When we say WorldTeach is an adventure, we mean it. Our volunteers experience challenges en route, in-country, in class, in town, out of town, and on nearly every beaten and unbeaten path there is to explore. What Americans and native English speakers tend to find normal is often left by the wayside as they acclimate, but one thing is for sure, the more that you can laugh at your mistakes and learn from them, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Check out how Jordan Gristock dealt with the initial challenges of the WorldTeach Chile program in 2012.
One week of teaching down!
Monday was extremely rough at the Liceo (high school). I arrived to the school where I met my co-teacher, Danisa, and we headed straight to the first class. At the beginning of each class I introduced myself, had them make name tags, and allowed them to ask me questions. My most frequently asked questions were: do you have a boyfriend, do you like to party, do you have Facebook, do you have children, and my most interesting question…have you tried any drugs from Paihuano? The students really have little to no English, so Danisa translated almost the entire time. I spent most of the day observing, which was extremely entertaining and frightening. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. In the first day alone students were flipping their desks upside down on their lap, PDA was everywhere, a girl was using a lighter to get a string off her jacket (yes, lighting the lighter on her jacket!), and there were way too many kissy noises coming my way. I was not expecting or prepared for things to go the way they did the first day and was frankly feeling a little disappointed after day one.
I went into day two with a positive mindset even though I was a little down in the dumps. While it didn’t go much better than the day before, I really had changed my attitude and pumped myself up for the remainder of my time here. I had the chance to email some of my friends and family which all gave me encouraging words. One friend, Katie, sent me this quote “ I know God won’t give me more than I can handle, I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” It totally summed up how I was feeling at that time. On day two I also learned some interesting things about the high school in which I am placed. Typically, the students that attend are there because they don’t really have goals for their future, their parents don’t care to send them to a better school, and many of them have drug or alcohol issues. All of these things made me realize how big of a difference I can make at this school. If I can provide a positive influence, motivation, and provide love to my students, I will feel as though I did what I came to do.
While here in the Valle de Elqui we will also be teaching at two schools in Vicuna. We were able to go and see the schools on Thursday, which was really exciting to me…I was feeling slightly envious of the other volunteers because they got to spend everyday with the super cute tiny Chilean kiddos! We made a decision that I will spend Mondays and Thursdays at Rivadavia, a K-8th grade, with Gerad. I will also have the chance to spend Wednesday mornings at Diaguitus, the other Vicuna school, with Megan and Tiffany. I am really excited about the little kids!
I taught my first class as the head teacher on Thursday and it went surprisingly well. I taught direction-giving to my juniors. They seemed challenged by the activities, but were more than willing to try – which was amazing! It is my smallest class, which only has about 6 kids consistently. Students in Paihuano skip school on a regular basis and hardly anyone shows up on Fridays.
The other volunteers and I are all finished with school on Fridays by 1:30. This Friday we decided that it would be a fun adventure to climb one of the mountains in Paihuano. It was a beautiful day outside so we all grabbed our cameras and headed up to the mountain around 3 o’clock. The views from up there were amazing! We could see the entire town of Paihuano and beyond. We started descending (in a different area than we came up) around 4:30. Without realizing the lack of paths on the way down we quickly became stuck on the side of the mountain. Amy, Tiffany, and myself scooted inch by inch on our butts obtaining many scraps and gashes along the way. The sun started to set and it actually became quite scary! We thought we were going to have to call for a helicopter at one point to rescue us! About half way down the mountain I realized that there were two people with flashlights coming to help us! It ended up being one of my students and her mom which was…..embarrassing! They held our hands down the dark scary mountain and let us into their house for a glass of water. Needless to say I have learned to go down the way you went up and not to climb at extreme heights anytime close to sunset!
For more teaching and learning insights from Jordan Gristock, check out her blog at http://jginchile.blogspot.com/.