English Winter Camps

I just finished working the winter English camp in Valdivia. The English Opens Doors Program sponsores these annual camps every year for students in dozens of towns throughout Chile. They’re free for the students who sign up, and are meant to be a way for students to experience a week of English language immersion.

During the week, me and the other teachers lead activities, while trying to keep warm in Escuela Espana’s freezing hallways. (Thankfully every classroom has its own woodburning stove.)

It was such a different experience working with students in a non-classroom setting. For all I knew, the students at the camp actually wanted to be there and had an interest in  English, making our jobs that much easier.

Our group at Escuela Espana

One of this year’s projects was creating a lipdub music video to the song “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5. It was a national project that every camp across the country had to do.

So in one afternoon we filmed and uploaded this epic masterpiece. Get ready:

Karaoke competitions

Last week, I joined Andrea and Ellie at Fred’s school in Lanco. We were asked to judge their school’s annual karaoke competition. It was a very Katy Perry, David Guetta, and Sum 41-music-filled day. 

The first place winners

With Fred, Ellie, Andrea, a student, and the principal of Liceo Camilo Henríquez.

It was such a warm welcome from the Liceo Camilo Henríquez school. The teachers greeted us and thanked us for making the trip over to Lanco. They expressed such thanks for our work with the English Opens Doors Program.

Beautiful murals line the school’s hallways.

Getting out of Valdivia and seeing a more rural school was a great experience, as they really are two different worlds.

I definitely owe a post about the education world here. I have so many thoughts and observations from these past few months. I’ve been frustrated but also inspired after many conversations and experiences with students and other teachers. It’s helped me see the importance of making education development a priority.

That’s up next.

More Reflections on Teaching English Abroad

I can’t believe how fast three months have flown by. I’m just starting to get my feet and feel at home in this new country. Last week, all of the teachers in my region had a meeting with our regional representative here in Valdivia. We talked about our experiences so far, and gave some feedback. I had one “ah ha” moment during this day. As follows…

My seniors

“How is everyone,” the regional rep asked us, looking around the table. “Andrea,” he smiled, “You look so happy. That is good.” I had an ear infection and was drenched from the rainstorm I’d just walked through to get here. But I was smiling, and didn’t even realize it. And then I understood why. I had a cup of warm tea in front of me. I was inside a cozy room. I was surrounded by other familiar faces. Sincere appreciation of these little details is something I’ve noticed myself doing more and more here.

Here are a few of them: Falling asleep to the sound of rain on a tin roof.  Hot wine, or, “Navegado” on a cold night. Warming up next to a wood burning stove. The smell of the mountains. A conversation with someone selling sopaipillas. More simplicity, but also, more chaos. That’s Chile.

This English Opens Doors Program is a lottery, and everyone’s situation is unique. Some people were placed in Santiago, and they’re living it up with other foreigners in an international city. Others are in rural communities with populations barely above 3,000 people. Some of us teach at high-risk public schools, while others teach at semi-private “colegios”, with better resources and quality of education.

I read this quote somewhere yesterday, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” I couldn’t think of a better way to say it. But out of all of the personal transformations these last few months, it’s my student’s who’ve taught me the most. They teach me empathy, humor, and patience. They teach me about people, and how to understand moods and adapt.

One of my favorite groups. IV Medio B

It’s not easy. I have one class of 17-year-old boys who are extremely difficult on purpose. Their attitudes really suck, and teaching them in 45-minute blocks is always grueling. They clearly don’t want to be there, and getting them to do anything is a pain. But I try to act with empathy. Lately I’ve been sitting with them in the desks instead of standing up in front of the room when we start class. I think coming down to their level has caught them off guard, and so far it’s helped change the mood a bit.

III Medio B Class

However, what happened last week redeemed all of the stressful teaching moments. It was Wednesday, and I was having an off-day. I tired, and didn’t feel like leading class at all. It was the toughest day I’ve had at school so far. Even though I was still smiling and trying to get the energy together, one of my senior classes picked up on my mood.  When they left the class, I saw this on the board… It made my week.

English Debates

I’m so proud of my students!!!

Our team just ranked second in the first round of Chile’s high school debate tournament! If they pass the next round, we’ll go to the nationals in Viña del Mar.

One of our duties as teachers in this program is to form and guide a team of 6 students. We helped coach them after class, preparing both sides of the argument, “Organ donation should be compulsory.” All teams had to research both sides, because nobody knew which side they’d be arguing, or what school they’d be going against, until the day of the tournament.

I saw my students’ faces drop this morning when they found out they were debating with last year’s champions: Instituto Salesiano. (It was like we were the Oakland A’s about to go up against the NY Yankees.)  My students were already nervous as it was: the ominous microphone, a debate in their second language, and now this.

Right before they went on, I told them: do not worry about making language mistakes…just speak with passion. And they did it!!!

With their participation certificates before we found out they ranked 2nd. (Matius was so nervous before going on, but he nailed the closing speech!!)

About to go up against last year’s winning school. Our team is on the right.

First speaker…rocked it!

The team

Woot!! Inmaculada Concepción