Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 29, 2009

October 29, 2009
Today, I am sitting in the teachers lounge at school with time to update my blog, and study for the GRE. This week was exam week and so the students have a different schedule, they arrive at the same time but they get out of school at eleven-thirty. I gave all of my exams on Tuesday and Wednesday so today, and tomorrow I have to come to school but I have nothing to do. I already finished all my grading, but I am going to wait to hand it in until Friday because I told my students they could do so.
I filled out little half sheets of paper for everyone of my students, that’s about seventy, about what they are missing in my classes. Some students aren’t missing anything while others, particularly one student in my 2nd grade class is missing “un monton!” a huge amount. Arleth has missed over three weeks of school and has made no attempt to catch up. Her mother has asked the principal to not grade her at all for this bimester and then have next bimester count for two. The way the people think of school around here is a little crazy. Anyway, all week I have had to speak with mothers of my students explaining why they were probably missing the assignment. Of course, I can’t say well your daughter is always out of her seat and usually not paying attention, so she probably just didn’t get her paper to me when it was due. Instead I try to explain that she probably lost the paper and that we can make another copy for her to do. Now though, as it has reached Thursday, I have learned that I will never do this sort of thing again. For a couple of reasons, first and foremost it feels like they should’ve done the assignment when I asked. Every time I accept late work I feel like my deadlines mean less. I also knew it would require more work from me to send out the missing homework sheet but I don’t think I really knew how much more work! It’s too much! Most of my colleagues were saying I was crazy to write what they were missing, and I just thought, well I care about my students and that they get good grades. But the truth is that their grades are not going to change much by handing in one or two worksheets.
It’s been a double whammy of culture shock to be teaching and to live in a foreign country. The way they do things here in the school is so unusual to me, and even when I try really hard to understand it I often just say, well I guess its how it is, and move on, because I don’t think I ever will actually understand. For instance, (you knew this was coming with a follow up story didn’t you?) about two weeks ago we were told we had to write exams for the end of the first quarter. I felt stumped by the idea that I had to create an exam for first through third graders. I stopped into the office to see if Miss Evelyn could help me understand what I should do. She said oh you can do it, (insert nodding head here) no problem, just include pictures and ask them to draw pictures, to see if they understood all the stories. So, after that conversation with her I realized I just have to do my best. So I spent a whole Sunday, as did Emily and Brenda, writing exams that covered the whole first quarter. They were due on Monday to Miss Evelyn so that she could check them before making all the copies. The week before our exams were due our reviews for the exams were due and I included everything we have covered at all in my classes. Anyway, once the parents saw how much was going to be covered in my exams they were nervous and thought it was too much for their children.
The homeroom teachers were actually mad at me for making my exam too long, and all the while I thought it was what was expected of me. On this day I felt very frustrated. The homeroom teachers, the people I usually count on to be my allies were mad at me. And I mean mad, Erika, who was my friend at the beginning was literally yelling at me telling me I had done it wrong. As I think back to it I realize how lost I really was. I asked to meet with Miss Evelyn to know for sure what the deal was and to ask if I needed to change my exam. She told me that she thinks the exams should cover the whole period of time and not just the last unit. I think she was just telling me this though, and I feel like she probably explains that I don’t understand how it works in Honduras because I’m the American volunteer. I don’t know this for sure, so I have to let it go but she did tell me that next time we will write our exams over just the last chapters. So in the end, I will change my exams, but the thing that really upset me is that apparently the administration had a meeting about my exams. It would be fine to have a meeting about my exams if they invited me to explain what I knew. So I felt like I was being reprimanded for something I did wrong, but all I’m trying to do is what is right. So anyway all my students did well on the exams and my third graders, the class with the crabbiest parents, had an average of 88 %. I think that is a great result and I’m proud of the fact that I pushed them and believed in them when their parents didn’t.

Friday, October 23, 2009

October 17 b

October 17, 2009
Wow, what an experience this week has been. Last Saturday Emily and I headed out to a bar with some co-workers to watch Honduras play the United States. We both had already bought are jerseys and were ready to support Honduras all the way so I didn’t think about being in any danger. In the end the United States beat Honduras and suddenly I felt less safe. People weren’t flat out rude to us but it was clear that we weren’t welcomed the same. Everybody sure gets in bad moods around here if they lose a soccer game. We ended up making the best of it, having fun with some friends, and then thankfully, Wednesday the 14 made up for it!
So Emily and I knew that the Honduran team was playing El Salvador on Wednesday night and we knew we wanted to watch it. We both thought it unlikely that they would win and from our Saturday experience we were eager to just stay home and watch the game together. A couple friends of ours and our housemate Yara also joined us for the game. We decided to order a pizza and had a blast together. The outlook was not good for Honduras because the United States also had to beat Costa Rica in order to actually make it to the World Cup. We were switching back and forth from one channel to the next to watch as much of each game as we could. Honduras was winning but the United States was behind most of the game. It was Costa Rica 2, United States 1, and in literally the last moments of the game an American headed a ball into the goal. At the time we didn’t quite understand what this meant… but as time passed we realize Honduras and the United States, after all the scoring was figured out, were headed to the World Cup! It was so exciting.
It is awesome to be here in such an important time in Honduras history. Of course, the political situation comes to mind first, but these people love their soccer and they haven’t been to the world cup since 1982! Honduras deserves this pick me up.
Needless to say we had to change out of our lounge around clothes and celebrate that fact that VAMOS AL MUNDIAL! We met up with some more friends down town and watched people fill the streets. Every car had someone hanging out the window, pick up trucks were full of people in the back, some cars even had whole families with little children sitting on top! Honduran flags everywhere, everyone sporting their Honduran Selection jerseys, horns blowing, and smiles! Lots and lots of smiles! It was awesome! I felt a little nervous once because we got caught up in a big crowd of people hooting and hollering but we got out of there quickly. It’s beautiful to see a whole country coming together and being so happy. I will never forget this experience!
Soccer becomes much more exciting when you get to watch it with people who are so pumped!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 17

October 17, 2009
Well I have a happy story about a girl at the home and a sad story. I guess I’ll start with the sad so I can end on a happy note.
Nicole Rojas Mejia, is a girl from the home and is also in my second grade class. She has always had an attitude in school but we have had fun playing together outside of the teacher student relationship. Anyway, on Wednesday of this past week she was eating candy in class. I really don’t feel like this is a big deal but it’s a rule that all the students have to follow and so I have to enforce it for everyone. I asked her to give me her sucker and she said that she was going to wrap it up and save it for later. I agreed with her proposal but then she couldn’t find her wrapper and continued to eat it in my class. I asked her to throw it away and she gave me this giant attitude about how I wasn’t her mother and I couldn’t make her do anything. I said Nicole would you like to discuss this with Ms. Evelyn the principal… and she said yes, so I said ok lets go to the principal’s office then. I took her hand in mine and she ripped it out and then started screaming at me. I left the room to get some help with her and in the end no one could get her to leave the room. She sat in her seat the rest of class not participating. I felt bad about her undermining my authority in front of the whole class and wasn’t sure what to do. I went to ask Ms. Evelyn about it later and she informed me that she had already suspended her for Thursday because she has had an attitude with the homeroom teacher also. It turned out that the incident with me became the breaking point for her getting into a lot of trouble. They take it very seriously when the girls misbehave in the home so she has missed out on a lot of extra activities.
Ok, so the hard part for me is that she has been avoiding me since. I actually, after my experience tonight, prefer the ignoring Nicole rather than the attitude Nicole. I was walking by the home after the folkloric festival today and all the girls were looking out the windows trying to see what was going on. I went and talked to Melissa a little bit about running to the coca-cola sign with the girls next Saturday and then I went to the next window to say hi to those girls. I didn’t realize that Nicole was at the window, and before I had a chance to say anything, or to decide to walk away she had slammed the window shut in my face. I just smiled at her she made a snotty face back at me and then that was it. I walked away reminding myself that I will love her unconditionally and that I can handle her attitude… but it obviously still did not feel good.
The happier story is about another girl in second grade. Riccy is a total sweet heart and is a great student. She has a happy spirit and we seemed to have really clicked. Her birthday was last week and so at church last Sunday she got to go up for her Birthday prayer. After they pray they sing to all the people with birthdays that past week. Riccy turned around with a huge smile on her face and was just radiating with pride that she had turned ten years old. I got teary and felt the way I imagine a mother would feel about her daughter. I love Riccy and am so thankful for the opportunity to get to know her and to help educate her so that she can become some one that only she can imagine.
On Friday I found out that the dog I grew up with, Max, had to be put down. I got the news before I went to school so I was trying not to think about it too much, but the truth is it was very sad for me. I know everyone has to go through pets dying, and I’ve coped well, but he was still a great dog that I will miss greatly. Anyway all day Friday I was trying to stay happy, and at the end of school Riccy had written me a card saying that she would miss me when I moved back to the states. I told her how much it meant to me to get that card that day. A blessing no doubt, that this particular day she felt like writing me a card.
So there are ups and downs to this job, but in the end, I’m learning from everything and amazed by God’s presence in my life over and over again!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October 7

October 7, 2009
I have felt probably every emotion under the sun the past 24 hours. I’m sure its just another way culture shock manifests itself but I feel like I need to recap it all for those of you who find my emotions interesting… or atleast I bother you enough to read my blog that you feel it is necessary to stay updated ;-)
Yesterday, I felt lost and pondered for the first time what it would be like to come home early. Before you fret please know that I only thought about it. As I think about it I feel like it would be worse to leave this organization then to bite the bullet and get through the next year. I’m still getting used to the fact that I’m not in college anymore. That means a whole lot of change even if I wasn’t in another country. Ok so because I have been feeling a little bit down, I find it hard to find things to write about. I guess it’s a coping mechanism.
Today I woke up in a pretty foul mood, just trying to cope. Anyway, once I got to school I was asked to help out with Third grade because Erika hurt her back and wasn’t able to come in to school. I didn’t have lesson plans for her class so we played heads up seven up, an old favorite of mine, and then we made cards for Erika. I really do love these kids, and they love me. It is wonderful to be able to just have fun with them once in a while without pressure that they need to be learning something from me.
I made it through all my morning classes and after lunch I was asked to go to a meeting for Eduardo. (I wrote about him in an earlier post, he is the boy that has a learning disability). He has been behaving bad every once in a while and sometimes he puts the other children in danger. The parents don’t help much with the situation so we have had to keep track of everything he does. Today was the breaking point. Yesterday he stabbed me with his pencil randomly while I was in front of the class teaching. It didn’t hurt and he apologized right away, (he does not have control over the actions of his body) but I still had to report it. I gave him a long talk about how it could’ve been my eye and blah blah blah but then later in the day he did the same thing to a student who then started bleeding. So in order to protect itself the school had to meet with the parents today about expelling him. (of course this is after many many many incidents) They pulled him out of class today and kept him in the principals office. I sat with him every free period I had. We colored, played hide and seek, tic tac toe, and just talked. He drew me a picture of his family where his dad was hitting him. I just hate the fact that I am here in Honduras and can’t get this boy the help he really needs. We had an IEP meeting of sorts about him today. The focus was about whether we were going to ask him to leave our school, and near the end of the meeting, unable to stop myself I said what about this kids parents? They clearly hit him and Eduardo is afraid, what can we do about it? They looked at me with pity and said, in Spanish of course, this is not the United States; we can’t do anything about it. There are too many kids being hurt by their parents. I sat back took a deep breath and tried to relax. I felt so angry that we are going to leave this kid to be home alone with his father who beats him. So anyway, I don’t want to dwell on what I can’t change but it was wonderful to sit with him today. He is an absolutely great kid one on one. I will miss him.
Then I went to the home to tutor the girls. I always feel too tired to tutor and wish I didn’t have to go, but after getting there I always feel so happy for the friendship of the girls. We laugh and joke and get some homework done in between J I love the girls in the home! I have to remember every morning that I am here for their sake. I teach so that the school can raise money to make sure these girls have their needs met. I hope that I can remember that and I pray that everyday I will feel blessed to be able to be a part of such an amazing organization.

October 1st

October 1, 2009
I can’t believe its October already. I am trying to stay away from the aching part of my thoughts that reminds me what its like to wear jeans and a sweatshirt to class in the morning, and how wonderful it was to look forward to Saturday Cross Country meets. The heat here is non-stop 90 degrees.
I want to make sure that I stay current with my blog entries, but it doesn’t feel like much has changed. All the beginning excitement has worn off and I’m trying to get used to the idea that this is my life. I usually find joy in overcoming challenges but the trick is that I have always chosen to overcome challenges I enjoy. Does that mean it is no longer a challenge? It is certainly a new challenge to be here teaching every day with a smile on my face and patience for my students. I’m bored, it gets old teaching consonants vs vowels, reading comprehension of Ramona Quimby, and obedience; saying that though, it has gotten much better. I can do anything for a year right?
I have gotten to know everyone around here much more, for better or worse. My housemates and I are all still making our co-habitation work even though we are all very different. At school though, some of the teachers who were really nice and friendly to us at the beginning seem to be backing off a bit. Maybe its just a phase they are going through or we are going through but its strange. I’m coming from just spending four years with all of my best friends, so I never had to guess what they were thinking or feeling… I just knew J Those of you who are reading this Oh I miss you so! I also feel a little bit like once they realized I can get around on my own and speak Spanish they were less interested because I tried to make it clear I wanted them as friends and not as caregivers. This is just speculation of course, they could just be very busy. So take it all with a grain of salt but what’s a blog if I can’t speculate why I feel the way I do?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1

Wow I can't believe its October already. I guess since I'm completing my second month here I should get some photos of where I live up! My pictures uploaded backwards than what I planned but... thats ok... right?
This is the view from my room. Gorgeous mountains that I try to peek at every morning just to remind myself how little my task for the day is.
You can't see it in the picture but I can see the famous coca-cola sign from my window, and at night it lights up! I have run up that mountain once, I hope to do it again.

The view of my bathroom door, and my little kitchen sink area. The sun looks pretty in this picture but its HOT!
My bed, I love the head board. Its perfect for all the pictures of the ones I love!

The view of my room from my kitchen sink and my door. That is my wall of love with all the pictures my students make for me. Cozy little place isn't?

My kitchen sink and desk when I walk in my door.

Ok, Thats all, another post to come soon!

Love you all!