Amigos de Jesús along with BECA (Bilingual Education for Central America) now offers its’ children and children from communities in neighboring towns the chance of a lifetime – a bilingual education. In the fall of 2013 we will officially begin our partnership with BECA, and grades K-2 will be taught by both a native English speaker and a Honduran teacher. Right now, as we await this change in education (and the arrival of new teachers) the volunteers have been asked to aid in the process and help to teach subjects or grades modeled after a typical BECA classroom. In February I was given the honor of being appointed as the English teacher for our newly formed second grade class. I could not be happier to be a part of this chapter at Amigos de Jesús And as such thought it would be nice to share our experiences of a typical day in second grade.
First, I’d like to say that there is never a typical day at Amigos de Jesus and the same goes for my second grade class. As every teacher knows, you can plan every second of your “flawless” day and then something completely unexpected happens and changes everything. My students never cease to surprise me with their ability to soak up all we learn like little sponges.
We start our day at school together with Morning Prayer. Prayer, is one of the only times that we speak Spanish in class together. As the year progresses I hope to have them saying the sign of the cross, Hail Mary and Our Father in English. For now we pray in Spanish and they thank God for all he has given us. A 7 year-olds prayer ranges from thanking God for the trees and animals to the food that is always on the table, for their caretakers or for their best friends. It’s always a surprise. After prayer we begin our day with Morning Circle, from this point on we only speak in English. I have all of the boys and girls sit down in front of me facing the white board and they learn about the date, the weather and counting. As they become more comfortable with the basics of each subject in English we will eventually expand on each subject and thus their vocabulary will grow. The children love Morning Circle because it involves each of them, it stays relatively the same and has a series of activities to learn and reinforce new English words and phrases to use later during class time. Their favorite part of circle is singing. Right now, they know eight songs - all in English. After morning circle, it’s time to read in English at Guided Reading time.
Guided Reading is my chance to review what they remember in a fun way. We read a book together and they tell me what's happening, make predictions and of course give me their well informed critical opinion of anything and everything they see in the pictures. In doing this, they begin to start thinking critically and use their imagination in ways they had not in their former education experience. I often remember being read to as a child by my parents and I realize that this is something some of my students will never experience. I like to think that reading together may give them memories similar to mine and that they will one day love to read. After we read a story together it is time for them to practice reading on their own in English at Reading Centers.
Reading Centers give the children a chance to pick their favorite books and attempt to read in English. Little by little they have learned various words and get so excited when they read a word and know what it means. I get just as excited as they do and plenty of high-fives are exchanged and it seems like I always say “good job.” I hope by the end of my time here I will have the children reading and understanding small books. I have high expectations for my class and they always seem to surpass them.
After Reading Centers it’s time to practice writing. Writing block is the children’s time to write the words they have learned and try their hand at some tricky English grammar. I spend the first ten minutes teaching the children grammar that relates to the theme of the week. They then try their best to apply the rules using vocabulary they can see around the classroom. Some of my students still struggle with letter recognition in their own language, but we face our problems head on, do our best to improve and always sing a song or two. After we learn about grammar we practice our ABCs and spelling in Word Work.
Word Work is the best part of the day for most students. They get to play fun games and play with blocks. The best part is all the games are educational but I’m pretty sure they haven't realized it yet. We practice letter recognition with puzzles and card games. We also spell words using blocks. Sometimes I’ll throw in a math game to see how much they remember. At the end of the day everyone helps to clean up and then we close our day with a prayer and thank God for the wonderful day he has given us.
This is pretty much a typical day for my Second grade class. They also have Spanish, computers, physical education, art and music throughout the week. All specials except for Spanish are conducted in English by other volunteers. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for these children and I am extremely proud to be their teacher. I am so eager to teach them as much English as possible by the time my year of service is up and can’t wait to see how they’ll improve when I come back to visit next year.
Joseph Sarappo '13