“How many people are involved?” I asked. “Two”, they said. I mentioned that they needed to come up with their dialog in pairs, and that the dialog needed to include two greetings, two questions about how they are celebrating the holidays, and how they will be celebrated. After several attempts at checking their understanding, they started understanding the directions. This is the challenge of speaking only in English to Spanish speakers. It was neat to see individual students slowly piece things together and explain the directions to their friends. After they got into pairs, I realized that I needed to explain that they needed to invent a title. It obviously couldn’t be about teachers. I had given an example of Valentine’s Day, so most of them used that as an example. Others chose to make a dialog about Halloween. Apparently, Halloween isn’t really celebrated here, but more kids know about it than I thought they would. They laughed at the jack-o-lantern I drew on the board, probably because it looked like a cloud with upside-down triangles for eyes. They took longer than I thought they would to come up with their titles. Some included “Happy Halloween” and “A Student’s Christmas”. Most of them wrote about 2 to 3 lines of their dialog.
It’s a fact that middle schoolers around the world like to mumble. Therefore, I began a “voice leaders of the day” tracker, where I would write down the names of the students who spoke up the best in class. Unfortunately, I wrote about 5 boys’ names down and only one girl’s name down. I hope this helped motivate them to speak up, but I’m continuing to think of ways to make this into an environment that is empowering for the quiet girls in the class. Girls tend to be able to explain directions more easily than the boys, but I still struggle to hear them when they speak to the class. Next time, I think I’ll just choose one boy and one girl to make things even.
Six minutes before the end of class, a very Nicaraguan thing happened. Two women and one man stood in the doorway and gave themselves permission to ask the class if they wanted to buy elotes (roasted corn). I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t believe it, but then I could. Since the concept of urgency is a bit foreign here, these people didn’t see anything wrong with interrupting the entire class to sell elotes. One of my students perked up and asked “Puedo comprar un elote, teacher?”. I just looked at these people and pointed to my watch, saying “En 6 minutos puede regresar!”. My co-teacher helped dissuade them from further interrupting the class, and they left. The students laughed at the “are you serious?!” expression that was stuck on my face. My co-teacher and I just laughed and shook our heads. “Welcome to Nicaragua!” he said.
After class, one of our most respectful students approached my co-teacher and I with a large empty can of chocolate milk powder. It had a slit cut through the lid. My co-teacher quickly pushed a couple of coins inside, and I dug into my bag for some as well. “What is this for?” I asked. “Es para la despedida (the goodbye) de los estudiantes”. I didn’t know much about this despedida, but since I appreciated having this student in our class, I chipped in. With his arms tied behind his back, he looked at me and said “I really like being in your class. It’s dynamic and I like the activities we do”. “Good! Which was your favorite activity?”, I asked him. “The one where we competed against each other and acted out the words!”, he responded with a smile. I’m always thinking of how I can improve my teaching. Sometimes, I leave class hoping that at least a few students if not all of them are going home with something new and useful they have learned. A simple thank-you like this can make all the difference to a teacher. It isn’t necessary for the craft, but it sure feels great to be thanked for your effort.