Archive for January, 2015


The notion of non-English school kids being disciplined and well-behaved is a myth; whoever came up with that idea is a liar and should be punished! In fact, it probably came from some schoolteacher in a desperate bid to try and install some discipline in the classroom.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the picture-perfect image of smiling kids, who eagerly cling on to a teacher’s every word, quickly dissipated. To be fair, my 1st, 2nd and 3rd Graders weren’t children from hell, but they definitely were challenging, particularly the 3rd Graders.

I learnt so much while teaching them during that first full week. I learnt how to think quickly on my feet. For example, if an activity wasn’t working, then I had to change it up a bit on the spot. And who knew that the ABC song would have a pied-piper effect on the 1st Graders? Whenever they heard the song, no matter what activity they were doing at that point in time, or how noisy they were, they would stop immediately without fail, and chime in at the top of their lungs, as if the song triggered some kind of hypnosis.

I’ve already explained in a previous blog post that I don’t have the best memory when it comes to names. During the previous week, I got them to write their names on the board, write their name cards for their cubby holes, and then I wrote their names on a piece of paper. I learnt the names of, shall we say, some of the more disruptive kids in the class first, because of the amount of times I had to say their names. But by the end of the week, I had learnt the names of all 37 of my students, which really was an amazing feat for me as it usually takes me an age to learn just one name. So to learn people’s names in the future, I now know that I not only have to see it written down, I also need to repeat it several times for it to be etched into my brain.

      

I learnt that I’m not actually as bad at drawing as I thought I was. I was pretty much forced to be more creative with my hands, as most of the learning aids that accompanied the course books had apparently been destroyed by a hurricane around five years ago.

   

                                        

I learnt that despite my preconceived idea that younger kids are ‘harder to handle’, the youngest grades weren’t actually that badly behaved; it was the older kids who posed the biggest problem.

I learnt that I apparently only really became a teacher when I was inundated with so much work that I had to stay behind after-hours just to try and catch up with everything. One late afternoon as I was stuck behind my desk, I heard a cackle outside.

“You’re a real teacher now,” Yudith, the 2nd Grade teacher, playfully said with a cheeky grin on her face as she made her way home, because I was still working.

Yudith is quite a character; she makes me laugh and I know that her comment wasn’t malicious. She was one of the first “Spanish teachers” to start talking to me, and she let me borrow her paint so that I could decorate the windows in my classroom, but anyway, I digress.

I learnt about how loving, thoughtful and generous kids could be. I received love from them in the form of a gift, such as a sweet, a flower or even ‘just’ a hug. Teenagers tend to be ‘too cool’ to show this kind of affection and appreciation, but I discovered how unashamed ‘my kids’ were to express these feelings. I learnt about their capacity to ‘forgive’. I would tell someone off for doing something and they would huff and puff about getting into trouble, but the very next day they would act as if nothing happened and that everything in their world was bright and rosy, until they got into trouble again.

And finally, I discovered that I could bond with the kids so much so, that I felt as though I was their parent. I genuinely felt proud and happy for the children once I could see that ‘aha moment’ in their eyes and their expressions – the moment that they understood what I was teaching them. I had to stop arguments and then get them to ‘make up’ or at least tolerate each other. I saw them at their most vulnerable points, such as when I consoled them as they cried; I had to do all sorts. And even though at times they got on my last nerve, they were my kids. And I didn’t fully realise that I had this feeling until I had to think really hard about leaving them, when I was offered to teach the older grades, as an opening suddenly arose…

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My first weekend!

My first weekend in Mexico was pretty eventful. I met up with the school’s other English teachers, Martin and Sara, who were already there and we decided to go out. Someone who works at the school, Gloria, very kindly and warmly invited us to her house so that we could all go together to a beachside restaurant/club called La Salsa in San Carlos, Guaymas.

La Salsa, which is about a 20-30 minute drive from central Guaymas, is a very popular place to go out at the moment in the area; one Mexican described it to me as a “boom place”. I later discovered that there aren’t actually that many places to go out where I am, and that Friday nights are pretty low-key with the locals, but I don’t really like going out on Friday’s, so that actually suits me just fine.

“This place didn’t exist about 10 years ago or so,” muses Gloria’s husband, Adan. He told us that there was nothing on the beach front where La Salsa now stands, and that he went to that beach most weekends with a friend and there was hardly anyone on there. They started to invite people to come with them and have parties there, then those people invited other people, and then it just kind of snowballed from there.

What I quickly discovered once I arrived in Guaymas is how little information there is on the internet about events and activities that take place there. For example, I had been searching high and low online for a capoeira club in Guaymas, among other things, and had been coming up with absolutely nothing. All that kind of information is usually spread by word of mouth through your connections.

“What sports do you guys like to do?”Adan asked the three of us. For each activity, his response was, “ Well, I have a friend who…” and then bingo, the connection was made, for most of us.

The night out in La Salsa was so much fun and was a great way to celebrate my move to the country; Mexicans definitely know how to have a good time! And instead of having a kebab, or something similar, as post-club food, Gloria and Adan took us back to their house and gave us some homemade tacos, which were bloomin’ awesome!

       

The next day, we spent the day at the beach, which was bliss, despite the fact that there were quite a few rocks and shells on the beach. This was because a couple of weeks before, the area was affected by a hurricane. This was the same hurricane the my manager alerted me about before I came, which sent me into panic-mode before I arrived, but it had obviously impacted San Carlos more than it had central Guaymas.

      

      

On Sunday, we went snorkelling. I was nervous about going snorkeling anyway. What made it a thousand times worse was the fact that I read that there was a hurricane in the area. Being out on the open sea with the storm was definitely the last place I wanted to be.

We arrived at the boat rental shop, and the owner said that they would have to turn the boat around while we were out there if the storm got any closer to our location. I was petrified of the storm, I was terrified about swimming, I was anxious about snorkeling for the first time; it was just all too much for little old me and I began to have heart palpitations! However, upon hearing about the nearby storm, Sara squealed and said: “Cooool, a hurricane!!!!” Gulp!

“Does everyone know you can’t swim yet?” a friend so helpfully asked via WhatsApp. I can actually swim, I’m just not a strong swimmer, but I assured him that I had told them that and I thanked him for his encouragement.

I was panicking and I unintentionally made my friend worry by mentioning the storm through a WhatsApp message and then leaving my phone in my bag, without relaying a message back that everything was actually ok.

As it turned out, as with most of my fears, the storm didn’t come anywhere near us, thank God!! So that was one less thing to worry about. However, I was still apprehensive about swimming.

We arrived at our location and Sara and Martin effortless jumped into the water and began to happily swim around the cove. Even though I had a life jacket on, I was too paralysed by fear to jump into the water. In my head, there were too many things to remember: spit on the googles then wash them in the sea so that they didn’t fog up, jump into the water a certain way so that the flippers don’t come off, jump in without putting the mouth guzzle into my mouth and then position it into my mouth once I had surfaced – it was just all too much!! So I just stood on the edge of the boat for what must have been an eternity. The two crew members tried to count me in so many times that they just gave up in the end, laughed so hard at me and went about their boat duties. To be honest I really don’t blame them, I must have been a pathetic sight. I’m pretty sure I saw one of them get out his camera phone to take a picture of me, but he denied it when I asked him to send me the photo.

I eventually plucked up the courage to jump in. Ok, so I actually slid into the water from a seated position at the edge of the boat, but that was a proud moment for me, even if it didn’t look so graceful. I initially panicked with the whole breathing-through-the-snorkel malarkey, but once I calmed down I actually genuinely loved it, even though the picture of us in the water below, which was taken at the end, tells a different story. The water was so clear and I could see a variety of fish. The boat crew even had to call me a few times to swim back to the boat as I didn’t really want to leave. It was such a great experience and it was definitely something that I wanted to do again!

From that day, we made a pact to do something active every weekend… It hasn’t quite turned out the way that we hoped, though. Us English teachers aren’t quite paid enough to have that kind of luxurious lifestyle; but we initially gave it our best shot!