I’m pretty sure a post is way past due, but I’m not sure where to begin. Babies, English class or special education?
So much has been going on this week, including the season premier of Lost, the final season, which I have traveled to great lengths to procure. And it has proven totally worth it!
In Casa Promesa (the baby house, I think it’s a cute name: House of Promise), the only thin blue carpet, that covered half the play area has disappeared! I’m pretty sure I understand this is because it was holding the potent smell of the diarrhea incident (see Monday February 1st) as well as the remnants of other bodily functions it obtained through the years. This now means that the babies play on a tile floor all the time. Very clean. But it also means that the non-walkers, are now in swings or chairs all the time, and are no longer interacting with the other babies or have toys to play with. In place of the rug is a small mat, think gymnastics class, that is sometimes laid out but never cleaned. Still, I like the idea! After talking with the donations coordinator, I think more of these mats would me better than another rug (hard to clean) and those puzzle piece mats. Apparently they had those once and they accumulate a lot of crud in the spaces that is difficult to fully get out. Needless to say, those mats are now sitting in the corner of my special ed classroom collecting dust.
Tonight however, was really great in the baby house. Some days we have local kids from the wealthy neighborhood behind the orphanage come hang out. There were 4 today so we got the kids fed, changed and ready for bed very fast. We even had time to do some dishes and other clean up. After, we were able to sit them all down in the living room for a story, song and pray before bed. This would be my ideal every night, unfortunately, without 9 people, it is more of a challenge and effort.
I also need to print a retraction: our newest baby, is in fact 8 months old, based on her doctor’s visit. She is only 12lbs though, and so tiny you would never guess that by appearance. They think she was really premature, and has development and mal-nutrition problems.
Which brings me to my next topic: Special education. First of all I should back up and explain that there are two teachers in the classroom. One for the younger set, 5-10 year olds and one for the teenagers. The teacher for the teenagers is much better, she tries to spend forty minutes to an hour with each student personally. Unfortunately, that leaves the other five to be doing things like:
Math: Listing numbers 1-1,000 (that I discovered on Monday they don’t know). I mean they know the order of the numbers, but they can’t say any number above 100 if asked.
Science: aka geography. Learning names of lakes, rivers, ports, mountains in North, Central and South America.
Handwriting: Practicing letters over and over again or copying passages from the Bible
Reading: Ma, Me, Mi, Mo, Mu…. You get the idea. Sounds, small words, not stories. I’m pretty sure they can’t read the passages they copy from the Bible.
Basically, everything is based on memorization; there is no concept behind it. This is probably okay for some kids, but it clearly wasn’t working for these, hence their placement in special ed.
Next: I LOVE Wednesday’s. Why? Because the teacher for the younger kids doesn’t come on Wednesday, and they class is all mine. She leaves things to do, I usually edit this agenda. So kill me. For example, she left a picture to color. I drew some lines on it when the kids were done, made them cut it out and paste it back together on construction paper. They seemed to like the activity and it was a good challenge for some. Then we played color and shape bingo. After went outside and I had them running around after different colors and shapes I would call out.
I am getting much better at communicating instructions is Spanish but it is really difficult disciplining and negotiating with the kids. I feel like that the only way I can get them to behave is by engaging them with fun activities and using rewards (lollypop anyone?).
Finally, on Monday we graduated one of our special ed kids to Prepa, which goes in between kinder and premerio (1st grade). Essentially it is pre-first, and while he is the oldest in his class, at least, everyone is at the same place, and will be moved at the same pace. It’s a good move, and we are left with six, two of which are ahead of the other four. It evens the playing field to teach the special ed class as well.
English: I taught pre kinder (age 4) and kinder (age 5) on Tuesday and Prepa (6-7), Premiero (6-8) and Segundo (7-9) today, Thursday. It got much easier with the older grades, but I was surprised that the teachers left me alone in the rooms and did who knows what during my time! Again, I could communicate the material, but it was difficult keeping control at times. I’m pretty pleased with the results, especially with the older groups. For pre-kinder and kinder I think I’m going to have to modify my lessons a little. The thing that’s really nice, however, is because I live here the kids see me all the time and talk to me. Today, for example, one of the first graders caught me walking around during nap time at the baby house and says: “Hi, Miss.” Now I reply in English with them, so I asked “How are you?” and he said, “bien.” So I reminded, “good.” But I was pleased that he at least came up to the right response to my question, even if it was in Spanish, at least he understood.
Lastly, I promise. I am involved in this Secret Santa at school but for Valentine’s day. This week and next we leave little presents like candy or a card for our Valentine, and then next Friday, at the party, we reveal with a big gift. It’s nice, but it occurred to me today that if you translate English to Spanish, the rhymes no longer work! And nothing rhymes with azul the Spanish word for blue.