Friday, June 24, 2011


It has been a slow week here in San Francisco de la Paz.  We are all attempting to prepare for the second half of our volunteer stint.  I have been making posters to decorate my classroom: conjugating the verb “to be”, irregular verbs in the past tense, and 2 posters filled with pictures of animals and their names in English.  It has been difficult to teach the fourth grade sentence construction.  The sixth grade catches on so much faster in that regard.  I am not sure the parts of a sentence have been explained to fourth grade in Spanish let alone in English.  I am going to revamp my approach in fourth grade.  For as bad as they are at sentence construction, they do pretty well at memorizing vocabulary.  I am going to try and establish a strong base of vocabulary and have them construct only the most basic sentences, such as describing people and animals.  For example, “The tiger is fast and orange.  The bear is big and brown.  She is blonde and pretty.”  The idea is to have them be able to use these in conversation and draw from their base of vocabulary to start forming simple sentences.  Then, next year in 5th grade, they will be able to go more in depth on sentence construction with the ability to use a variety of words they learned the year before.  For sixth grade I am going to dive in deep into the past tense.  By far, the past tense is the hardest thing to grasp in English.  There are so many irregular verbs.  I feel like most of the verbs we use on a regular basis are irregular.  This is a tough thing for them to grasp.  They always ask, “but why is this irregular, why does it change like this?”  The only thing you can really say is that they need to memorize it.  End of story.  They don’t like that. 

I think what has deflated our ego the most as volunteers is the fact that progress is almost guaranteed to be slow this first year due to a lack of direction from administration and the trial and error strategy we have proposed.  I think we have figured out what works for each of us, and the second half of the year will be easier and more productive.  It is hard for us to keep in mind that this is a long term plan that will go on at least a decade after we leave to achieve fluency.

The other day, I walked past the same area that I saw the group of armed Pablo Escobar wannabes.  In almost exactly the same spot there were armed guards from a private security firm.  They looked better armed and better dressed than the narcos were and I wondered whether they had been hired by the drug mules.  I asked around and found out that one of the secretaries of the Pepe Lobo administration was visiting his home town.  I found it ironic that the private security guards, probably hired by the state of Honduras, were guarding the exact street corner that the narco-traffickers were guarding just the weekend before.  No doubt, I live in a complicated place.     

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