Friday, December 5, 2008

English Class

Roll call...The Lengthy Hello Song

Well, I volunteered again at the Women’s Club. We are teaching children in an afterschool program called “Let’s Speak English”. The kids range from 7 to 17 years old. I am not a trained language instructor, but I taught snorkeling and scuba diving to people of all ages. And I’ve tutored English in a few countries so I thought I would give it a go. We have lesson guides prepared by two certified teachers. It is a simple but fun program.

We drive up to Colonia Nueva Mulsay. It is on the southwest side of town, about fifteen minutes through traffic. The houses there are small and simple, the people are friendly, and their children are excited to learn. They all have backpacks or T-shirts with an American logo. The common feeling among most Yucatecans is their children need to learn English to get ahead in this world.

We roll in at 4pm for an hour and get the 26 kids organized. Everyone sings a hello song as we pass out name tags so we can get to know them. Then we split up into three age groups. I work with the newest attendees, the littlest kids, from 7 to 10 years old.

There are 8 kids in my group. So far we’ve worked on the alphabet, numbers, colors, parts of the body. The past two weeks I worked with Teacher Elise, and together we kept up the kids’ interest. The time goes fast. It is difficult to express to them what we want them to do when we speak nothing but English. The blank stares are distressing to me. Elise and I both speak Spanish and are able to explain what we are asking them to do, but I think the plans are more understandable to the two older groups who have been attending these classes for a couple of years. I can see them understanding the calendar and days and months etc. The 7 year olds were more interested in what color they should fill in the columns. It was a challenge.

Before we were half way through the concepts of the day, time was up and we were advised it was time to gather together in one group for the weekly book reading. I read aloud this week’s book, Ten in a Bed. I thought that was funny since these kids probably sleep in hammocks. Ten of what in a bed? I asked. Farm animals. Hmmm. We have few supplies but much imagination. Sometimes that is all it takes. That and the Hokey Pokey or the mind-gluing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Progress is limited. After two weeks I said to one of my students, “Hello, Vanessa. How are you today?”

Her response was simply, “My name is Vanessa,” as she shied away into the folds of her Mom’s dress.

Ok, so we still have a lot of work to do. It’s a start. Next week we are throwing a little Christmas party. It should be fun to watch the kids stare at us as though we are aliens while we sing English Christmas Carols.

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