May 2014 marks the mid-way point of my volunteer service with WorldTeach, and until recently, I wasn’t sure if I would be in Colombia to say this. My lamentable housing situation greatly affected my views on everything from traditional food to riding the bus. Having recently relocating, I am finally enjoying this beautiful, diverse country, waking up each morning grateful that I am here, even on unbearably hot days.
Over the weekend, my WorldTeach campeñaros on the coast met for Mid-Service at Casa del Ritmo in Playa Rododero near Santa Marta. It was great to see our friends currently volunteering Isla Barú, as well as our Field Director from Bogotá. In the setting of a casual, colorful hostel, we shared both horrible and hilarious stories of our teaching experience so far.
Our group exchanged opinions of service, schools, social aspects and situations at this mid-way mark, agreeing time has passed quickly since our arrival. We discussed culture, structure and what we anticipate for the coming months, as well as where we are traveling for the summer break.
In addition to being a recap of what’s happened so far, Mid-Service prompted our group of volunteers to focus on the real reason we here: teaching English. Admittedly, for me, adjusting to my school has meant finding a daily routine that works, learning the unique Colombian names of my students (almost 400 total) and being able to differentiate between guided practice and individual practice (guided usually means groups… or games!)
Since the end of January 2014, I have been teaching 4th and 5th grade students at Colegio Distrital Hogar Mariano, an all-girls Catholic school. Each morning, I am greeted by little voices yelling, “Teacher! Teacher!,” as Marinistas drag pink overstuffed backpacks, their braids bouncing rhythmically with plaid uniforms blowing around them.
Sadly, the weekend of February 21st, a beautiful 4th grade student named Alicia died unexpectedly, darkening the first month-and-a-half of my experience here. Although I was Alicia’s teacher for less than 2 months, her smiling face and sweet morning greeting of “Good Morning, Teacher!” will always be remembered.
Like the Caribbean ocean tides, school rolls on; I am now deep into teaching classes, grading papers and giving lessons that I hope will keep the students’ attention. I have a catalog of hand-drawn visuals that continues to evolve, making me forever grateful to my parents, who helped finance my years at art school earning a Bachelor’s Degree.
My plan book is covered in stickers and drawings from students, as well as my notes like “disaster – abandon ship,” or “great lesson, students loved it.” The administrative staff of my school is wonderful and supportive, and I adore the other teachers, who constantly encourage my teaching, as well as tease me about my limited dance moves.
WorldTeach Costeño Mid-Service weekend wrapped up with a session on what’s ahead, or “future plans,” for when our service ends in December. While some people have a solid idea of their next move (in 2015), others haven’t a clue, but hope to figure it out by the end of the year.
The session included tailoring your resumé for a career with non-profits, corporations and education, but didn’t mention my foreseeable future: owning a business.
While I know my dream will take fruition as the end of the year approaches, my plans for today are simple: writing a good lesson, delivering it with enthusiasm and, most important, not getting lost on the bus ride to school…