Hello, and welcome back to my blog! Yes, it definitely has been far too long!
I’ve been back in Guatemala for more than a month, and each weekend, I have intended to sit down to write a new blog post, but I’ve been very busy. I have drafted several, but they also weren’t quite what I wanted to say. Now as I sit down to write a new draft, I think we’re at the point that, happy with it or not, I’m just going to have to let it go and post whatever gets written here today.
I’ve settled on “The Learning Curve” for the blog, because it encapsulates quite well my experience and that of the students for January, I think.
Students first. After one year and 10 months away from school, students have finally been able to attend classes in person once again! Students are attending in person on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s quite the adjustment for them. Just today I was talking with the school director, and she said she’s reminding teachers that they should think of their students as being two years younger. Do you expect grade five students to be able to do this, but they’re struggling? Well, would you expect grade three students to be able to do this? Students (and teachers! and parents!!!) did the best they could over the last almost two years of learning via videos at home, but it wasn’t the same. Thankfully, now that they’re back at school, we’ll better be able to help them!
Then there is the learning curve for online classes. High school students receive their classes by Zoom/Google Meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, since they need to cover material or acquire skills, etc, and M/W/F is just not going to cut it the number of hours they need to attend. I taught online in Canada back in the spring of 2020, but it was a learning curve for me to figure out how to teach ESL classes online effectively and to remember how to use Google Meet effectively. (It’s been a while!) But… my learning curve was nothing compared to my poor grade 10 classes. Remember that high school here is really grade 10, 11, and 12, so this year’s grade 10 students did not take any online classes last year. Instead, I posted teaching videos to Facebook for them. I taught this poor class their very first online class on their first day of online classes. It… was… painful. Most students couldn’t figure out how to unmute if they were called on, or they couldn’t figure out the chat, or they didn’t understand what I was saying or asking them to do. Thankfully, by the time I taught the students again, they’d already had 5 different online classes, and their teachers had walked them through the rules of online classes and they’d had some time to figure out unmuting, using the chat, and raising their hand virtually. We’ve gone from an entire hour-long class that was pretty much 15 students staring at me like deer in the headlights to being able to participate more or less effectively. I still wish we were at school for those days, but at least we get that class time together and students can do more than watch a video of me talking at them.
The third learning curve is my own. After two months away, I was happy to be able to find opportunities to converse in Spanish and to feel like I could find my way. Then I ended up moving to high school classes, and knew I’d have a big challenge ahead of me, teaching new grades and a totally different curriculum this year. And then school began, and I had so much to do as TEFL coordinator and not enough time to do it! Plus any time that one of my team members asked me a question, I’d say, “I’ll find out and get back to you.” And then I would wonder, Why am I in charge, when I don’t know anything???!!! Thankfully, the school director Karina has been incredibly helpful, and I have a team of experienced teachers who are not new to Guatemala and who know a lot more than I did last year. This learning curve has really pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to grow, though! Just last week, a colleague told me that he noticed a big difference in my Spanish – even from the end of last year. I have an excellent Spanish teacher this year, but I’d only had one class up to that point, so she can’t take credit quite yet. I told him that the real difference, I think, is that last year, if I had a question, I asked my TEFL coordinator, Beth. This year, I’m the TEFL coordinator, so I just have to go and ask teachers, secretaries, or principals myself. I have had to use a lot more Spanish and figure out a lot more than I ever imagined! But it’s good!
We are already done with one month of school here. We’re almost halfway done our first quarter, and we’ve more or less settled into a rhythm. Hopefully, in the midst of that rhythm, I’ll find time to update my blog more regularly!
2 thoughts on “The Learning Curve”
So good to read your blog Bethany. Seems that our entire life is a learning curve.
Isn’t that so true, Harry!