Heavy Workload

I just completed my first week of teaching all five days and it was grueling. Even the young folks (all are at least 30 years younger than me) found it very tiring. The work days are long and none of us, especially me, have had time or energy to devote to lesson planning. Hence, we’ve been taking it one day at a time, sometimes not knowing exactly what we would do until only hours before a class. On Monday, Marcus, who will be here for six months (at least 4 months longer than any of the rest of us) had raised a concern about this way of working. He suggested we needed a team meeting to get organized and I heartily concurred. So, we had a curriculum planning meeting this afternoon. Working together, we laid the ground work for a curriculum which will run for the rest of this school year (until December.) This plan is high level, specifying the basic themes and grammar points to be covered in each of seven units (each unit is one month/4 lessons.) We now feel much better about the future. Having a high-level plan will not only protect our own sanity: it will also be a big help to the volunteers who come after us. After we reached agreement on the long-term plan, we started detailed planning for next weeks’ lessons. With Elizabeth’s, Holly’s and Alix’s help, I have a very specific set of lesson development tasks to accomplish this weekend.

The biggest news – for me, anyway, is that, after a lot of soul-searching I decided to admit that I simply cannot continue to work this kind of schedule. It is simply too tiring and it leaves me no energy for anything else, like lesson planning or working on this blog. I was delighted to find that the whole team was very supportive of my need to work fewer days and that we worked out a schedule where I will work on Monday, Wed, and Thursday: staying at home on Tuesdays and Fridays to develop lesson worksheets, etc.

In addition, since Tolu (she uses the name Grace for the kids because she thinks it’s easier for them) has decided she doesn’t like teaching the beginners adult conversation class, I will take it over from her. Espaanglisch offers beginners’ and intermediate English conversation classes for 1 hour on Mon, Wed, and Thurs evenings at 6pm. This is similar to the work I’ve been doing at the Connection in Summit’s ESL program for several years now so I feel confident in doing it without needing much time to prepare.

USDA School

This was our first week at the USDA school in the Alto Trujillo area. I’ll post more details on the school later. For now, I’ll just say it’s in a very poor area, it’s a very long and bumpy combi ride from here, and thanks to the USDA organization it’s a very nice school. The buildings are simple but kept much nicer than Simon Bolivar school. The curriculum is better organized and the children are better supervised and taken care of. The kids are the same: delightful and ready to hug and kiss your cheek given half a chance. It’s been very hot and some of our lessons are given outside the hot, stuffy classroom. The photo below was taken by my friend Holly when she noticed the little girl had crawled up on my lap when we were resting in the shade of the building. This little girl talked to me quite a bit but I didn’t understand much of it. My vocabulary is still limited and the kids often speak very softly so the words are lost in the din of the surrounding activity. Nevertheless, moments like these remind you of why you came.

A Nice Moment

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12 Responses to Heavy Workload

  1. Margaret says:

    John, Glad you’ve taken steps to prevent exhaustion. Sounds so demanding I can’t imagine doing it myself. But you in the above picture says it all. We’re thinking of you. Margaret et al.

  2. John says:

    Thanks, Margaret!

  3. Fran says:

    Sounds like you have turned a difficult situation into something much more positive.
    Nicely done. Good to hear from you….and the picture is great.


  4. John says:

    Thanks, Fran – nice to hear from you too!

  5. Jane Walbridge says:

    Hi John,
    I am totally impressed with what you are doing. It sounds exhausting and exciting. The picture of the little girl on your lap is just beautiful. I will definitely reread all that you have posted and can’t wait for your next posting.
    We miss you at the Connection.
    Take care,

  6. John says:

    Hi Jane, nice to hear from you – it is exciting – sometimes a bit too much work and I ask myself why I gave up my cushy retirement gig 🙂 I have about 6 weeks left teaching here and I’m just gonna try to make it count – can rest and recuperate when Grace and Michael get here – say hi to all at the Connection for me.

  7. Mandy says:

    Hi John,

    I love reading about your trip! It sounds like things are coming together. I love the picture with the little girl. Loved by kids everywhere!

    Nate is helping Grace drink up the milk while your away. 🙂

    We miss you!

  8. Christine Bennett says:

    Your words imply an overwhelming task, but your face shows a labor of love

  9. John says:

    Thanks Cris – you hit the nail right on the head!

  10. John says:

    Hi Mandy (and Nate and the rest of the Choi’s) – very nice to hear from you! Yes, Nate has a lot of work to do to keep Grace buying milk, juice, straws – but I know we can count on him! I’ll be back before you know it.

  11. Cathey Lynch says:

    Hi John,
    I can only imagine how difficult it must be, especially trying to create lesson plans as you go…We are all benefiting from your hard work. I love to read about your trip. The picture of that precious little angel on your lap says it all. What an ambassador you are…

  12. John says:

    HiCathey, thanks so much for your kind words – yes, it really can be very trying – just as at home, some of the classes are difficult (talking, not paying attention, etc.) and it isn’t much fun when your (half-baked) lesson is not going well. But there are still enough positive moments to make it worthwhile. We routinely hand out stickers for completed assignments, etc. Today, the kids were pinning some stickers on us – I’m wearing mine proudly throughout the day 🙂