You know how you go to drink something and you expect one thing but the drink is something completely different. You recoil saying "Ugh I thought I was drinking water", but it was really Sprite? Your initial reaction is annoyance, but then you become happy that you now have a delicious Sprite instead of boring water. Well that is how my first days of teaching in Honduras have felt. Let's be honest the first day was a nightmare, but each day gets better and better. I have a feeling this is going to be a true test of my teaching abilities.
Lost in translation doesn’t even begin to summarize my first three days of school. The last month I have heard stories of my students and how great their English is. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. My students stare at me with this blank look, when I ask them if they understand they say “Yes, Miss” (but they pronounce it Meez). I am left thinking what did they understand and what did they not understand?!? Now, I officially get how I look when local Hondurans speak to me and I’m nodding saying “Si”, only comprehending about 50% of what they say. I guess it comes full circle.
So my first day starts out with a nice little surprise in the window. As I open the window out flies a dead gecko and its detached tail, still moving. Day 1, minute 2 of my first day and all I thinking was that I hope this wasn’t the first bad omen to the school year.
Oh how I didn't know that one little dead gecko was the least of my worries!
One thing I learned very quickly was there are just social norms that my students follow that are very different than the students in the U.S.:
· Personal space does not exist between student and teacher. One of my students was trying to get my attention and was petting me as I helped another student. I also had another student pull my face towards them, attempting to kiss me on the lips.
· When I am talking, my students can’t sit still and look at me. It is as if every child has a small form of ADHD.
· I tried playing Bingo with my students; they were having the hardest time focusing. I then asked them if they would prefer to do a worksheet, they said YES!! Who chooses worksheets over Bingo??
· They love to yell. The concept of raising their hand does not exist and usually when they are yelling it is “MEEEZ” (Miss).
There are also many other highlights to my first days of school:
· Mice running across the tin roof and creating this horrible noise (I equate it to nails going down the chalkboard). It only got worse when my students started yelling “Ratones, Ratones”
· Stray dogs roaming the school yard for food dropped by the students.
· At snack and lunch time parents line up against the fence to give their child their food. It looks a bit like family day at a prison.
· Minerva has 3 school buses, these are actually their version of a mini-van and they are packed to the max. 3 students ride in the front seat, if that gives you an idea how packed these vans are.
· The office has officially moved 3 times and its last location is the library, which happens to be in this hidden location next to the janitor’s closet. I am still trying to figure out why the administration office is hidden in the back of the school??!!
· There weren’t enough classrooms this year so they officially split a classroom in half using plywood as the separator. So instead of the classroom being 15’x20’ its 7.5’x10’. I am pretty sure our teacher’s bathroom is bigger than that room.
· Toilet paper is frequently stolen so it is not provided by the school. You need to bring your own each time you go to the bathroom. This is actually a common norm in Honduras. So it is in good practice to always have toilet paper in your purse!!
· Each day there are preschool children running around school campus because they have escaped their classroom. They are crying and screaming hysterically because they don’t want to be in school. One of the teachers was actually holding a screaming child while reading a book (I deemed her most brave teacher ever!!)
· We were officially informed of the school rules this morning at our staff meeting. I am pretty sure those should have been established before school start. This leads into the Central American level of efficiency. Gotta love the “When I get around to it attitude”
A day in the life….pretty entertaining!!
The window that my gecko friend was stuck in!!
Oh and don't forget about our gardener...he cuts out grass with a machete.