Working as an English teacher on arrival with limited Spanish you instantly revaluate every interaction you’ve had with a teacher in the past, and I tell you the admiration is strong. From my bumbling arrival, ‘Soy Cam, soy.. Ingles?..’ to then watching my already established teaching partner Tiné run the show, stopping an ‘enthusiastic’ little chap in his tracks with some incredible sign language zip of the mouth/lock and key gesture as if I didn’t understand the language already, she bewitched them incredible stuff. But you work it out fast, you have to. The marvel with kids I had never really realised before is they really care, they want to talk to you and will find a way, language barrier or not. With that you find yourself trying extra hard with the language, I hold to this moment that I learnt more Spanish, teaching in those 3 months than rest of my 6 months here, as it was simply non-stop.
Beyond that teaching is incredible, incredibly hard, but also incredibly rewarding, for multiple reasons. With every lesson you pick up a new phrase in Spanish and the kids, exactly the same in English, so the gap is over closing. Teaching the basics in English to kids anew to the language is more about making it all exciting, really getting kids wanting to be involved and with that your imagination is tested, but the unbridled enthusiasm of each of the 25-30 tiny and crazy humans whisk you through the experience.
Throughout my time teaching I worked within two of Otra Cosa Network’s partner schools, teaching English to classes 3-6 ages 8-13 at Maria del Socorro and P.E (Sports and Games) to classes 1-6 at San Carlos. With Maria del Socorro you work with large classes usually around 30, so you have to hit the ground running with every class, so we usually opened with a song or an activator game to get the kids on side to be moving forward. One skill I definitely developed whilst teaching was acting, everything was exciting and critically engaging, I was never tired, never ever tired. But one thing you never have to put on is the laughing and smiling as 20-30 kids run over high fiving, diving and generally pelting you with ‘Hello! How are you?!’ and bombarding you with stories of what’s been happening today, yesterday and generally since their birth just to get a reaction and once again as you are leaving, that never got old. With teaching sports it’s a different kettle of fish, the only challenge there was directing the enthusiasm, 99% of the kids were always desperate to run around and play games so we merely pointed them in the right direction with the right equipment and made sure they didn’t kill themselves, great fun and always a nice way to spend a morning.
All in all looking back over my 9 months as a volunteer I would still have to say that my 3 months as a teacher was the most challenging, my lack of Spanish and previous experience were certainly big factors. For any prospective future teachers either in Peru or wherever I would say do not underestimate what you are going into, what you are about to do is both incredible and a privilege, ruddy exhausting, but a privilege, as I don’t know about you all but I still remember all of my teachers no matter how young I was. I had the chance to be that for hundreds of kids in Huanchaco and that’s something I was reminded of every time I heard ‘TEACHER CAM’ shouted at me around town following the end of my time in school. So, Embrace it, Enjoy it and Learn from it, I certainly know I have!
Written by Cam Williams.