domingo, 28 de agosto de 2016

First Week of School

Well, we did it! Everyone survived the first week of school. Everything went pretty smoothly, and I am so excited to continue teaching these kids! This first week was pretty laid back because apparently it's a normal thing here that a lot of students don't even come the first week of school. There were so few students in grades 5-7 (the grades I will be teaching) that we combined them on Monday and Tuesday. I spent some time just observing while the experienced teachers reiterated school rules and expectations and then we all told each other about our summers, played games, etc. Later in the week, I reviewed some of the important topics they should have learned last year. They were so excited to learn and were able to pull some of that information out of their dusty summer brains. On Friday, all schools were shut down because of the tropical depression (even though it was sunny almost the entire day), and I was able to actually rest some for the first time in a couple of weeks.
I finished my current grad school class after working every spare moment for the past couple of weeks, and my next class starts September 1st. But for the next few days, I get to focus on my lesson plans, studying science vocabulary in Spanish and ASL, and relax a bit. I really need to stop procrastinating...
Last Friday, I went to Natali's English class with her because it is right after work and we are sharing a car. Now, this is not a basic English class. This is an English class for English teachers who are already teaching English and are looking to improve even more. The professor noticed me immediately because I stick out like a sore thumb everywhere I go. He asked me to stand up and tell everyone who I am and what I am doing in the Dominican Republic. My announcement that I am teaching natural sciences at a school for the deaf with sign language being the primary language and supporting that with vocabulary in Spanish so the kids will be able to read and write those words in the future sparked a language discussion in the class. A little while later, the professor approached me and said, "Since you're here, I need to ask you a favor. I have to go teach another class for an hour, so you're going to teach this one. Here's the book, just talk about what it says, ask them questions, have them discuss. Just let them hear your accent and make them practice speaking in English. You'll be great. Good luck!"And just like that, he left…Now standing at the front of the class, I turned to face them and saw about thirty pairs of eyes on me, waiting expectantly. So, I taught. After an hour, it was time for break. Then the teacher came back, taught for a while, approached me again and said, "I need to deliver some paperwork, so the class is all yours again!" And he left…again…He came back at the end of class and said I'm welcome to come every Friday and take some work off of his plate. The students were very kind and told me I did a great job. I was also apparently very famous, as the teachers I was teaching told their teacher friends in other classes about what had happened. After class, the professor talked to me and Natali about the school and said he would like to visit some time. He is a very respected man with a lot of experience and power, so this could be a great opportunity.
Tomorrow I begin introducing new topics to my students. I have studied and prepared so much, but I still feel extremely underprepared. I could use prayer for increased trust in the Lord's provision, for strength of mind to continue learning and retaining these concepts in new languages, and for clarity in my communication with my students. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. It means the world to me.

miércoles, 17 de agosto de 2016

Good-bye Vacation!

Well, summer vacation is officially over. We have been working in the school for the past two weeks, preparing for the new school year. I will be teaching 5th through 7th grade natural sciences this year. What that means is that, using textbooks written in Spanish, I have to develop three separate curriculums from scratch. I started by reading my way through the first units of each textbook so I knew what exactly I was expected to teach, and so I could learn the science vocabulary in Spanish. It took me an entire week of eight-hour work days, but I finally read through them, Google translating all of the words I didn't know. I am currently working on making lesson plans for the first few weeks, and the next step is making sure I can sign it all in ASL. However, there are a ton of technical science terms that I don't know in ASL, so I have a lot of studying to do before school starts on Monday! The end of my current grad school semester is also coming up, and I have a lot of work left to do for that as well. Needless to say, I am feeling the pressure!
This is how I study when the power goes out at night
But it hasn't been all work all the time. I have gone out with a missionary family a few times to visit their church and go to the movies and such. They are a great resource, have been very helpful, and are wonderful friends. I also met up with a friend from camp who is currently living here for a research internship. She, one of her friends who was visiting her, and I went to the Colonial Zone and walked around. The Colonial Zone is the oldest part of the city with buildings that were built when the Spanish first came and settled here in the Dominican. We visited a cathedral and a fort, ate some delicious food, went to some shops, and had a great time. Also, it was my first time venturing out on my own! I felt like such a big girl. I took a taxi there and back all on my own. I even had a conversation with one of the taxi drivers in Spanish!
I might have hopped a locked gate to get here. It's fine.

On that note, my Spanish is improving considerably. Well, my ability to understand it. Not so much my ability to speak it. But I know that will come with time. The language barrier has probably been the most difficult part of this move, so I'm feeling pretty good about the improvements I have made in the last couple of months.
I'm really excited to see what all God has in store as this new school year starts. Thank you all so much for your prayers. I could use many, many more in these next few weeks!