4 Things that Surprised Me about Teaching English in Peru
Before arriving in Peru, I had no idea what to expect from teaching English in the small town of Huanchaco. I knew it would differ from the work I had done in the United States, but what those differences would entail remained unknown. Having studied education and taught various grades across different schools, I felt relatively prepared to volunteer with Otra Cosa’s HELP English project. This feeling, however, was quickly questioned and put to the test upon entering my classrooms at the Maria del Socorro elementary school. Despite my prior experiences, certain aspects of teaching in Huanchaco surprised me, and here are four of them!
The undeniable necessity to be flexible and open-minded – Whether it’s because of a birthday party, organized strike, important football match or for no stated reason, classes are frequently cancelled or moved around here. These unanticipated changes require us English teachers to constantly adjust our lesson plans and activities. While at times this is frustrating, it also makes every week exciting and full of surprises!
The unexpected task of teaching over 200 students – Prior to volunteering in Huanchaco, I had taught one class at a time with a maximum of 30 children. Teaching over eight different classrooms across three grade levels has been a HUGE adjustment. I struggled to learn all 200+ names (and quite honestly still have not mastered them all) and to keep track of what each class needed to do. Over the weeks, however, I have adapted to and learned the perks of having so many students. For example, if a lesson did not go well, I can adjust the plan and try it again with the next group!
The slow pace at which students’ English develops (and accepting that this is okay!) – Since I work with so many children, I only see each of my classes for about 2 hours every week. This is not much time for young learners to practice their English skills. Usually I must review and repeat topics, and even then students might not grasp the material I’ve tried to teach them. Although progress is slow, I have learned to embrace the small achievements, such as a 1st grader remembering one of our English vocabulary words weeks after introducing it.
The joy that a hundred tiny hugs can bring me – Every day I am greeted with excited, warm embraces from students that fill my heart with happiness. Often it’s one hug at a time, but other days classes will opt for a massive group hug (that frequently results in someone falling over). Students really do enjoy having English volunteers, and these hugs serve as a constant reminder of the importance of our work.
So there you have it, four things that surprised me about teaching in Peru! Although the work has been full of challenges, I am grateful for the opportunity to teach, learn alongside and of course have fun with all of my energetic, lovable, and curious students.
This blog was written by Elisa Sipols.