Ok, so I would just like to apologize to everyone who has been following my blog for the lack of blog posts in the past week, but I’ve been pretty busy trying to take in all the sights and sounds my little town has to offer and I also have hit a brick wall when it comes to teaching the Chilean students. More on that later in the post. Lets start with something positive.
Last week, I had the opportunity to see a parade and a carnival. While the parade was very simple, it was still great to see that the citizens of Porvenir show their appreciation for their town and all that it represents. Gatineau, are you taking notes? On a side note, it was very cold, so cold in fact that after the parade, I basically sprinted home and relearned what it feels like to be warm by cranking up the heater in my room to the max and staying there until once, which was like at 7 or 8 pm. (The parade was in the afternoon by the way). After the parade, I thought to myself how can this week get any better, oh that’s right, last Sunday was the Carnival and boy did it deliver. Let’s start off nice and easy with a bit of Nascar Porvenir style, with a bunch of derby cars burning rubber down the roads. Next came a float with Miss Porvenir, that’s right Miss Porvenir, like I said they really like their town here. Then came the samba drummers and dancers, who were dressed in very little. I still don’t know how that’s possible, I thought the day of the parade was cold but during the Carnival, it was so cold I thought I was going to get frost bitten. How those dancers managed to dance as if the cold was absent is beyond me. Then came all the students dressed in all sorts of costumes as if it was Halloween. Overall, it was awesome, despite the cold.
That same day, we celebrated my billet mom’s birthday, which included Spanish Karaoke and lots of wine and Piscokes. If you guys think that singing ‘Pinch Me’ by the Barenaked Ladies is tough, you’ve seen nothing yet. When trying to sing the Spanish karaoke songs, I felt like I was saying a tongue twister, I got tongue tied too many times to count. The content of the songs was also very much, well against men. The saving grace was being able to show my true Karaoke skills by singing ‘ Man I Feel Like a Woman’ by Shania Twain.
I want to finish on a positive note, so I’m bringing out all the negativity in this part of the post. So, while I am still trying to stay positive with regards my ability to teach, each day it becomes more difficult. This is the first week that I get to teach on my own and so far it’s been hit and miss. I’ve tried so many ways to make the learning more interesting and interactive for the students but without success. I must say before continuing, that while my CELTA training and the orientation in Santiago helped prepare me, it only provided me with a base. It seems that no matter what I try, I cannot get the students interested in what I’m teaching. It’s as if they are preconditioned to hate learning English. It could also be that I’m not a very good teacher, the jury is still out on that including myself. Obviously there are exceptions, I have some students who like my classes, but it might just be because they like me as a person. Some examples of teaching techniques include games, an interesting powerpoint presentation on Canadian culture (at least I thought it was interesting), the Great Big Moose Song as a way to learn about simple past and art projects including posters. Seriously, I’ve thrown everything at them except the kitchen sink. Two main problems I have are dealing with furniture students, the ones that don’t do anything to disrupt the class but don’t participate, so overall my class management is good, and the amount of Spanish I speak each class. I tried speaking zero Spanish but the students just freeze if I do that. However, now I’m speaking too much Spanish and I feel like I’ve opened up the flood gates to the point that, in my time here, I will learn more Spanish than they will learn English. Obviously my approach is not working, so while that is the case, I would say that my saving grace is the fact that I have another entire semester to get it right. It might just mean I will have to over-prepare my classes to the point where it makes it seem like I don’t think my students know anything. I think that about covers it for my souring mood in relation to teaching.
To end on a positive note, I accidentally ran a five km race. Let me explain. Salvador, the youngest of the two kids, wanted to run the five km race. I decided that I was going to go watch the race. When we went to get him registered, the person told us that it would be better if all us raced since the alternative was waiting who knows how long for the one person to finish the race. So after getting registered, I basically decided I was going to do a sort of mind over matter and forget that I have asthma. This is a horrible application of mind or matter since it usually applies to a physical object and not something like the sensation that an elephant is sitting on your lungs. This ended up being a great good idea. For starters, it was my first physical activity in Porvenir, beyond walking everyday against the cold to get to school obviously. Secondly, I did so much better than the first time I ran a 5 km race in which I had to stop multiple times during the race. This time, I didn’t stop once. Finally, as I was approaching the finish line, I decided that was going to go for broke and tried to beat all the runners that were immediately ahead of me. I started sprinting and with only a few meters to go, I started to feel that elephant pounding on my lungs. (Damn you asthma!) Ignoring the pain, I continued sprinting and raced past the remaining racers ahead me to the finish, I was sure I could hear Chariots of Fire in background, it was just one of those moments. It was such a good feeling just being able to show that I can run a five km race even with my asthma. Bring it on half marathon! As a bonus, I actually won a new tuque in a draw even though I never win anything.
Also, I’ve started taking dance lessons and I must say, that learning Kweka may be tougher than getting a black belt in karate. While karate is a mental and physical challenge., Kweka combines all of these things plus adding a finesse element, not only do you have to do it properly, you also have make it look good. I’m really hoping I’ll be ready come Chilean day of Independence in September. Despite the fact that it is tough, I really do like it so at least there is that. Tomorrow night, I’m going to be giving a swing dancing class, we’ll see how that goes.