Monday, November 30, 2009

...visiting classrooms

Each morning that we were in Salamanca we were taken to visit a different school. The routine went like this: Arrive at the school and present ourselves to the principal or head teacher. Go through introductions and handshaking. Eat an "almuerzo" (brunch) prepared by parents in the community or by the secretaries. Visit classrooms. Observe for a few minutes, then give a visiting dignitary speech. (At first that kind of freaked me out, but then it was kind of fun!) Take photos with the students. Take a group photo with teachers and principals. The teachers were very nervous about being observed, and the kids were shy about talking to strangers, although at one school a group of girls gave me a note for my students--they want to be pen pals. We saw lots of learning going on, in spite of the limited resources available to them.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

...enthusiastic teachers

The reason for my trip to Mexico was to teach English teachers strategies for teaching English. How's that for a mouthful? David and I each had about 20 students in our classes. Most of mine teach in what's called a "telesecundaria," which is a rural school, equivalent to our 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. The "tele" part means they are connected to a program via satellite, so all over the state (country?) students are tuning in for a lesson at the same time, then their teacher expands on it. This is a money saving move on the part of the government. Several of the teachers in my group had 30-50 students all day long and are responsible for teaching all subject areas--including English, even if they themselves don't speak it well.

It was a fun, intense, busy time with them. They participated willingly in whatever I asked of them. Most of them are pretty traditional teachers so I appreciated that they were so cooperative. They made my job easy. On our last night together they presented me with a beautiful silver necklace and earrings, and someone read a poem. It was very touching. They also ordered in pizza to share. They felt badly about me missing Thanksgiving with my kids and talked about organizing a real meal, but after working all day and some of them driving over an hour to class, it was decided that pizza would have to do. It was the most non-traditional Thanksgiving I have ever experienced, but it was wonderful.

...friendly people

My coworker David and I were fed, sheltered, and taxied about by some wonderful people in Mexico.
Mario, who works for the Dpt. of Ed., picked us up from the airport, took us around to see some of the sights, delivered us to Salamanca where we would be teaching, took us to the symphony our last night there, and returned us to the airport early Saturday morning.

Celia provided us with comfortable rooms and delicious meals while we were in the city of Guanajuato. She has such a peaceful spirit and tells wonderful stories. I enjoyed our conversations immensely.
Alejandro, who works for the Dpt. of Ed. in Salamanca, drove us to outlying schools (on a terrifying highway--vehicles passing vehicles who were also passing slower moving vehicles!). We visited his English class at the University our last night in Salamanca. Alejandro and I share a passion for biking--he and his boys are avid mountain bikers. He showed me several pictures of his bike and we shared a laugh--only a fellow cyclist would understand taking pictures of our bikes.
Maria de los Angeles (Angie), opened her home to us in Salamanca and was our driver to and from class. She is a teacher and a program supervisor. Angie took us to visit her favorite school out in a ranchito--170 students and 6 teachers. This particular school is fortunate to have a janitor and a secretary. Not all small schools have such luxuries.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

...sleeping in my own bed

...and peeing in my own toilet, and flushing the tissue down the drain instead of putting it in a basket. I've been thinking about the comfort of familiarity and knowing how much money I have to spend, and having bank machines that accept my debit card. I've been thinking about not having to lug a suitcase around or having to run down the concord shoeless because security took so long and I just about missed the connecting flight home. Don't get me wrong--Mexico was fabulous. Fantabulous. Wonderful. Awesome. The people are friendly, generous and kind. I want to go again and again. And I will. But for's good to be home.

Here's a sneak peak of the view from my window the first night. I couldn't fall asleep for smiling so big.

And here's the same view, taken first thing in the morning.

Friday, November 20, 2009

...a checklist

  • Curriculum finished and ready for Monday? Check
  • Bills paid? Check
  • Laundry finished? Check
  • Kitchen clean and fridge empty of potential science projects? Check
  • Sub plans (with emphatic instructions to get up out of the chair and teach) written? Check
  • Hostess gift purchased and errands run? Check
  • Bags packed? Check
  • Passport in purse? Check
  • Get a good night's sleep? Ah...hmmm...well...what if I'm TOO excited to sleep?

Adios, fair readers, whoever you may be! I'll be back on the 28th. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and eat lots of turkey and cranberry sauce for me. Mexico, here I come!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

...dreaming in Spanish

The trip to Guanajuato, Mexico is less than a week away. I'm excited about going, but also very nervous. This isn't a vacation--I'll be teaching teachers, and I know we can be a tough crowd. A week or so ago my partner (who has done this before) handed me a huge file folder and downloaded a gazillion more onto my computer and said, "Take a look at this and let me know if you have any questions." I was under the misguided illusion that the curriculum we'll be using was set--and all I'd have to do was become familiar with it. Piece of cake. But when I finally had time to sit down and go through it all, it became apparent that I had much to do to prepare. Since I'm barely keeping up with my regular workload this year I began to panic. What have I done??? Can I do this??? Gulp.

Then three things happened that have helped to ease my mind. First, I received an email from my partner on Friday just before leaving school saying, "Let's meet on Tuesday to go over our plans." (Oh good, you're going to help me?? Whew!) Second, I spent some much needed time with a very good friend yesterday who gave me a pep talk and reminded me of all I know. Third, this morning I awakened from a dream that was entirely in Spanish. In this dream I confidently walked into the home of my host family (wearing a plunging neckline!), shook hands all around, and had a rousing discussion about politics with my parents. (What were they doing there??) In the background the TV was blaring with a religious(?) cartoon show.

I needed the email. I'm not alone in this. I needed the pep talk. I am capable of doing the job or I wouldn't have been chosen. And the dream has me smiling and pondering. While not exactly a shrinking violet, I don't normally face a roomful of strangers with the bravado I did in the dream. (And I never wear plunging necklines!) But it's the cartoon in the background that has me flummoxed. I don't recall ever seeing anything like it in any language, so how could I dream it?? It's a mystery to me, the sort of thing I enjoy thinking about. Maybe the dream is my psyche's way of telling me to be brave, daring, and strong, and to enjoy the adventure of the unknown. Ole!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

...a new jacket

My birthday gift to myself. It's cobalt blue and black and matches my bike. Resistance was futile. This morning's ride was the perfect time to wear it--cold, but no wind nor rain. Bliss.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


The trees are rapidly losing their leaves, there's frost on the windows in the mornings, the urge is there to just curl up with a good book and a cup of tea, and...GACK! What's this?? Time to dig the trainer out?!? Say it isn't so! Unlike one of my cycling buddies, Ivan the Fast, I do NOT love spinning. I do it for my legs. I do it for my heart. I do it because for some odd reason I like to hang out with a bunch of sweaty cyclists and listen to them give each other a hard time. Let the spinning begin!