Fly and Die
I have never run a marathon, but from what I have heard, it’s never a good idea to start out in a sprint. Unfortunately, that is exactly, how I approached the first week of classes here at the CWF. A combination of enthusiasm and anxiety led me to a bit of a “fly and die” kind of week. Although we had spent the first 3 weeks here at the Center preparing for our work with the families, I would be lying if I said everything went off without a hitch. By day two I found myself collapsing on the couch in exhaustion by the end of the day, and feeling completely overwhelmed. Between working with my 6th and 7th grade classes on their English, and wrangling the 4th and 5th graders into learning about rhythm and note values in music class, it seemed nearly impossible at moments to gather genuine interest in the classes while simultaneously managing high behaviors in students. This isn’t to say that I haven’t loved my time here thus far. There have been moments every single day where I have felt genuine passion and pride for my work and the people I work with. After one week, I have a good idea of where my students stand academically. My 7th grade English students (who are equivalent in age and education to US 6th grade students) are my most proficient class, naturally. They have shown me a great capacity for learning, and are a true joy to work with the majority of the time. My 6th grade students (equivalent in age and education to US 5th grade students) consist of some fairly advanced students, while others seem years behind where they should be based on a diagnostic test I conducted during the first week. Apart from the students academic knowledge in the classroom, high behaviors are present with many of the students at the CWF. It is evident that a lack of structure, stability, and at times safety in their lives, has led to habits of lashing out physically and vocally, and rejecting the material presented to them. Finding the middle ground where I am addressing the needs of both the most advanced, and the most challenged students has proven to be the most challenging task thus far. Regardless of the various ups and downs of my first week, my students are overall wonderful, and with our objectives for the year I have very high hopes for their progress. On another note, my community brings me incredible joy. I live with 4 other YLV’s (Jelani, Cloe, Amanda, and Richelle) and the CWF Community Director (Caitlin). Given that we live, work, and spend the majority of our time together, we have become very close, very quickly. We live in a house on the center property with the lifestyle of an intentional community. The objective of our intentional community is not only to accompany the families of the center, but to also accompany one another so that we may grow personally, spiritually, and professionally throughout the year. During my first week, I found myself incredibly grateful to be in solidarity with a group of people who similarly feel passionate about the work to be done at the center despite the current obstacles. We have certain structures in place that encourage the growth of our community as a whole. For example, we have a spirituality night on Mondays. Spirituality night focuses on a certain reflection topic, or a case study on one of our classes and how we may best better our selves as teachers by addressing the needs of the whole person. Additionally, we attend a salsa/bachata dance class twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a nearby dance studio for community bonding (SO fun!!!). Being the classes token gringos with minimal salsa/bachata experience, we have had many good laughs in the class and have even made some new friends. In a valiant effort to remember the steps we learn during classes, we can frequently be found practicing bachata/salsa in our kitchen or community room.
With one week down, and the second already begun, I am starting to come into my stride for my time here as a teacher at the CWF. This first week in full-teacher-mode has taught me that sustainability and self-care are not to be taken lightly. Thanks to a relaxing weekend spent catching up on sleep, exploring Quito, and spending time with my fellow YLV’s, I have had a very successful start to the my second week so far.
In the upcoming week, we will begin coordinating details for our Acompañamiento program (which is catered towards the students) and the Adult Education program (which is catered towards the parents at the center). I look forward to growing closer to my students as well as their parents as I already feel very endeared and dedicated to the growth of each and every one of them.