Alternatively Titled: Adventures in ESL Beginnings
On Monday, armed with a team of 30ish eager teenagers from Grace Church in Carmel, we opened up the school to 100 students. Most are from Chambrun or the neighboring Despinos, the children’s home on campus, or a nearby orphanage. Our levels range from only knowing how to say “My name is…” to highly advanced. Our youngest is a 5 year old and oldest 17 but most are 8-14.
I had really bad first-day jitters on Monday. We had been planning this for weeks but actually having it all real made me feel the pressure to do a good job. Not being a teacher or an education major, I was easily intimidated by the other ESL interns but I’m naturally good with kids and love teaching too. It’s was not hard to pick up at all. Now I’m really comfortable in front of my students and they all love the class. The biggest stress of my job is now just cooperating with my translator and making sure the team members are engaged.
So all my students are wonderful but I’d thought I’d share about a few of them. Valmyrnah is the smallest 8 year old you’ve ever seen but she is passionate about learning. She’s always the one with bright eyes, watching and copying everything I do. Wyclif, also known as KiKi, can act like a punk but he’s always the first one to volunteer to sing the worship song. When we visited the village this week, I caught him singing it to himself, so I know at least one kid is retaining it all. Sabriella and Jenny are extremely bright, probably some of the best in our advanced class, and have their hands in the air the second I ask a question, not even waiting for the translation. Abigael, the devious 7 year old I’m sponsoring, is a total wild punk who likes to stick his tongue out while I’m teaching but in the same second, sticks it out in concentration trying to spell his English words perfectly. Romilson, who’s probably near 15, gave me a letter this week about what he is learning with “thank you for teaching Magi (the kreyol spelling of my name)” on the bottom. Moses, who is near fluent, wrote a letter to his mom telling her about the creation story, using dialogue and past and future tense. He’s a trouble-maker with the teenage American girls but brilliant and funny, too. Stenio is in the intermediate class and he’ll sometimes slip into speaking in French with me; I don’t like to 1. because he needs to be learning English and 2. his French is better than mine. Louis-Christo, a 12 year old who inexplicably became very sick and lost a ton of weight, resulting in him joining our malnutrition program, is whip-smart and so humble. It takes a lot for me not to just smother him in compliments and extra love all the time. There’s a lot of more kids (Jean-Kendy, Jean-Lucson, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Kentho, Frantzy, Franzie, Kenia, Widlene, Blandia, Juline, Ashley, Iterson, Estherlove, Wonjelly, Valasse, Wandel, Adlove, and all the rest) who I can also gush about but there’s only so many hours in the day.
I adore these kids and I adore my job.
I’m constantly humbled by how very valued education here is. Learning English opens up so many opportunities for these kids and having them appreciate what they’re learning makes it a real pleasure and honor to teach.
Along the same lines, I also love this job because it is a intimate perspective into the Haitian culture. I teach “Activities” which I turned into songs and crafts that incorporate their new vocab. Because their school system is so heavy on repetition, repetition, repetition until they have it etched into their memory, the kids really do not know how to be creative. To get them to even draw was a huge struggle; to get them to draw by themselves instead of cheating off their neighbor is even more difficult. My favorite thing I’ve done with them was having them do a graffiti board with their name and all the things that describe them around it. SO many of the kids put down the cross, a church building, and a school building, as well as a Bible verse. What they value is so deadset: school, church, family. I don’t know if I did the same to a group of American kids age 8-16 any would put any of those things down.
We had a lot of fun moments in camp this week. Learning the camp song and dance (I’ll put up a video soon, but be warned, the song is extremely catchy), hearing a seven-year-old count backwards from twenty in English and then lighting up like lightbulb in pride, watching their creativity grow, singing Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, playing numbers games, singing “Oceans” by Hillsong, getting to hand out a Polaroid of their picture to them (generously provided by a team member) to name a few. I also love hearing “MAGGIE!” everywhere I go and feeling the weight of a little body slamming into mine for a hug whenever I’m not looking. But most importantly, getting to see all the students eat lunch everyday.
I’ll keep a weekly update and hopefully provide more pictures (but understandably it’s hard to find time to snaps some pics). Anything you’d like to know about our curriculum or anything else? Just ask!