict so they hate me). So be nice…(but not too nice that they walk all over me). My first class was at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday (yes, 6:00 a.m….3 times a week – which means I get to wake up at 4:45 to get ready and get to school on time – not so stoked about that). It was with the “bad” class, but it went fine. Only 12 of them showed up, so that helped. I’m also thinking that having them in a 6 a.m. class might work to my advantage. Hopefully they’ll be too tired to cause much trouble. My classes with my other groups went pretty well, too. Surprisingly, for classes that size, they were extremely easy to manage, and the students were really attentive. This may be the honeymoon period where they have a brand new gringa teaching them, so they want to pay attention, but I’m hoping it lasts. You probably wouldn’t think classroom management would be a huge issue in a college setting, but kids here graduate high school in the 11th grade, so when they move on to go to school at SENA, they can be pretty young. It’s basically like teaching a high school class.
I feel like this is my first “real” teaching job. People here ask me if I have teaching experience, and I tell them I do, because I did teach English in Peru and in Georgia (country not state). However, I think of Peru less as “teaching” experience and more as “trying to make sure 35 small children don’t cause each other significant bodily harm while they’re under my supervision” experience. Those kids were crazy and literally made me cry at one point as I stood helpless at the front of the class while they ran amok in the classroom. In Georgia, the experience I gained was more related to how to resist the urge to punch my co-teacher in the mouth when she continually told me how stupid the students were and how she wasn’t going to waste time trying to teach some of them because they were “backwards and couldn’t learn.” In the time I spent working with my other co-teacher, who was way better, the challenges revolved more around how to teach a class with extremely limited materials (the blackboards were falling apart, much like the rest of the school building). In Colombia, not only do I have white boards in every room, I can check out a projector and speakers, and the building even has internet (not great internet, but let’s not get greedy). Moreover, I have students that seem willing and excited to learn. Plus, it helps that I speak Spanish. I try my best to speak it as little as possible in class, but it does help to be able to explain an activity if they’re not getting my English explanation, and to understand questions they have for me, but don’t know how to put in English. I know people are all for immersion, but I couldn’t imagine going to my beginner Japanese classes with a teacher who only spoke Japanese. I would have just spent the whole time being confused instead of learning anything.
The other positive is that everyone is super nice. Like extremely nice. Like whatarethesepeopleonbecauseiwantsometoo nice. Everyone that works there has been really welcoming and helpful. They’re all laid back and really friendly. And it’s a lot of fun to teach older students, because they can be hilarious.
For example, yesterday, I played Jeopardy with my students so I could get an idea of what level they’re at (I’m starting with them mid-semester since their previous teachers left the program). I had them divide into teams and think of a team name in English. One team was trying to tell me their name and for the life of me I couldn’t understand it. They would say it and I would repeat it back, and they would shake their heads no. Finally, I thought I figured out what they were trying to say…I gave them a weird look and said “The Virgins??” This was met by frantic headshaking by the team and laughter by the other students. After a few more tries, I finally figured out that they wanted to be The Divergents – like the book/movie. However, the damage was done, and they were referred to as “The Virgins” by their classmates for the remainder of the lesson. Sorry, guys.
Today, I handed out a worksheet. We were working on Simple Past, and there was a space to fill out things that they did at different times in the past – last night, 2 days ago, last week, last month and last year. At the end of class, one of the girls grabbed her friend’s worksheet and said “Teacher, she is very bad! Look at her paper.” I looked at the paper and saw the following: Last night I read. Two days ago I listened to music. Last week I watched the penis. Last month I had sex every day. I about died laughing. The girl told me that it was actually her friend (the one who told on her) who wrote it, which her friend adamantly denied.
I think it’s going to be an interesting semester!