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Can’t Beat ‘em? Join ‘em!

June 29, 2013

As the only native English speaker in my village one of the top requests I get from people is to teach English. It’s great that people are excited to talk with me, but on the flip side, I sure as shit am not teacher, nor do I know the first thing about how to teach English.

For my first couple of weeks at site I was annoyed by the persistence of the requests for English lessons, and I caved. At first I tried to help students one on one, but this proved too time consuming, and to be frank, frusterating. I was not blessed with much patience, and the little I do have is exhausted here on simply trying to figure out what people are saying. Trying to teach on top of that maxed me out. Plus, as an agricultural volunteer my primary goal is not really to teach English at all.

After a particularly obnoxious night of English tutoring I decided to consolidate my efforst and started English speaking clubs at the high school and middle school in my town.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

This was a turning point in a couple of ways. First, I somehow got a street cred bonus for teaching people’s kids at the schools. I think this is because my activities finally matched people’s expectations of m e to some extent, plus I was actually doing work instead of asking annoying questions about basic things like “when are mangos ripe” and “ do you own your land?”. Which are valid questions for me to ask, but understandably exasperating to be asked.

I also suddenly had friends. They are younger then me, but they all know my name, say hi to me everytime they see me, and are genuinely excited to learn. They are another source of inspiration to me. Ironic since I sorta am terrified of children and can’t say that I’d ever seen myself as the teaching type.

In fact, during the independence day parade, watching my students march in and line up all in their best parade attire, I got a little bit choked up. I believe that I was feeling proud of them, and reflected on their futures and how a simple thing like independence from a colonial power changed the course of so many lives. And how uncertain their future is right now.

A Big. Huge. Enormous tear lump filled my throat; I was actually fighting back tears! And I think that was the moment I really felt it, I really felt a sense of belonging to Ampondralava and the people who live their and felt like I had finally joined into an important part of their lives. It only took me 6 weeks, but hey, it’s all in good time, right?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jarie Castelin permalink
    June 29, 2013 19:10

    Glad you caved! English is an economic. commodity for these people. You are doing them a huge favor. You are learning about yourself in the process and being forced to change just like they are. Hang in there and stick w it. If you need help, want advice, lesson plans, websites etc, send up a “smoke signal”. Much love, Jarie


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