Posts Tagged With: teaching

Donkeys, cows and jaguars (I wish!)

Feb. 14, 2012:

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!

Yesterday was the 5-week mark of my arrival in Guyana!! That means only 7 more weeks to go! I can’t believe how fast the time is going!

Our Grade 3 classroom!

I am really enjoying my time here and am learning a lot about what life is like in Guyana every day, as well as a lot about myself! I’ve been teaching the Grade 3 class at the primary school three days a week, and helping out for parts of Monday and Tuesday. The kids are starting to settle down a bit as they are getting used to our presence in the school, and I am finding my job as a teacher a bit easier with each day of practice. I’ve discovered that being a teacher is certainly NOT an easy job – regardless of where you come from or what country you are teaching in! That’s definitely something I learned very quickly in this environment! Coming from a family of teachers, I thought I understood fairly well the difficulties that teachers face and the amount of work and effort that goes into teaching, but coming here REALLY opened my eyes! Imagining what it must be like was one thing, but actually living it is a completely different story!! Not only have I found out how draining it is to try to keep 25-30 Grade 3 students occupied for a whole day of school, but I’ve also discovered how difficult managing a class is!! I thought back to all the teachers I’ve had in the past who struggled to keep some rowdy classmates under control and focused on a lesson, and I could really sympathize with them!

Not only am I trying to teach in a completely new environment, but also in a country where the education system and standards are foreign to me. Teachers here seem to rarely leave lesson plans for substitutes if they are going to be away, which has probably been the hardest part for me, because I have no background in teaching and have never written a lesson plan in my life! We usually have very little idea of what the students have been learning, what level they’re supposed to be at, and what level they might actually be at in any given subject, so it definitely makes teaching that class for the day a challenge to say the least! There are schemes written by the Ministry of Education that usually list about one topic per week for each subject, so we have been doing our best to follow that for the Grade 3s and to come up with some lessons that the majority of the students might be able to follow. Fortunately, the challenging parts are balanced out with the laughs and smiles that the kids bring me each day. I spent about half an hour the other day taping all of the pictures that the Grade 3s have drawn and coloured for me, and the notes they’ve written me over the last couple of weeks to my wall! Some of the kids also give me hugs before they go home for lunch and at the end of the day to say thank you and goodbye for the night! It’s adorable and takes any frustration I’m feeling away pretty quickly!

Getting rained on in the rainforest!

In other news, I can now say that I have slept overnight in a hammock in the jungle and survived a big rain/wind storm in the middle of the night!! One of our Guyanese friends took us camping at the creek where we go to bathe last weekend! It was a lot of fun! We went for a rainforest walk before dinner and it started to pour – how fitting! I got some pictures taken of me being rained on in the rainforest! In the morning, one of the locals gave us a fish he had just caught out on his fishing trip so we could fry it for breakfast, and it was delicious! Unfortunately (or maybe not that unfortunately!), we didn’t get to see any jaguars in the middle of the night, but we did manage to spot a fox who was interested in stealing some of our camp food!! It was sometimes hard to distinguish any real wildlife from the many stray dogs that are constantly roaming around all parts of the village, but we’re pretty sure one of the creatures was a fox! I probably would have preferred to see a jaguar, but then again, I may not have made it back alive to tell the story if I had!

On Saturday we took a road trip to another region of Guyana called Berbice. We left St. Cuthbert’s at 5 a.m. and didn’t get home until 7:30 p.m., so it was a very long day of traveling! We probably spent at least 8-9 hours driving, but it was definitely worth it! Berbice is made up of tons of small villages and a few towns, and most of the area is covered in farmland, as the main industry of this region is agriculture. We saw our fair share of donkeys, horses, goats, cows of all kinds, and sheep roaming freely across the roads, and often had to stop for them to cross in front of us! Given the speed of our driver, this wasn’t always easy, but luckily, we didn’t have any super close calls! There are also lots of sugarcane and rice fields here, and we got to stop off at a rice mill and a sugar processing plant to take some pictures. Some highlights of the day were crossing one of the world’s longest floating bridges over the Berbice River (Guyana’s second-largest river), and looking across the Corentyne River, which serves as the border to Suriname! I almost made it to another country, but not quite!

Stopping for a cow crossing!

That’s all for now!

Allison

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Surviving and Thriving!

Jan. 28, 2012:

I’m happy to report that I’ve survived my first two and a half weeks in Guyana and am doing very well!

I’ve mostly been working in the schools for the past week or so. There are three schools in the village – a nursery school, (sort of like Kindergarten), primary (grades 1-6), and secondary (grades 7-11). 

The primary school where I worked

I’ve been spending most of my days in the primary school, either observing classes and helping students with their work, or filling in for teachers who are away for a day or late for work. The school is basically just a long wooden building with concrete floors. The classrooms are separated only by a blackboard, so there are no sound barriers whatsoever! There are six different classes all going on at the same time, and as you can probably imagine, it gets pretty noisy in that building! There are some really great kids in that school and many are very eager to learn, but the environment they’re trying to learn in makes it pretty difficult to focus on anything! Sometimes I can’t even hear myself trying to teach, so it’s really no wonder that the kids have a hard time concentrating and lose interest quickly! Another obstacle is the lack of supplies in the school. Most of the classes do not have individual desks and chairs for students, and many of the tables and benches are in pretty bad condition. In the grade 3 class that I’ve been helping in, most of the students sit at one big table all together, which gives them the opportunity to distract each other and tune out of the lesson. A lot of kids also don’t have pencils or notebooks to write in, and they use razor blades as pencil sharpeners!! I’m glad I brought some pencil sharpeners and extra pencils with me!

I’ve been finding my first few days of teaching a bit challenging, but also very inspiring at times. It’s a wonderful feeling to see the faces of kids light up when they figure something out all by themselves, or with just a little encouragement. Unfortunately, we’re also quickly realizing that education here isn’t really considered a priority by many. Apparently St. Cuthbert’s is ranked one of the lowest schools in the country based on the recent test results of its students. Many of the students are a few grade levels below what they should be in subjects like English and Math. The Grade 4 teacher says many of her students are only reading at a Grade 1 level! So I’ve been trying to find ways to help those kids who are furthest behind and can really benefit from extra support. 

In other news, we’ve already had two different couples in the village invite us over for dinner this past week! Both meals were delicious – roti & chicken curry one night, and fried plantain and fish the next! Today we went for a hike and explored another part of the village with Kelly, an American Peace Corps volunteer who’s been in St. Cuthbert’s for almost a year. She took us to one of her friend’s houses to retrieve some coconuts! So I can now say I’ve had my first taste of coconut water and jelly, and it was pretty delicious! I’ve also gone swimming in my first black water creek! It’s a pretty strange feeling standing in the jungle shampooing my hair! But I love it. We usually go on the weekend, as it takes about 10-15 mins to walk each way. The vegetation is not as lush in St. Cuthbert’s as it is in many other parts of the country, so we are not actually in the Amazon here, but it definitely still feels and looks like the wild! There are some pretty tall/weird looking trees and a lot of long grass everywhere! It’s a nice change of scenery for sure! I am loving the weather here as well! We don’t have any way of knowing the temperature, but I’d guess that it’s been at least 30°C most days. It’s been pretty rainy the past week or so, and the rain storms here are pretty intense!!! They come up out of nowhere – it’s very interesting.

We don’t have running water in the house that we’re living in, so we bring in buckets of cold water to shower with from the water tanks at the back, and have to pour water into the toilet bowl to flush it. All our drinking water has to be filtered or boiled first, so it’s been interesting getting used to that! The electricity comes on just after 6 every night, and we have about 4 hours to charge our cameras or use the computer. We sleep in bunk beds with mosquito nets hanging over our beds, and so far I haven’t been eaten alive by bugs too badly!!! There are some interesting creatures living in our house though! We’ve already seen some tiny lizards on the walls, along with huge spiders, and a frog in the toilet! I usually sit in bed under the safety of my mosquito net to read with my headlamp after the lights go out! Another thing I’m finding is hard to adjust to is the lack of a garbage disposal system in the village. All garbage here is either burned or buried. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for garbage to be thrown into the bushes, or to see it laying around the village. It really takes away from the natural beauty of the landscape in a way!

Anyway, I better stop there for now. If you’ve made it through to the end, congratulations! Haha. And thanks for sticking with it!

Until next time!

Allison

My safe haven!

Our house guests playing tag!

Categories: Guyana, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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