Sunday, December 13, 2015

The English Teacher

It came to pass in November.  I had finally been accepted as a profesor de Ingle's - English teacher - at Arco Language Institute, a ministry of Iglesia Verbo Cristiana here in Cuenca, Ecuador. 

Cate Messenger, the newly appointed coordinator for Arco, and herself an English teacher on Arco's staff, had let me know she needed to hire me due to a request by an Ecuadorian national to get tutored in English in order to prepare for English language tests for his Ecuadorian pilot's license.  Ecuador, of course, doesn't use English at its airport towers to the best of my knowledge, but internationally, English is used by Air Traffic Control towers all over the world.  We figured the man would show up for a meeting with us to discuss how his tutoring would be done, but after two attempts he never showed up.  That would have been two months worth of work for me, around 80 hours of instruction. 

Nevertheless, I was hired on as an English teacher, and there was an upcoming substitute (how I have hated the word when spoken in disrepute by my previous students and even staff Stateside) assignment coming up for Saturday December 12th.  I would take the place of Cate and another teacher who both taught a Basic English level class Saturday mornings.  

But first, before all that, there was an Arco Language Institute student cultural event which was planned for the Wednesday before (US) Thanksgiving, which of course is not a holiday in Ecuador.  Time to thank God for everything he has provided during the past year.  And what a year it has been for Carolyn Anne and I!  Looking back, we were living that past November in a motel in the Antelope Valley in California, waiting after the sale of our house to get permission from our airline, Delta, to move our 17 suitcases and dog crate to Ecuador.  We moved that following January of 2015, of course.  After several months of going through the Visa application process, we finally obtained our Pensionado Visas this past October, and have our Cedula national identification cards in hand as well.  We've survived falls - and a hospital visit, getting lost (yet again, taking the transit bus the wrong direction in town), pain from Carolyn Anne's ongoing osteoarthritis, computer and Internet problems (see our previous post) and taken a trip back to the States to see friends and family, which we were glad to be able to do.  Now was the time to give Thanks to Almighty God in the presence of our new friends in Ecuador whom we've made acquaintance with over the last year.  We sang - in English - "Give Thanks" as well as some other worship songs in both English and Spanish.  The Thanksgiving style supper event was largely conducted in English, and different groups of students from the different English classes would sing a song, say a poem out loud in unison, or even put on a puppet show!  All in English, of course.  Much rejoicing and enjoyment in what the students have learned thus far.  Turkey and Ecuadorian accountrements were served to all on paper plates.  Desserts abounded, too.  (The Ecuadorians don't know how to make a North American pie, so cakes were abundantly available, as were fruit concoctions.) 

Next up was Arco's annual student Graduation Night, which was in December.  Here, students, parents, friends, faculty (I was now part of the teaching staff and invited to attend) and staff were all present to congratulate the students graduating from their programs for the year.  Students had to pass their exams first, of course, to attend graduation.  Maybe 15 or so school aged students and adult students were called up to the stage and awarded their paper diplomas of recognition.  One student gave a short speech -in English - on how her learning English opened doors to her and allowed her to know more about the world around her, especially involving foreigners outside of Ecuador. 

Besides these student convocations, we teachers had an inservice meeting with the author of our Arco Language Institute textbook, Steve Nine.  Four new teachers and the teachers already on staff attended for a couple of hours.  I learned a lot from this meeting, and found out - confirmed, actually - that the program was sound and vocally based, centered around phonemes, or sounds of words that make up words.  We went through a lesson (truncated due to time limitations, though) and played the part of students doing the work as instructed in the classroom.  Gives one a different perspective, and lets the teacher understand just how important proper enunciation and sounds are to the writing of the letters that make up the words that make up. . . the language known as English. 

Finally the week came where I needed to put everything together that I had learned to date.  I was going to take the place of two teachers and teach one lesson jointly to both classes!  I had shadowed the teachers involved, as well as the other teachers of English at Arco, and gone over with Cate the lesson plan devised by her, which was quite well put together with sounds - phonemes - that were repeated in more than one exercise and activities that reinforced the learning of the day.  All that was left was reviewing the lesson, and preparing for the big day Saturday the 12th. 

I wisely decided to rest the afternoon of Friday the 11th.  Good thing I did, because I was on my feet for over four hours of teaching the next morning. 

Some of the items were not available to me until the morning of class.  The textbook, flashcards, and attendance sheet were not in my possession until that morning.  This wasn't a big problem, as Cate had emailed me a lesson plan previously, but the flashcards with the sounds on the back had to be put into order for this class, covering what had been already taught to date, omitting what had not.  That took a bit of time in front of the students. . . unavoidable. 

My sense of humor was intact and working, my life vignettes popped up at opportune times, too.  Thank you Lord!  I could communicate with my students by and large - although there were a couple of times with the younger students where I had to ask them to repeat likely due to the large room we were in that had not the best acoustics.  We had fun, too!  I read a poem to my advanced students in the earlier hour, and played a song on my laptop to my basic students towards the end of my time with them at the end.  I even sang the last stanza of it. . . "Do You Hear What I Hear?" as famously performed by Andy Williams.  The students really enjoyed my on key tenor vocalization as I hit the high notes. . . thank you, Lord for moments like these where we can worship you and give you all the Honor and Glory due your Wonderful Name.

Several students thanked me for being there to teach them.  I haven't had that happen in ages. . . decades.  I had been so used to teaching the incarcerated kids in the juvenile hall and county camp system in Los Angeles County, who were never grateful in public if they could help it.  What a nice end of the day that was! 

Yo soy un profesor de Ingle's en Instituto Arco y yo lo disfrute muy mucho.  !Gracias adios por este regalo de eso posicio'n!

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