Thursday, March 6, 2014
Last week, we had an amazing surprise for the students and families. There was a group of Italian clowns that visited Opal House and put on quite the show! There was a great turn out, and the children looked forward to this for weeks. The smiles on their faces were priceless. It was almost an hour long show, with a variety of small acts and different skits. Then, they even danced! It was a little different from most clowns I am used to seeing, with all the face make up, and balloon tying. It was unique, and such a fun opportunity for the children.
Fun For Everyone!
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Monday, February 17, 2014
Stories from School
Stories from School
Today at school, we had a very eventful day. As a treat, we gave the children a couple large marshmallows. They were immediately very excited about this! Most of the children were outside playing with Jackelyn, and I was upstairs playing with a few of the girls. After Diane came up to give the girls their marshmallows, she was upstairs in her office. About 5 min later, one of the girls was looking at me with a rather odd facial expression. Her eyes were wide, and filled with fear, and she was making a strange noise. It was like my whole body went into shock as I thought, she couldn't be chocking could she? I called her name, and I watched so intently for a few seconds. I truly thought maybe she was just acting a little odd, but it only took a few seconds to realize what was really happening. I felt so stupid after all was said and done. Why didn't I act on it right away? What would I have done if I was there alone? I knew what to do, but I was so scared because she was so little and I thought maybe I would hurt her. Instead, I immediately started yelling for Diane. She came running and grabbed her immediately and started to perform the heimlich. All of us watched with so much fear in our eyes, hearts and minds. It was the first time I have ever seen someone truly not be able to breath. She couldn't tell us she was chocking, she couldn't scream for help. The poor girl could not even breath. They always tell you in CPR class, "Don't be afraid you will hurt them, you have to save their life!" Because I knew Diane was only feet away, I wanted her to be the one to perform the heimlich. But I just keep thinking, what if I would have waited too long or what if Diane wasn't there. It really was one of those situations that puts life into perspective very quickly.
THEN, we also found out that we have two students that have lice. For me, I immediately wanted to freak out...but the thing is, this is normal here. The children have little access to clean water, and some have no access to clean water. They barely bathe themselves. It is only natural for them to get lice. In the United States, if a student is found with lice, they are immediately sent home and need to wait a certain amount of days before they can return to school. Here, that is not the case. These poor girls were covered in eggs, and one girl actually had the full size bug in her hair as well.
Although today was eventful, and rather stressful...I am grateful to experience these things and learn how to handle these situations appropriately. It is absolutely heart breaking to see the difference in their lifestyles and the challenges they face every day. It makes me feel so grateful, and so blessed for the life and family I have.
On a positive note, my classes are going so well! I am getting really positive feedback from the students. I love getting the opportunity to plan and create a class on my own...AND I get to practice my Spanish with a little less stress! I love hearing the students singing my songs that they learning my English class, or telling me colors in English. They really are enjoying it, and picking it up quickly!
Their Reaction Was Priceless...Something that most kids in the United States would think was "cool"....was like performing magic for these children in Guatemala. Most people are familiar with the program Photo Booth. It is a fun photo program that can edit and change the appearance of pictures. I was very familiar with this program, and I decided to start out my computer class, by showing it to the students. I wanted to get them excited and interested right away... and this did the trick for sure! I stared with the mirror setting. For them to see TWO of their faces...was actually scary for most of them. They immediately would close their eyes, shout out, or laugh so hard. It was truly priceless to watch their reaction. They all LOVED it, and we played around for at least 5-10 min to get them comfortable with working with me, and the computer. I knew that the children would love this because they think that the simplest things are fascinating. It is so much different than being a teacher in the U.S. where children have Ipads and gadgets. These children have little to nothing, so a program like this was actually magic in their eyes.
Weekend at the COAST!
I can't wait to tell you about my weekend in Sipacate with Jackelyn. It was a weekend I will never forget. It could not have been better. It was full of adventures, but also a weekend of peace. The trip to the coast is about three hours, but with the transportation here...it takes about 4. We took a total of three chicken buses, and let me tell you, it was quite an adventure. The buses are insanely packed, and they all go so fast! But, I was less nervous this time, and I am getting used to this form of transportation. I am also getting used to being the only "gringa" or white girl...everywhere I go!! I just get lots of looks, and lots of compliments. It isn't too bad :-) At times there wasn't even room to sit on the bus! But luckily, we made it safely there and back with no problems!
The place we stayed at in Sipacate is called MarMaya. You have to take a lancha (boat) across this lagoon to get to it. It is a private hotel/beach that is RIGHT on the water. Literally our room was on the beach, and we could look out the window and see the view of the water. This place was paradise to me. To anyone that has been to Mexico or another place similar, this place would probably compare. But me on the other hand, I have not! So this place was very special for me to experience. It was not a crowded beach with lots of people, it was so peaceful and private. I felt so safe! I don't usually read, but this weekend I read 200 pages, and spent most of my time sitting in the sand by the water reading. It was incredibly hot, more than 90 degrees, but when you are close to the water with a breeze, it isn't too bad!
The highlight of my weekend was Saturday night. Jackelyn and I were like celebrities at this hotel. Most of the people were older and rather overweight. So we stuck out a little. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the restaurant that is overlooking the water and outdoors. The food was amazing. After dinner there was music. Two men singing, and then a group of young girls dancing. Now, remember I love to dance? Well these girls were TERRIBLE in my opinion. I could not believe they were getting paid to dance at this restaurant!! They were only about 15 yrs old, and dancing in bikini's. Jackelyn also likes to dance so the whole time we wanted to get up and join in! Well, after they were all done around 10pm. We asked the man to continue to play good dancing music. AND...Jackelyn and I DANCED! Just the two of us, on the stage, in front of the whole restaurant! It took us awhile to gain the courage and confidence...but we did it!! She was a little more shy than I was....but everyone was smiling and clapping. We had the best time! I wish we had it on video! The next day everyone was greeting us and saying hello.
Jackelyn and I decided we might have to go back another weekend before I leave. The hotel was only $70 for a night, and trust me...it was worth every cent!
Sunday, February 9, 2014
There is nothing like seeing the joy on a child's face when they enter school for the first time.
School has begun! The first couple weeks have been a success, with double the amount of students as last year. The first week, only two students came from 8am-10am, then another two-three came from 10am-12pm. So only about 4-5 students each day that week, for a short while to help them get adjusted to the environment, the teachers, and the routine. This allows for every student to get one-on-one attention/instruction from a teacher. I personally found this method to be very beneficial, especially for these families. These children are sometimes breast feeding until the age of 5! The boys especially tend to be babied as they are growing up. This makes the transition to school rather difficult for them. It was rather shocking to see some of the students cry/scream when they entered school, even though their mother was literally upstairs at school. The mothers stayed and waited for the two hours to be over. Yet still, some children had a hard time leaving their mother's side. For me, this is one of my favorite challenges about being a teacher. And this is why I really do want to teach the little ones. Being a kindergarten or preschool teacher means you are the first role model/motherly figure in these children's lives second to their mother. They are so used to being with their mom 24/7 and starting school for the first time, can be difficult. I embrace this challenge and love to see these children grow into independent individuals. Now that that week is over, we have met all of our students this year. And I must say....they are SO cute!! I still can't get over how small they are, especially the three year olds, my favorite! These children have the biggest, darkest eyes, that look at you with so much love and hope. They truly inspire me to want to be the best teacher I can be, because I know just how important education is in their life. And more than education... love. We teach them courtesy, kindness, independence, and responsibility. This school is created with different motives than a traditional public school because these children do not have role models at home to teach them all of these things. Its a rather daunting task, but Diane Jackelyn and I are all passionate and more than ready to take it on. Then, the past two weeks was the start of the year with all 25 students. There were days that were challenging, days that were difficult, and days that were amazing. A normal start to the year in my opinion. I was amazed at how quickly the students became normalized and used to the Montessori method. With this many children, it will take time to normalize the children, and set boundaries but we are so confident in the students and already seeing so much progress. It will, without a doubt, be a different year. But, different for the better because this year, we can impact the lives of 25 children! And that is something to be excited about!
Every Friday, Jackelyn has a class for teen girls with ages from 11-14. The past two weeks I have sat in on her class and participated/observed. This age group makes me very uncomfortable back home even, but here especially. It has always been a weakness of mine, teaching older children. My passion is with the younger ones. This class is so important for the wellbeing and lives of these pre-teen girls. They are taught at home that their main goal in life is to get married and have children...young. They are not driven to be educated. And most likely, their husband will leave them or have other women on the side. It is a terrible cycle that continues to be passed from generation to generation. Jackelyn's class teaches these women about morals, values, responsibility, independence, integrity and dreams. As I have been observing I have noticed these girls are SO shy, and it is like pulling teeth to get them to talk and answer questions. The past two weeks the theme has been about integrity. Jackelyn has been struggling to motivate these girls to participate, they are SO quiet. Last week I told her, we need to do something different. And all week I have been brainstorming. Today we tried one of MY ideas. AND today I taught the class!!! Before I stated the lesson, I asked the girls, "Do you want to dance?" I love to dance, even though I am terrible, it can be so much fun! We put on some music, and everyone just stood there. These girls are not used to dancing, or moving at all! I started to dance and literally make a complete fool of myself! I was able to get all the girls laughing, and participating!! We did a congo line around the chapel and outside. It was literally ridiculous, but in such a good way. I wanted to get the girls warmed up to participate. When it came time to teach...I was so nervous I was shaking the whole time. I had prepared notes and everything. We started by making self-portraits. Then after, the girls independently had to write 10 different words all around their self-portrait. These words were words that described their personality, their values, their passions, and beliefs. These words could describe who they are now or who they want to be. They had to think past words like pretty, and nice. More complicated and meaningful words like sincere, loving, compassionate, independent, responsible, faithful, mature, passionate, patient, and so on. I had an example prepared to model to the girls. I made it very clear that they have to be able to explain WHY each word is on their paper and is important to them. For example my examples were "loving: I want to be loving to my family and my boyfriend because they are important to me." "educated: I want to be educated so that I can get a good job and support myself." "honest: I want to have strong relationships with my friends and family so that they trust me." This activity challenged the girls to reflect on their life, and them self. After the portraits were made, the girls then had to present and talk about their words and why those words are important to them. Their responses melted my heart. One girl said, "I want to be educated so that I can educate my own children one day." The girls are normally shy and quiet, but this activity allowed them to really jump out of their shell and have a very powerful discussion. Every one participated, and it was more than a success. I could not stop smiling afterwards. Its moments like this when I know I am a role model in their life. I am impacting their life! Today I faced a HUGE fear...but lets be honest, every day I face a new fear...but this fear left me feeling more proud and fulfilled than anything I have experienced yet.
It really is amazing how advanced technology is these days. I am currently thousands of miles away, with internet on a USB drive, and I am still able to communicate with people through Skype! I was able to Skype with my kinder class from student teaching back home AND my brother's kindergarten class. With both of these classes I gave them a little tour around the school, and then we had a chance to do some question/answer time. Talk about learning without boundaries. These children are able to follow my blog, my journey, my experiences...and communicate with me! They are able to compare and contrast their school, culture, and life to people around the world. At the end of the day I had the biggest smile on my face because: A) I got to see my former students who I love and miss SO much and B) It was absolutely a beautiful experience to hear and answer the questions from very curious 5-6 year olds. Some of their questions were:
- Do they get anything for Christmas?
- What do they have to eat for dinner?
- Why does your school have a kitchen?
- What is the weather like?
- How do you fit 24 students in that small tuk tuk?
- What is the school made out of?
- Do they have homework?
And the best thing to hear, "We love you Miss Talcott, and we miss you so much!" I miss them so much too, but I am so grateful, SO grateful that not only family and friends are following my journey, but my students are as well.
If you don't step out of your comfort zone, the things you fear will keep
growing. The more you step our of you comfort zone the more you grow as a
This trip has been filled with experiences that push me out of my comfort zone every day. For those of you that know me well, you know that is one thing I need to work on the most. Pushing myself out of my comfort areas. In the past month I have learned so much about myself, and I have already grown so much as an individual. It is impossible not to under the circumstances I am living under. From the moment I wake up, to the moment I go to bed...I am speaking Spanish with Jackelyn. That alone is scary and uncomfortable for me. Each day it gets easier, and I am feeling more comfortable. But its more than that. For example, this weekend I took my first trips alone to Panajachel. I was confident that I knew the route, but scared to be alone. I proud to say I was able to make it there and back successfully without any problems. Another example, I went with Jackelyn to her house to enjoy lunch with her family. I was the only person there who spoke English, therefor all the conversing was in Spanish. I can understand Jackelyn very well, but it was much harder understanding other people in her family! And now, I am the teacher of three different classes at the school. And I have to do my best to instruct the students and manage the classroom in Spanish! I am trying my best every day to embrace these new experiences. But I have to be honest, some days it is very hard for me. I can feel myself growing, learning, and believing in myself more and more each and every day. And each day I gain more confidence.
When I was at Jackelyn's home, I was apologizing for my poor Spanish, and her dad told me this...
"Your Spanish is beautiful. It does not sound the same as our Spanish, and you have your own American accent, but it is beautiful to hear someone try their best at another language. Especially when we do not speak English, you are at least using a language that is unknown to you and not your own. You should be proud."
After hearing this I could not help but smile. That is exactly what I tell myself every day. But thats all I can hope that the people around me think as well. I am trying my best, it is hard, and I know I do not sound the same...but I CAN communicate with people in another language. And that... is something to be proud of.
In a place filled with so much poverty...beauty is all around us.
When you go to the markets in Guatemala, as a tourist you are overwhelmed with the vibrant colors and hand made items. It is a sensory overload for sure! The first couple times, I honestly wanted to buy EVERYTHING! But I had to step back and ask myself, do I really need this? The paintings especially are amazing! I decided I would like a painting by the time I leave. So far I have been doing really well. Until a couple days ago in Panajachel. We were walking through the market, and we came across this beautiful bedspread. This gigantic, colorful, hand made piece of art jumped out at us all. When we actually found out the price... we were all shocked. Imagine the amount of time something like this would take. It is almost sad that these people work SO hard on something like this, and only expect so little in return. We all just stared at this piece for quite awhile, brainstorming all the things you could do with this and looking at each individual square. Each square tells a story. Each square represents a piece of Guatemala. In the end, I bought this amazing bedspread, and this is all I will need to bring back with me. I could see this as a bedspread, quilt, or even as wall art in my future classroom. Something like this would brighten up a classroom for sure! This is something meaningful, beautiful, and special that I can treasure for the rest of my life. A painting would be something special as well, but there was something about this that made me feel like this was exactly what I needed. This surpasses anything a painting could have said and represented.