I am soooooo sorry that it has been so long since my last post. Truth is, I have been having technical problems. Those of you who know me know that I love technology and pride myself on being able to figure out how to fix it when things go awry. This time, however, I just couldn’t figure it out.

The internet here is sketchy. Sometimes we have it in our third-floor room and sometimes we don’t. I even bought a signal extender at Office Depot (yes, they have Office Depot here), hoping that it would help, but it didn’t make much of a difference. Lyn’s iPad seems to get enough signal from the router. Mine does not. Go figure.

Anyway, it turns out that my laptop works just fine! So here I am working away on it. Problem is that my laptop is about 8 years old. Some of the things that appealed to me when I first got it are now history. For example, the speed. The MS Office software is from 2011, which means it is not going to be supported much longer. Yikes. Always something!

Anyway, let’s get caught up on Life in Vallarta!

Memo & Vallarta 101

Sunday the school scheduled a tour of the city for us. Memo, our guide, was very cool. Clearly someone who loves the city, loves to walk and talk, and loves even more to eat. On almost every block he pointed out restaurants that had great food, where to buy produce, candy, spices, whatever.

The tour was supposed to last for 3 hours. We must have been an exceptional group because Memo walked us all over the city from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. We were exhausted! Among the places he pointed out was the highest point in the city. Not easy to get to, this location requires you to climb some hills and find a long and steep series of steps up to a cross on top of the hill. From here you have a wonderful view of the entire Bay of Banderas.

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Me and Memo

Since we didn’t have the time to go all the way up, Memo took us to one of two lighthouses in the city that used to guide ships into the bay. This one we did climb to get a great view of the city and bay.

At the end of the tour, Memo walked us to his favorite seafood taco place. I had a shrimp taco that had some type of sauce on it that was fabulous. I wish I could remember the name of it. Lyn had a shrimp taco, too, but his was breaded. It was fabulous too. From there we had quite a long walk back to the Malecon where Lyn and I caught a bus back to our house/apartment.

Lyn was a bit stressed by that time. It was Sunday, we were tired, and we still had to finish our lesson plan for our very first teaching practice so that it could be approved. Our first class was Monday at 1:20!

Teaching!

OMG. I had no idea. God help me, if every class is going to be like this first one, I better quit now.

Yes, it really was that bad. 

Can you picture 9- and 10-year olds on crack? These were our first students. They were all over the place, shouting and wrestling, and generally being crazy. And here we were trying to teach them time and place prepositions.We had a lesson plan. We were armed with activities and alternative activities. Nothing helped. It was mayhem. That one hour lasted a lifetime. Of course, we had been warned. Maybe it was our better angels that told us it couldn’t be that bad. They were wrong.

The class room was tiny. The desks (one for two students) were arranged so that they were pushed up against either wall with a narrow aisle between them, and no windows. All together there were 12 students and the two of us. There was hardly any space to stand, never mind walk, and here they were climbing under and over them, wrestling on the floor and shouting at each other.

Nicole and Gabriel’s class.Our experience was not unique. Afterward, our TEFL classmates got together to discuss our experiences. Some actually had more chaos than we did.

Nevertheless, we did get through the material. We also learned that we needed to know more how to handle a situation like this. Thankfully, Tuesday morning’s lesson was on Classroom Management.

After a debrief on our experiences, Raul gave us some information on Classroom Management that would helps us. First concept? Classroom Management is a myth. Great.

Well, perhaps not that bad. We did learn a few short-term and long-term strategies that might work given time and consistency. Clearly, however, we were not prepared for what we walked into.

Second Time Around

Today, Lyn and I returned to the same class with a new topic — conjunctions. Our goal was much simpler: try to keep some control and get the kids to listen a little better. If we get through the material, great. If not? Oh well.

Things did go much better, or so I thought. We were a little better prepared. Additionally, we were early and were able to see the regular teacher work with the class. They listened. They behaved (mostly). They engaged.

Hmm. This meant it was possible for us to do the same, recognizing, of course, that we were to be the dreaded “substitute teachers.”

Measuring Success

For me, I felt that our success came with being able to get the kids attention for several minutes at a time. We also monitored them as they worked individually and as they attempted to use what they learned with each other. The latter was the more difficult, as some in the pairs of students understood the material better than others.

Another plus was being able to identify the leaders, the helpers and those that needed help. At the end, we were able to use these people to help us bring a little order to the chaos. A little.

Good news is that we will be in this same class again on Friday. Perhaps by then they will accept us and work with us to make it a more pleasant experience all around.

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