Tag Archives: ESL

Juggling all the eggs in one basket

 

small-poppins

So it’s been just over a month since the beginning of the school year and my schedule has me running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This year, at the school I work at, I’ve had the owners hire a second English teacher to cover the kindergarten classes and first grade. I continue to teach second grade through sixth grade. I thought it would free up my time some so I didn’t feel like I was dying at the end of each day like last year when I taught 2 kindergarten classes and five elementary classes (I combined some of the groups into mammoth groups to accommodate the school day and my availability). However, although I’ve given up some tasks, I have taken up others.

Instead of teaching kindergarten, I designed the curriculum and textbooks that the kindergarten will be using for all 4 levels, maternal, first, second and third grade. That took more than a few hours of my already limited time. I like doing that sort of work, but it doesn’t compare to the joy of teaching the little lovely happy souls ages 2-6.

The curriculum is already in place for first grade, but it’s been challenging to bring the new teacher up to speed. She’s had more experience at teaching kindergarten than elementary and the additional requirements that come with elementary teaching include things like diagnostic tests, parent meetings, grading with numbers rather than excellent, very good, good, regular, deficient and so on and new to her. Plus, the textbook we use comes with video and computer game components and she’s not really tech savvy. I’m glad that she’s open to learning these things, but it means more work for me at the moment.

Then there’s the pay. I’ve been making less money for more work each year I work in the Mexican school system. When I started, I made 85 pesos per hour and had 8 weeks off in the summer. Now I make 70 pesos per hour and have 4 weeks off in the summer. Of course, everything else has gone up in price during that time. Tortillas used to cost 6 pesos per kilo, now they are 13 pesos per kilo. And the peso had devalued to 19 per US dollar what seems like permanently now.

I’m also supposed to get a provisional teaching license from Guanajuato. Because of all these educational reforms, I’ll need to take the official exam too. The thing is, everybody knows the system is rigged. Several teachers I know that took the exam last year and passed, this year took the same exam and didn’t. What’s up with that? The list of requirements SEP requests keeps getting longer and longer and each required document has a price. So is it really worth it when I make $68.75 USD per week?

mototeacher

Then there are my private and Saturday classes. Since I’ve been working online, I decided to only teach private classes on Wednesday and Thursday during the week. I only kept my long-term students. However, lately, students have been canceling left and right. I have 7 classes scheduled for those two days, last week, I only taught 4. The same thing happens on Saturday. I have 4 scheduled for Saturdays, last week I only taught 1. If I were depending on these “regular” classes for my weekly income, we’d surely starve to death. Not to mention I haven’t raised my prices since I started. I still only charge $50 pesos per class, per student, per hour. That’s $2.64 USD per hour.

Camille Online

You might think that my online classes are my salvation. After all, they pay in US dollars. However, I’ve had internet connection issues this month. One day, my internet dropped just for a minute. I was able to return to the class, but my audio wasn’t working. The tech person instructed me to restart my computer, so I did. Only when I did, Windows 10 decided it needed to do updates. My computer was out of commission for over an hour while they installed. Then another day, the internet went out 10 minutes before my scheduled shift, in the entire town. It returned the moment my shift was over. Then, I’m only scheduled for about 10 hours per week, although Labor day weekend vacation requests bumped my schedule up to 15 hours. It’s not enough to live on, dollars or not. Plus, if the internet continues to be so unreliable, I’m pretty sure I’ll get fired.

I haven’t come up with any good solutions yet. I’ve committed to this schedule until December, then I’ll have to reevaluate the value of my time. Suggestions anyone?

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Lifelong Learning

Welcome to the August 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Life Learners

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have talked about how they continue learning throughout life and inspire their children to do the same.

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Although I graduated nearly 15 years ago, my education is not finished. In fact, I would say that I’ve learned more since finishing formal schooling than I ever did in school. My husband never had the opportunity to attend school for any length of time, so nearly all his knowledge, which is considerable, has been self-taught. The idea of life-long learning is an important concept for our family.

jimrohnmotivationalquote

Business learning

For a time, I ran my own online business selling children’s organic and homemade items. There was so much to learn. Things like product presentation, taxes, establishing a customer base, web design, networking, marketing, and Ebay were not new to me in theory, but in practice…well that’s a whole different story. What I didn’t realize at the time is that the things I learned in the 18 months or so that I ran my hobby business were just a taste of things to come. Like kindergarten to the business world.

I closed my business when we made the move to Mexico, 9 years ago. Since then, we have “failed” at a number of businesses here. Although for the most part they were not profitable monetarily, we did learn quite a bit in the process and therefore, don’t consider these ventures a waste of time. The businesses we have failed at include a produce truck, taco stand, clothing store, bread baking endeavor, tire repair shop, bricklaying, ranching, farming, gardening, essay writing, and blogging to name a few. Currently, my husband and I have steady employment, part-time employees, part-time owners. I run my own Saturday school and afternoon tutoring sessions  but also work for a private elementary school during the week.  My husband maintains our mini-ranch and sharecropping endeavors in the mornings and is the maintenance man for the same school in the afternoons. Being gainfully employed doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped looking for ways to expand our knowledge base. Recently I was asked to write essays for a Business English course. (See Failing at your own business–University courses) Not only did it pay well, but I learned quite a bit about Business English which I have now incorporated into my Saturday classes, teaching interested students how to write memos and other office documents. My husband was also offered a part-time position at a liquor store. He comes home eager to share what he learned about types of liquor, inventory processes and delivery systems.

So how does this impact our son?  He told me just the other day that he’s decided he’s not going to work for anyone else but be his own boss.  Entrepreneur in training I’d say. (Making a Living Without a Job, revised edition: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love)

cultural learning

Cultural Learning

Besides learning how to make a living, I’ve had to learn how to navigate a different culture since moving to Mexico. This includes not only learning new vocabulary but also learning how things are done. I know that I’m far from proficient, but I think I’ve made some progress. I accredit my minuscule advancement to my willingness to make a lot of mistakes and ask endless questions. Who would have thought I’d have to relearn how to bury a person (See Mass and Burial–Mexican Style) or how to shop for groceries?  How about learning how to wash clothes in the stream?  Or how to buy land?

natural

Natural Learning

As a family, we look for opportunities to learn about our natural surroundings on day-trip adventures.  I’ve recently discovered iNaturalist. Now I can upload all those photos of pretty flowers and someone, somewhere will identify them for me. From there, I can research how the local natural world might be useful (See Natural healing) now that my two main sources of Mexican home remedies, my mother-in-law and my husband’s grandmother, have died.  I’ve learned how to make a tea for stomachaches, use aloe to aid in wound healing, dry feverfew and use agave.  I have so much more to learn!

Cave exploration outside of Cerano, GTO.

Cave exploration outside of Cerano, GTO.

Learning in the next generation

Because of our family philosophy, we encourage independent learning of our now 13-year-old son. He wanted to learn how to play soccer, we made sure that has become a reality A few months ago, he asked if there were any teachers that I knew that could teach him Portuguese. I asked the Worldschoolers group on FB and was referred to Duolingo. My son has been regularly progressing through the beginning Portuguese course online. He uses it to chat with Brazilian Minecraft players. (See Hey Parents. What Minecraft is doing to your kids is kind of surprising) He’s thinking he might learn Vulcan after he finishes the Portuguese course.

His most recent interest is in learning how to make Youtube videos. It isn’t an easy thing by any means and one that neither his father nor I can help much with. When an opportunity presented itself for him to make a video of his life (See What is it like to be a kid in your family? ) we purchased an inexpensive mini-camcorder and together made a video that his grandma in the United States is proud of! See it here!

bike repair

Our attitude has always been, if you don’t know how to do something, learn! No one is going to do it for you. Skills that my son has learned at our side include bricklaying, cooking, bicycle repair, and gardening.

planting

However, we fully realize that my son needs more opportunities for learning than we can provide him. With this is mind, he attends the local middle school, where not only does his Spanish continue to improve, but he also is learning quite a bit about carpentry. So far he’s made a clothing rack and lidded box, quite useful items actually.

We continually stress that even if he is soon to finish his formal schooling, there is no limit to the things he could learn. “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer in our home. Is it in yours?

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Learning Resources

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage — Shortly after they got married, Emily at Natural Parents Network and her husband visited a financial planner. Many of the goals and priorities they set back then are now irrelevant, but one has stuck with them through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing: allowances.
  • Lifelong Learning — Survivor at Surviving Mexico–Adventures and Disasters writes about how her family’s philosophy of life-long learning has aided them.
  • Inspiring Children to be Lifelong Learners — Donna from Eco-Mothering discusses the reasons behind her family’s educational choices for their daughter, including a wish list for a lifetime of learning.
  • Always Learning — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves learning, and lately she’s undertaken a special project that her family has been enjoying sharing with her.
  • We’re all unschoolers — Lauren at Hobo Mama embraces the joy in learning for its own sake, and wants to pass that along to her sons as she homeschools.
  • My children, my teachers Stoneageparent shares how becoming a parent has opened doors into learning for her and her family, through home education and forest school.
  • Never Stop Learning — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses her belief that some of the most important things she knows now are things she’s learned since finishing “formal” schooling.
  • Learning is a Lifelong Adventure — Learning has changed over time for Life Breath Present, and she is more excited and interested now than ever before.
  • Facebook: The Modern Forum — Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains why Facebook is today’s forum – a place where people from all walks of life can meet to discuss philosophies, debate ideas, and share information.
  • 10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by my Life in Japan) — Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different offers tips she learned while living in Japan to help you learn from everyday life.

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Learning and Teaching Summer Course–Year 3

summer course image 1

For the third year in a row, I was asked to participate in the summer course. This time, not only would I be the English teacher but the organizer. I started looking for teachers in mid-May. As SEP had reduced the summer vacation period and added extra teacher work days, many teachers were less than enthusiastic about committing themselves for the entire summer. As a result, scheduling was a nightmare.

seed name

Then, the popularity of the course swelled our numbers. We ended up having 2 groups of 25 students, although it would have been better had they been divided into 3 groups. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough teachers available to do that. We offered art, music, crafts, English, P.E. and computer classes. The large number of students per group meant that they had to share computers. After the first 2 days, I split the groups even further. I had 10 or so students doing an activity in the adjoining classroom while the rest were using the computers. As each student finished the activity, he or she would take over a computer and send the user to complete the activity. This meant that I was at the school the entire day.

sunflower snack

As the owners of the school had begun construction on the vacant lot, we were not able to use it for planting this year. That seriously impacted my proposed classes. We still did the indoor planting and activities, but it wasn’t nearly as intensive and hands-on as I would have liked. I also added some plant-related crafts and at least once a week we had a “cooking” activity. For instance, one week we planted sunflower seeds in toilet paper tubes, then did some paper ball sunflowers, then construction paper and seed sunflowers, then peanut butter, raisin and celery snacks. When the sunflowers sprouted, we planted them along the edges of the soccer field. Unfortunately, the school gardener thought they were weeds and mowed them down.

planting

I wanted each student to be able to take home a plant at the end of the course again but wasn’t able to find any terracotta pots in the area. I ended having them paint Styrofoam containers instead. I know, not environmentally friendly, but I was desperate. The kids had a good time and rarely missed a day, so all in all, it was a success. Yet I would have liked to have done more.

painting pots

The stress of making sure the teachers arrived on time, supervising during lunch and recess, assuring that the teachers had the materials that they needed for class and the occasional discipline problem or injury was tremendous. Plus, I was also teaching at least 4 of my own private English classes daily in addition to the summer course classes. By August, I was exhausted. I’ve decided to rethink my participation this summer now that my son will be too old to attend.

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Learning and Teaching Summer Course–Year 1–The Thematic Approach

As summer approaches, it’s time to consider if I will teach a summer course for the fourth year, or if I will take the summer off. It has been a great way to supplement my income during the vacation period and up until now, my son could attend with me. This year, however, he has reached the cut-off age of 13 and although he has volunteered to be an assistant, I think that our time might best be spent in other educational activities.

The first year that I taught English during a 5-week summer course was extremely challenging. I had 22 students that ranged in ages from 5 to 13. All my students were ESL learners with an extremely mixed level of English abilities. Therefore, I had to be creative with my English language teaching approach.

I decided to use a thematic approach. Each day would have a different topic. All activities would be centered on that topic. There would be a variety of activities so that all the students could participate to the best of their abilities. It would be fun because, after all, this was a summer course.

pirate kid

One day our theme was pirates. We sang (I played the piano) some rousing pirate songs. We learned pirate words. We talked about commands in English grammar. We role-played. We made eye patches and hooks. We designed a pirate ship. We made treasure maps. It was great!

farmer kid

Another day our theme was farming. We sang Old MacDonald and played the Farmer in the Dell. We talked about present tense. We planned our gardens and farms. We talked about animal sounds and names. It was great!

circus kids

Yet another day was about the circus. We talked about conditional tense and imagined “If I were in the circus, I would…. ” We sang The Man on the Flying Trapeze. We drew clowns. We made a construction paper big top. We learned circus words. It was great!

And so on and so forth. I must admit it took an incredible amount of planning for each class, but the result was well worth the effort. The school also offered music, P.E., cooking, art, and computer classes to round out the day. Those students that attended were disappointed when our summer course was finished. And that’s the way a good summer course should make a student feel.

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