"Teacher Paula" – My experience as an English teacher

Teacher Paula con alumnos

“Teacher Paula” – My experience as an English teacher

Being a teacher of children between the ages of 5 and 9, for the last few months has been an incredible, unforgettable and the most enriching experience of my life.

I have been volunteering with a Peruvian NGO, Otra Cosa Network. My HELP English program consists of providing English classes to pupils from public schools where there are no resources for language teaching. I was responsible for classes 1st to 3nd grade at the Elementary School ‘Maria del Socorro’ with one or two teachers, depending on the number of volunteers there were each week. Grade One has two classes a week and Grades Two and Three have three classes. In total we taught 9 different classes for 2 hours a week.

The first thing that caught my attention was the chaos and little discipline that reigned at the school. The children go to the bathroom to play every two by three minutes; recess can start or finish an extra 10 minutes depending on the day; they cancel classes without a compelling reason; and I even witnessed classes being stopped without warning because an entourage of mothers with cake and gifts for a child’s birthday or teacher’s day entered. I began to understand that in Peru things go at a different pace, you just have to be patient;).

Learning English

A day with kids from the 3º grade, María del Socorro School.

For 1st and 2nd grades, we had to prepare classes from scratch with the only help of a small syllabus to guide us. The children in 1st grade (5 and 6 year olds) were really naughty. It took a real effort and half my voice to keep their focus. They were also very spontaneous and you would continuously be laughing. Every day, they welcomed you with joy and hugs.

English teacher at María del Socorro School.

With some of the cheeky kids from the 1ºB, María del Socorro School.

The 2nd grade (7 and 8 year olds) was my favourite age group. They were old enough to share their stories with us although they were still innocent and affectionate. Finally, there were the kids of the 3rd grade (9 and 10 year olds) which could be challenging. Some of the older kids had little or no interest in English. We did what we could and at least there were some good days in which I hope they managed to learn something.

Within a few weeks of teaching, we discovered that the kids had not been tested on the English they had been learning, so we began to give the children exams. Before the first English exam we gave them, in order to motivate them, we announced that those who would pass would get a prize. I had a lot of fun this week while being the tester and not the one to be tested:).

handover of prizes

Excitement by the handover of prizes in the 3ºA grade.

Me and my husband Antonio, decided to extend our stay until the 2nd of September as we were enjoying the experience and the people a lot. However, we couldn’t change the dates of our two-week holiday in Ecuador, but luckily it coincided with a national holiday and so we didn’t miss any classes. Nevertheless, the strike continued once we arrived back in Huanchaco. This resulted in our last three weeks having only one week of teaching. Thankfully due to classes resuming, we were able to say goodbye to the children.

Last Friday was our last day and saying goodbye was harder than expected. In a short time, you develop a lot of affection for the children and they can’t understand why their English teachers come and go. After this experience, I admire teachers even more. It is hard work, a full time, and an 100% vocational profession, which unfortunately it is little recognised.

For me, it has been a couple of unforgettable months. It has been demanding but also a very rewarding challenge. The best thing is to prepare and run your own classes; the feeling of going to school every morning to see your students waiting for you with a smile; share moments with them in the recess or meet them outside school hours by the village and greet you from across the street shouting “Teacher, teacher!!”

I am sad, but satisfied and happy for all that these guys have given me: love, laughter, their culture, their stories, looks, hugs and their joy of life! We are going to miss you so much!

With one of my favourite classes.

With one of my favourite classes, 2ºC grade, María del Socorro School.

This blog was written by Paula Peñaranda and was first published on her blog.

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