Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Could Be Better Than Bring Your Child To Work Day?

Bring Your Pet To School Day.

Mmhmm, yeah. As part of the Siguabucks store for Parcial 3, the students could buy passes to bring their pet to school for a day. That day was today. We had a nice little zoo going on-- an array of puppies, some birds, guinea pigs, hamsters and mice, and I think I saw a turtle.

Can we please recall all of the difficulties I have had with Grade One as far as behavior goes this year? Let's just add four puppies and see how that works out.

Surprisingly well, actually. The students had their clips moved immediately if they were out of their seat for any reason, at any time because it wasn't safe to be walking around with all of the puppies. And we couldn't talk too loudly because the puppies wouldn't like it. It's just too easy sometimes, really.

Highlights include:
- Miss Caitlin trying to get the entire class to settle down, be quiet, etc, etc and saying "I don't want to hear a sound come out of your mouth unless you are a dog."
- Various students telling Toby that Miss Caitlin would move his clip down if he didn't stop whining.
- A collective "Toby! SHHHH! BE QUIET!" from Grade One. Oh, the irony, right?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Life in Ruins.

The ruins of Copán, of course.

While having the student teachers here has been invaluable within the classroom, it's also giving us an excuse to travel and visit different parts of Honduras that we haven't made it to yet. Case in point? Our weekend trip to Copán. The city of Copán is about 6-7 hours away from Sigua, which is a manageable yet not incredibly practical weekend trips. The student teachers really wanted to see it (as well as some of the English teachers), so it was a opportunity for all of us to go.

Parrots in the wild. What. Now.
We left the school Friday afternoon and arrived in Copán sometime in the evening. I don't know about anyone else, but I went straight to bed. Being in Grade 1 and 2 wears me out, my average bedtime is about 8:30pm these days.

Hieroglyphic stairs.
An early start on Saturday morning to beat the heat that plagues all of Copán meant that we found ourselves at the ruins around 9 or 9:30am. Which still seems unreasonably early to me despite my 8:30pm bedtime. Just sayin'. Sarah and Ricky opted out because they'd already seen the ruins, and honestly, once you've seen them, they aren't going to change. So Hannah, Elizabeth, Brent, Stephen, Emily, Keith, Erika, and I spent the majority of the morning climbing all over rocks, taking ridiculous pictures, sweating to death, and getting yelled at.

But really though. We're going for a record. Elizabeth, Stephen, and I all got reprimanded on different occasions. I'm sorry, I didn't realize that I could stand on THIS rock, but THAT rock is off limits. A rock is a rock is a rock. In my mind anyways.

While I wouldn't compare these ruins to the ruins of Teotihuacán in Mexico City (as far as size and grandeur is concerned), there were actually a TON of different ruins. I felt like every time we climbed up and over one ruin, there was another one waiting for us on the other side.

Three pieces of advice for anyone heading over to las Ruinas de Copán anytime soon:
1: After giving your ticket to the ticket takers, go straight instead of right. You'll be more disappointed initially, but it pays off in the end.
2: Don't go when it's hot. It was cloudy and not even hot when we were there and I still had back sweat. Gross, but true.
3: Skip the tour guide. Like I said, a rock is a rock is a rock. All of this information is online. Anyone can Wikipedia these days. Save yourself the time and money, travel at your own pace. However leisurely you decide you want that to be.

The group began to part ways post-ruins. Some of us stayed around the city of Copán (which is adorable, I might add. I want to live there), some of us when on a coffee tour, and some of us went to the hot spring. I opted for the trip to the hot springs. Another good decision.

There were a series of different hot springs serving various purposes (mud bath, foot massage, scalding hot back and neck massage, etc) that you could travel between freely. I preferred the mud bath as well as the regular hot spring pools. Although I did feel like I was slowly cooking from the inside out.

While hanging out in the mud bath, we were joined by a lovely little family that had three young children. Stephen, Sarah, and I had mud caked all over our faces and the children looked at us like we were the most disgusting human beings on the planet. They soon warmed up to us and we had a wonderful chat. There's nothing that brings people closer together than rubbing mud on yourself together. We decided to move on to the next hot spring pool, so the three of us simultaneously stuck our heads underwater and blew bubbles while scrubbing the dirt off our faces. There is nothing more hysterical than the look on those children's faces when I took my head out from underwater. They were looking at us as if we were certifiably insane.

Dinner at a nice pizza restaurant followed up by "un cono de 26 de galleta" (a 26 lemp ice cream cone with Cookies and Cream ice cream) from KOBS rounded out our time in Copán. What a relaxing, adventurous, and outdoorsy weekend it was.

And then we stopped at the mall in San Pedro Sula where Sarah and I proceeded to go spent 450 lemps on candy. Its 20 lemps to 1 American dollar. Go ahead, do the math. I'm not ashamed.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

One Day Without Shoes-- 2013 Edition

Potentially my favorite day of the year-- TOMS One Day Without Shoes. TOMS philosophy is simple; One for One. Every time someone buys  pair of shoes, another pair is donated to a child who needs it. There are millions of children worldwide who go without shoes everyday and who have a drastically lower quality of life because of it. By providing children with shoes, TOMS is opening doors for these children to attend school, receive an education, prevent sickness and disease, and overall change their lives.

Once a year, TOMS sponsors One Day Without Shoes where they challenge the world to go barefoot in order to raise awareness for the children are faced with this reality everyday. Awareness leads to change. And TOMS is hoping to change the lives of children one pair of shoes at a time.

I love being barefoot. I love TOMS shoes. I love One Day Without Shoes. I love sharing this love with my students. So for the second year in a row (you can read about One Day Without Shoes-- 2012 Edition here), I organized the event with my students. Which then spiraled into all of elementary school participating. Not complaining one little bit.

This year we chatted about the things that each student can do to change the lives of those around them. It can be difficult for students to see that although they are young, they still have a profound impact on people they come in contact with. As they did last year, the students blew me away at the honest and raw answers they were giving and observations they were making.

The highlight of their day was when they painted the bottoms of their feet to help create the One Day Without Shoes poster. Every student from Grade 1 to Grade 6, as well as all of the teachers and administrators, participated in the day long event and the painting.

As a teacher, it can sometimes be difficult to see how well your students are absorbing what is being taught to them. I frequently wonder if they are retaining information or if they are simply regurgitating the information that I am giving to them. Are they actually storing facts away for future use or are they only keeping them until the test?

Sometimes we are given the sign. The one that says "Yes, I am paying attention. What you are saying is registering with me and I can apply it in my life." Sometimes that sign is obvious right away, other times it doesn't become visible until later.

Grade One.
We had parent meetings on Thursday-- two days after participating in One Day Without Shoes. I had received a lot of feedback from the students about how they looooooved going barefoot, but I wasn't always confident that they understood the real reason why we were doing so. Other than the obvious fact that Miss Caitlin is just an awesome teacher and likes to do fun things. While talking with one parent though, I was able to see the effects that One Day Without Shoes had on her student. The student, Any, is in my Grade One class. Her mother was telling me that last weekend they were sorting through her closet, looking for clothes to donate and clothes to keep. Any kept saying "No, I wear that. I still love that. I still want that." Even though her mother knew those things to be untrue. Instead of engaging in an argument, she let Any keep the clothes. Any, very excitedly, came to school on Tuesday without her shoes on and proceeded to keep her shoes off the entire day. She participated in discussions, completed our activities, and had a great time. That night when she went home and said her prayers with her mother, she prayed for the children who didn't have shoes or people to take care of them when they got hurt. And after the prayer when her mom asked her again about donating her clothes, Any said "Yes. There are poor kids who need those clothes more than I do. I want to give them away."

Grade Two.
I can't speak for every child. I can't say that every child understood why they were allowed to go barefoot on April 16. But I can confidently say that we reached one child. And, as is the hope with One Day Without Shoes, that child is going to do something that changes the life of another. Thus beginning the ripple effect. 

CEE Elementary School.

Friday, April 19, 2013

My Precious Babies.

We've been blessed to have some student teachers down from Canada for these past three weeks. Miss Hannah has been working with Grades 1 and 2, and while I'm sure it's been a huge challenge, the students have really enjoyed learning with her (and not having to listen to me run my mouth all the time) and I have really appreciated having her in our classroom.

With time I've gotten used to the strong personalities of my Grade Ones and the challenges that come with teaching them. I've accepted the fact that my Grade Twos aren't at the same level of English speaking and comprehension of classes I taught in while in the States. I've grown and been challenged right alongside of all 47 of my crazy students.

But it wasn't always this way. I didn't always have this understanding and background knowledge. Parcial One was comprised of many tear-filled nights and conversations that included "Why did I come here? These students are too difficult. I don't know how to handle them. I want to go home." I felt a lot of hopeless and despair at the beginning of the school year because the students were so much more than anything I had ever been exposed to before. That is kind of where some of the student teachers find themselves these days. When you are in that stage it is so easy to feel discouraged or alone and to make comments about how difficult the students are or how under-prepared you are as a teacher. I know, I lived in that stage for a really long time.

While I initially took these comments made out of frustration very personally, I quickly realized how positive of an interaction it actually was. My gut instinct when hearing these comments was to fight for my students. To protect them. To vouch for the progress they have made and to point out the strengths of each one of them as an individual.

And through all this I realized how much I genuinely love and care for each one of the chatty, vibrant Hondurans who walk through my door each day. I wanted everyone else to love them and care about them as much as I do. I wanted everyone else to see their successes. It can be so easy for me to get caught up in the day to day. To focus solely on the lesson plans and not the learners. To harp on the disobedience and defiance as opposed to the growth and optimism. It was only when I heard someone else focusing on the negative when I realized how much positive exists in my "normal" with these children.

While I was quick to anger when hearing comments made about my classes (despite the fact that I knew exactly where these comments were coming from and why they were being said), it was exactly what I needed to be reminded why I am here. To love on my students. To share my love of learning with them. To teach them Biblical principles and to provide them with a safe place to come each day. They are my babies and I love each and every one of them. They are the reason that I am teaching here in Honduras.

Not only has having the student teacher here really reminded me of how much I love and care about my students, but it has caused me to reflect a lot on the growth that my students have all shown throughout the year. As with anything or anyone that you spend a lot of time with, it can be hard to see growth. It can be hard to see the day to day changes that quickly add up to monumental advances. I can so easily forget where we all started the year. In defending my students' behavior as well as academic performance, I realize how far we have actually come. Grade Two speaks almost exclusively in English, Grade One hasn't had anyone climbing on the windows in weeks. I can't remember the last time that someone was stabbed with a pencil and Spelling Exams are completed in (almost) complete silence. My reality in the classroom today is a complete 180 from what it was back in August.

I am so, so proud of my students. They have grown and improved so much in all aspects of their life, not just in their academics. They have taught me more than I have taught them this school.  There is not doubt that they are crazy, rambunctious, and yes, exhausting. But they are mine. My precious babies.

So while the students will be thanking Miss Hannah for her help with writing friendly letters and teaching them about the life cycle of butterflies, I am going to be thanking her for the most important lesson she taught while she was here. The one that came without a lesson plan. The lesson that showed me how much I love my students, that confirmed that I am meant to be teaching here at this school, that reminded me of the progress we have all made since August.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Spring Break 2013-- another one for the books.

Sarah, Daniel, Cristian, Hector, and I planned for a week long vacation filled with surf, sand, and sun in the small-ish little Nicaraguan town of San Juan del Sur. SJDS is located right on the beach and is big on catering to the needs of North Americans. Almost EVERYONE spoke English. All the time. Kind of freaked me out a little bit.

The view of San Juan del Sur from the Christ Statue.
Our anticipated 8 hour journey (that began at 4:30am) actually took 18 hours. Needless to say we were all cranky and tired upon our 10:30pm arrival to our hotel. The drive was filled with lots of sleeping, lots of talking, lots of sweating, lots of searches by the cops, and lots of stops to give the over-heating radiator a break.

Most common sight on our trip.
The next three days were spent equally between the beach and the pool. We hung out in downtown San Juan del Sur (and walked the entire length of the beach twice), visited the Christ statue (Rio throwback, anyone?), spent a day at Playa Hermosa (for a less crowded beach experience), and ate more fried chicken/ ice cream than I ever thought possible (my two favorite foods). Cristian, Hector, and I cut our time short and came home on Wednesday on account of Mom and Joey arriving in Honduras on Friday.

We packed up the car, waved goodbye to the sleepy little beach town that darkened our skin while brightening our spirits, and set off on another 18 hour journey.

God bless zoom lenses.

The progression of the sunset.

Christ Statue.

One afternoon Cristian, Hector, and I decided to walk the entire length of the beach. Okay, no problem. We were climbing over some of the rocks when Hector slipped and fell. He cut his foot pretty badly, so we stopped at the firefighters for some medical assistance. There was a group of American nursing students there completing some of their practicum who were more than willing to assist. Apparently Hector's injury was the first injury they'd encountered while being in Nicaragua, so everyone wanted to participate. One person held his foot, another person poured water over the wound, another dried his foot, another ripped the gauze, another placed the gauze. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. Cristian and I were killing ourselves laughing at the whole ordeal.

We also spent a lot of time quoting commercials from TLC. Including, but not limited to, "Oh my God! Whaaaaat?!" and "Idon'tbelieveinspendingmoneyonsomethingthatI'mjustgoingtothrowaway." One of us could be heard quoting said commercials at any given time. Regardless of the situation.