Teaching, Tutoring, and Learning

I spend every weekday morning teaching the kinder class at the bilingual school. Kindergarten is always a tricky age to teach, but it’s even more challenging when you’re being spoken too in Spanish by a class of 22 crazy kiddos. They almost always speak Spanish (although they understand English almost fluently!) and their Spanish spoken through tears is a whole different language! When one of them melts into a puddle in the middle of the floor, I’m on call to scoop them up, attempt to settle them down, and then find out what happened to cause the tears. Usually this requires persistent questioning (Que paso?) and sometimes just a good strong hug to make everything better. It has been extremely challenging to work with the kinder class, but oh so rewarding. When Cecilio runs up to me and tells me “TODAY IS WEDNESDAY” (even when it might be Tuesday or Thursday or Saturday), I feel like a proud mama. He may not have it all the way right, but he’s become much more confident in his English skills and eventually he’ll actually remember what day it is! When Keila finishes matching the upper and lowercase letters (she’s the resident genius…every class has one, and this is no exception!) and looks over at me with her wide-smile, beaming with pride, I can’t help to feel like maybe I had something to do with it. The year-long volunteers have established an incredible learning environment for these kids, and have been very lucky to be a part of it and see them grow so much! Maria Jose arrived at the hogar just 6 months ago, and was completely nonverbal due to the trauma she had experienced. She’s quickly blooming into a darling young girl: with personality to spare, a loving heart, and a precious streak of crazy!
When it comes to tutoring, I’ve been working with one of the jovens (young men) who is preparing for his college entrance exams. He’s extremely intelligent, dedicated and quite the hard worker. He wants to be a doctor, and I wholeheartedly believe that he can achieve that goal. He’s taking two exams on Sunday, the spanish version of the SAT (which is has to pass in order to get into college) and a supplemental test (with chemistry, physics, biology, and additional math) in order to qualify for the medical
program. I have been spending countless hours in the past few weeks helping him prep for the math and physics sections. Obviously, he speaks Spanish (and English incredibly well…although he’s shy and prefers to just answer in simple Spanish), and I speak English, but he understands almost all English and I understand quite a bit of (simple) Spanish so our conversations sound quite unique to an outsider! HA! For example, while we were studying for physics today:
Me: What is the difference between distance and displacement?
Him: Yo sé distancia pero no recuerdo desplazamiento.
Me: Ok, so then just explain to me what you know about distance.
Him: Distancia es la distancia total recorrida por algo
Me: Right! So what is different about displacement? Displacement is how far, the distance, from where you started to where you ended.
Him: Ok…espera…Ahh, sí! Si yo camino a la casa en Macuelizo y de regreso, la distancia es 10 kilometres…espera…pero la desplazamiento es 0 porque la distancia de donde yo empecé es 0.
Me: YES! Awesome…ok now try this problem!
et cetera
It’s pretty incredible how much we’ve been able to review, and how much I’ve been able to introduce (stuff that he never learned in school) even with the language barrier. For anyone who is reading this, please send positive vibes and prayers because this test provides a huge opportunity for him to achieve his dream of becoming a doctor! I’ve always loved tutoring — it is so rewarding to see a student finally understand something that they have struggled with. But having someone who really wants to do everything they can to be as successful as possible is not only inspiring, but really reminds me what you can accomplish with hard work and that there’s never any reason for excuses! Hopefully one of the volunteers will let me know what kind of results come back from his test…I have a good feeling about it!
I’ve learned a bunch of Spanish from the kids at the hogar too! I still struggle to speak, but I can understand almost everything that is said. There’s nothing better than just being constantly corrected by kids…they really are the best teachers (and they don’t even know that they are teaching!) They don’t get frustrated or angry with you for not understanding or saying the right thing…they just correct you and move on! For anyone looking to learn a language, just go spend time with kids who speak that language. It works…I swear!

Working on writing the letter of the week!

Learning the alphabet with boxes and Popsicle sticks!


Reading and teaching them how to treat books…books are treasures!

Hard at work tutoring…I think it was Physics at this point (hence the spanish YouTube videos to help me explain — thanks Khan Academy!)


One thought on “Teaching, Tutoring, and Learning

  1. Meghan,
    You really are busy. I hope you’re enjoying this experience, a contrast to Tanzania. I thought of you when I read an article in the March 2 AMERICA magazine, “A Rite of Passage” by William Byron, S.J. If you can’t get it perhaps your dad can; it’s on the web also. You could share your thoughts on your volunteer experiences in your blog. The author is suggesting mandatory service. As one who chose to volunteer you might argue pro or con. You and your Mom and Aiden are in my prayers. Love, Aunt Connie


    Date: Thu, 5 Mar 2015 05:07:38 +0000
    To: bvmfladstl@msn.com


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