Well, to begin, I will answer everyone’s pressing question: It took 6 days for me to get sick from some combination of water and food! I felt great until about 6:30pm and then like a flood I got really sick, my stomach has since settled and I enjoyed saltines for dinner (thanks mom!) but lesson number 134: even through a coffee pot, the water can make you sick. I was being really carful too about not drinking it, but I was using tap water for coffee. Not good! And no mom I don’t have a parasite, just a little upset.
So anyway, I have been working in the special education classroom in the mornings and then at 1 heading over to the baby house, where I am literally another set of hands and extra love. Starting in February I will teach English for 8 weeks, to the pre-kinder through 3rd gradish classrooms. Not what I would have chosen for myself, and in fact I didn’t, but I truly like everything.
However, if you asked me that on Monday, I was livid. What angered me most was that I wasn’t included in the discussion about what I was going to spend 11 weeks doing. I guess this is typical for an orphanage, especially when they don’t know a person, but I was definitely surprised when I thought I was attending a meeting for my assignments and instead was told to go to the baby house.
I have been in the special education classroom since Monday (the first day of school for the year here), and they need so much help. I think it’s wonderful, even progressive, that this orphanage has (1) a school, and (2) a recognition of the need for special education, but this classroom is kind of a mess. Twelve children from ages 5-14 and completely varying degrees of challenge sit at desks in a room with no toys, reading books or anything creative (the regular classes have these things) and depending on age either color or draw red squares for margins in their notebooks. Ages 5-9 have been coloring workbook after workbook and tracing number and letter, but they can’t read them. After the coloring is done, they get to rip colored paper and glue it into the picture they have colored. The teachers, have been preparing the school supplies for the past 4 days. They, and I, have been covering notebooks and folders, first in paper then in plastic and coloring in pictures of hearts and suns to glue onto the notebook covers. The older kids have been drawing red margins and numbering every page, front and back, of about 6 books each. The notebooks, however, look like ours and have a blue and red line on each side of the page. Apparently, they need to trace over these and add top and bottom lines with a ruler completing the square. Sometimes the younger kids get to play with playdough, but again they get one color, no extra toys, like stamps or cookie-cutters, and must sit at their desk. It is sometimes tortures me to be in the room.
I decided however, that I will take time to teach what I can, when I can, even if I’m not supposed to. I’m good at pretending I don’t understand, (and sometimes I still don’t). Yeststerday, for example, when one child, who is 7, finished coloring, I suggest he write his name. I realized he couldn’t, so I took a paper, wrote his name across the top and then did some dotted line names. By the end, he could free-hand the letters looking at my example! I also had three other kids come to me to learn to write their name, because they were excited about it. And today, Maria, was still tracing over what she wrote yesterday, and singing to herself. I know it’s simple, but it was so rewarding seeing how happy the kids were doing it. It was the first thing that captured their attention and a project they wanted to do. Even if they don’t yet know the letters, they are starting to see how their name looks and can replicate it. The workbook today had E in it and Enrique said to me, “I learn this yesterday, it’s in my name.” So I said, “learn it well it’s in your name twice!”
Today, the teacher gave a student addition problems with numbers in the hundreds and thousands. This child is severely mentally disabled, but is very intelligent. She asked me to correct the work and literally every problem was wrong. To begin I discovered he was adding the columns from left to right. Second, he was losing count in his head. For example, 2 + 6 ended up being 3 or 4, because when he went back to add the second number he would start over counting. Third he would carry, but then forget to add all three numbers together. He would only add one onto the top number and stop. Ok maybe too much detail, but the point is, when I told the teacher he got everyone wrong, she shook her head and shrugged. I think, though I might misunderstand, that no one has even identified where his confusion lay. I found a dusty abacus in the back of one of the closets with colorful beads so each column looks different. We went through all of the problems again, counting out the first number on the top of the abacus and the second number on the next line (and if we carried including the 3 number) then counting it all together. He not only understood, but when I gave him a new set of numbers continued the pattern and got nearly everyone right. We’re still working on carrying. He was so into it that he wanted to finish after the bell rang, and take the abacus home! No one ever gave him something to count with!
Words do not express how happy I was leaving school these past two days. I know that I will not be here forever and I don’t know what will be remembered after I am gone, but I can already feel the little successes. I don’t intend to change the faults of the classroom, but while I am in that room, I will literally do whatever small things I can to really teach something and get a response.
That’s a lot for now, so I will save the babies for tomorrow as well as my English class.
By the way:
The fruit is called “zapote”
And I survived an earthquake. Apparently everyone else felt it, I didn’t and had no clue why everyone was evacuating the building. I literally sat at a desk bewildered. I’m kind of disappointed; I would have liked to actually feel my first earthquake!
My room has a shower, the hot water just doesn’t work for more than 30 seconds, you have to turn the shower off and on between the various diciplines.