I’m still here, I’m alive, and I’m loving every minute of it so far. I have so many updates I don’t know where to begin. I was hoping to post this blog two weeks ago but it seems like I don’t have time for anything other than cleaning and school work. It’s easy to say that I’m never bored here; there is always something to do/something to clean. I feel guilty if I’m not studying or making lesson plans or cleaning. Before coming here I wouldn’t have felt guilty for relaxing or just hanging out. It’s so different here. I watch the girls at the school do their chores three-four times a day, every single day. They are always so busy cleaning or scrubbing something that I feel like I should be doing that at home. I like to think that I’m learning more than just Spanish from the girls – seeing how much they clean makes me clean more. Before here I wouldn’t have swept my bedroom floor multiple times during the week, or iron my clothes, or clean bathrooms, or take care of the garden, etc… At home I usually clean my room, do my laundry, and help out if needed. I’ve always relied on my mom to do the rest of the cleaning. It’s definitely different now that I’m living on my own, especially in this country where all I see are people cleaning and in a few hours cleaning the same things over again.
I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I’ve been here – sometimes it feels like I’ve always been here because I’m so comfortable with the girls and the school community. It’s easy to say that my favorite part of Honduras is being at the school with all the girls and the sisters. It’s difficult to put into words the feeling I have while I’m at the school because words can’t express something so amazing and wonderful. It’s a constant happiness with the girls. I’ve had times where I’ve been stressed with my classes and angry because I didn’t understand the material, but overall the feeling of happiness never leaves. There are smiling faces all over the school from day until night. There have been mornings where I’ve gotten to the school at 6 to finish work and I’m still half asleep and dreading the start of the day, but as soon as I enter the school there are usually 6-7 girls there to welcome me with bright eyes and smiles. The girls are the first people I say hello to in the morning and last I say goodnight to – they are the best start for each morning and the best way to end the night.
Teaching is… difficult, stressful, time consuming. Making lesson plans are very, very time consuming. Aside from translating the material into English for me, I need to break everything down into simple terms, be able to communicate the material easily to the girls, and be prepared for any possible questions in class. I try to think of fun, interesting ways to keep their attention but sometimes Biology and Math don’t beat The Hunger Games or The Twilight Series. Standing in front of the classroom is completely different from sitting behind a desk - I’m learning how to pay attention to each student’s individual needs and learning preferences; their strengths and weaknesses for subjects; how they learn best; what motivates them to learn; I’m slowly learning how to handle a class without having to tell someone to stop talking or behave. The classes I thought I was teaching kept changing but I finally have a schedule now. I’m teaching 10th grade Math, Biology, Biology Lab, and Chemistry; and 11th grade, Biology, Biology Lab, Philosophy and Math.
So far the hardest class for me to teach is Philosophy. I hated taking Philosophy in high school and college because I thought the material was boring and I never knew what to say. I thought I would hate Philosophy but instead I really enjoy teaching it. I think it’s because I can ask all the questions now and wait for responses. The biggest goal I have this year is to make my students think. The school systems here don’t teach students to think, to question, to explore. Instead, they give a book and a CD for the students memorize the material, sometimes without understanding it. They know the information on the CD, take the test, and pass. The CD is so boring and just reading the textbook isn’t exactly helping them learn. The girls here don’t realize they can do so much more because no one lets them know that. All they need is a little push in the direction they’re looking for and support. They were never taught how to learn, only to memorize which is incredibly frustrating when in class. They have the lifestyles of their guardians memorized; if they don’t learn to grow and expand their minds, there won’t be any future change in their current lifestyles.
My first day of Philosophy I wrote on the board WHAT is Philosophy? After no answer and blank stares they finally said they didn’t know anything about the subject. Once they said that I wrote WHY are we learning Philosophy? WHY are you at CMP? WHY do you want to learn? I think they got the hint that it’s all about asking questions. We talked about the questions, but I received very general answers. When asked: Why are we learning Philosophy, the responses were because the school makes us; however, they didn’t understand the importance of learning about the subject. When I asked why the girls were at CMP/why do they want to learn it was because they need to learn, they hope to go to the university and eventually work after. I don’t think the girls realize what they can do because of learning and expanding their minds. I try to push them to give me more in depth answers, to make them use different words, to find different reasons for things – it’s difficult to break through to them. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t feel comfortable talking in class or they aren’t confident in their responses or they really don’t know what to say. I try to stress the fact that there aren’t correct or incorrect answers in Philosophy; it all depends on how you interpret questions, passages, or quotations and create your own responses, meanings, and understandings. Class normally consists of myself and one other student talking the entire time. When a student says something I keep questioning her and forcing her to think. I don’t want my students to feel uncomfortable, I want them to expand their knowledge and look to find new, deeper meanings, I won’t let them look at what’s directly in front of them.
We’ve talked for two weeks now about the definition of Philosophy – it’s about thinking, questioning, learning, listening, having the desire for knowledge and power that leads to success, expanding the mind, and “thinking outside of the box”. Most of our discussions were questions and trying to find more intelligent, deeper explanations responses. I try to push them to ask more difficult questions, not to question what is right in front of them because then the answers will be simple. I used myself as an example and asked what they see when they look at me – white, American, blue eyes, and brown hair. I tried to explain that everyone could see that; they only look, they don’t have to talk to me or know me. We talked about how they asked me very simple, easy questions about my life and my family. Eventually they realized that they don’t know me as a person, just basic facts about my life because of the questions asked. I think they finally understand that in order to find what they’re looking for, they need to question and delve deeper into the questions.
Before we even opened our books we had discussed the definition of Philosophy in our own words, examined it, questioned it, and understood our own meaning. During one class I gave each student separate instructions on where to sit or stand. I didn’t explain anything to them, just told them what to do. I saw curious faces and them looking at each other thinking I was crazy. They stayed there about two minutes because I couldn’t handle the silence any longer. I asked them if they had learned nothing during the week, why didn’t they question me? I saw curiosity on each face, but instead of asking or questioning me they did what they were told to do. I was disappointed because I thought they understood how important questioning is and this class is all about questioning. I wrote our definition on the board and then the book definition of Philosophy. I asked if the definitions were similar at all, everyone said no. They won’t look for anything, instead they’ll read what is directly in front of them and that’s it. By the end of class the board was full of different colors and lines and circles helping them realize the two definitions are exactly the same, the wording is the only difference. One girl said our definition was prettier and she is exactly correct because it’s our definition - we created it without reading the book, it’s our own words, our own meanings and our own interpretations. The definition we created will be easier to remember because we understand it, it belongs to us. I have three words written on the board that have stayed there all week – PENSAR (think) PREGUNTAR (question) and SONREIR (smile). My students do not smile in Philosophy. I wish they would but it’s not a fun subject to sit through when someone is constantly questioning you. My goal for this year is to help my students’ think and question, force them to expand their knowledge. They don’t realize how powerful their minds could be because no one tells them. Instead they do what they are taught and don’t move forward from there. It’s frustrating to watch because I can’t do anything about it, I don’t have the answers and saying something to them won’t help. They need to realize it and to understand it on their own and then go from there.
On a different note from Philosophy, everything is going very well. I love the school and the community at the school. The secretary is always telling me “tu puede siempre” meaning that I’ll be able to do this, I need to be patient with my Spanish, be confident and that it will come with time, poco a poco. I’m definitely learning to be patient with myself here; it’s not something I’m very good at. Everything here is definitely a learning experience and so far it has been truly incredible and wonderful. As each week passes I learn to cherish even more of my time here. This past weekend we had a Valentine’s Day party with all the professors/tutors at the school. Two of the sisters came too, which was great! I’m not sure what I like more about Honduras, being with the girls or being with the sisters, it’s always a good time regardless of who I’m with. The sisters are so amazing and loving and caring. Each sister is very easy to talk to; they’re humbling and funny, and always make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves. Each day I’m asked if I slept well the night before, if I’m getting enough rest, if I’m being healthy and eating, and taking care of myself on the weekends. They are definitely a huge comfort to have here and have become a family to me already.
I’m sure you can all tell that I’m loving it here and enjoying every minute so far. I never speed up stories either so naturally my blog would be long. My next one won’t be as philosophical, however if you have any ideas for me regarding Philosophy, please send them my way!