By WorldTeach Ecuador volunteer Lauren Fosnight, 2015
I am a self-confessed over-planner. In high school, I used to make lists of my lists. There’s no shame in planning. In fact, being a natural planner is kind of like having a low-key super power. You can often predict what is going to happen, and when someone in your group project has forgotten the markers, you come to the rescue with two boxes in your over-packed bag, which prompts an average of 1.5 Mary Poppins references per day.
Before coming to Ecuador, both the pre-departure preparation materials for my program and the TEFL module I had to complete warned about the dangers of rigid over-planning, especially when teaching in an environment with limited resources. I prepared myself to lighten-up on the planning and brace myself for the unexpected, but I couldn’t imagine the kinds of spontaneous classroom distractions I would encounter until I began my first cycle at the Escuela Politénica Nacional (EPN).
On a particularly warm November evening, my Students entered my classroom fanning themselves and asked me if they could open a few windows. Halfway through the class, as I was passing out papers, I heard several of my students scream. I turned around to see a group of students standing and pointing frantically at the whiteboard. Blocking the day’s lesson title was a large black moth. You’re probably picturing the moths that annoyingly flitter around your patio light in the summertime. No, friends. With a wingspan no smaller than the length of my hand, this was the Darth Vader of moths. What was I to do? Throw a book at it? Use the force to make it fly away? Orientation had taught me how to react during a volcano eruption, but not what to do when a moth turns your class into a chaotic room full of screaming, giggling students.
I ran downstairs to the secretaries’ office and told them that there was a bat (which is what huge black moths look like to foreigners from places without giant bugs) in my classroom. I returned to my class and was followed by a team of secretaries and coordinators with their cameras. After the moth had its photo shoot, a member of the janitorial staff entered with a broom. Two of my students gasped and begged him in rapid Spanish not to kill the moth. What had been a lesson on the subjunctive quickly devolved into the development of a Moth Rescue Action Plan. After creating a makeshift paper moth catcher, my students inched the moth towards the window, and, upon the successful completion of their mission, the class gave a standing ovation. By the time the moth was set free, the class period had come to an end, along with my hopes of completing the assessment activity I had planned. Although my lesson plans for the rest of the week were offset by our class visitor, the moth served as a source of creative inspiration for subsequent class skits and activities. I’d prefer that no more giant bugs enter my classroom, but if they do, at least I know how to use them to a pedagogical advantage.
While no other insects or animals decided to make a guest appearance in my classroom during the rest of the cycle, teaching and life in general here have not been without their fair share of surprises. From to changing travel destinations at the last minute to bungee jumping off a 100 meter bridge in Baños, Ecuador Lauren consistently tries to test the flexibility and boldness of her Hoosier counterpart. So while I’m still the person who brings at least three pairs of extra socks on vacation just in case, I’m also the person who is prepared to throw a pair away when they become trashed on a day-long boat trip/snorkeling adventure. For now, I think its safe to stop exercising my list-making powers and pack away my super-planner cape in the Mary Poppins bag for another day.
This post originally appeared on Lauren’s personal blog, Siga No Más.