Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round...

Hola y buenas dias!

So, it is about 7am and I just arrived at school fifteen minutes ago. Just for reference, that is fifteen minutes earlier than I even woke up last year. Just for reference. I get chauffeured to school each morning in a stretch...okay, its a bumpy old school bus from circa 1972 with a bus driver who looks like Saddam's brother. People generally don't talk on the bus. If you do, you get some "looks". I have subsequently started bringing my iPod for such occasions.

So far, after almost two weeks, the school days have been going really well. The kids are unbelievably polite, saying "good morning" or "hello Meeester" every time they come in and "goodbye Meeester" or "thank you, Meeester" every time they leave. Honestly, after awhile, especially because this is not a practice I'm used to, it gets a little annoying. (They call me Mister since the Spanish equivalent, Señor, can stand alone as a title, whereas when we call someone "Mr." or "Miss" all by itself, it usually denotes some sort of unfamiliarity.) Basically they are really nice and polite all the time and it is hard to tell if they don't like you or not because they will not show it. They will whine...but what 9th grader won't, eh

I feel like I've mentioned this to some people but the main difference I've noticed between the way students in Colombia "do school" and the way students in North America "do school" is the volume of the classroom. Despite all the politeness, Colombians love to talk. Any chance they get they will start chattering. Anybody remember the scene in the Music Man when all the society ladies are gossiping..."Pick A Little Talk A Lot"??? That is what it is like. Chatty-Cathys all around! This is the one common complaint all the import teachers have no matter what grade level they teach.

In North America, if you borrow a pencil from someone next to you during class you might nod thanks or at most whisper it. Here its a great big vocal "GRACIAS"! It is interesting adjusting to such cultural differences especially when it is perceived as rude by me and not by them. Right now there is a lot of wait time and staying after class into break or lunch or after school. I've told them I will not talk over them (something I wondered if I was lying to them when I originally said it) and so far I have resisted. Other than controlling the constant motor mouths, I really like my classes!

The schedule here is a bit confusing but I think I really like it. They have eight classes and each class is roughly 70 minutes long. All the classes go all year round but they do not necessarily meet every day. Each day there are only five periods and all eight total periods rotate through these five periods. (For example: Day 1 would see periods A, B, C, D, and E. Day 2 would see periods F, G, H, A, and B. Day 3: periods C, D, E, F, and G. And so on...) I like this schedule because 1) you don't always see the same group of kids the same hour of the day every time, 2) 70 minutes is a great amount of time to get a lot of things done, and 3) some days I teach four classes, some days three, and some (like today) I teach two. Even the four class days aren't bad when one of the hours is a 70 minute prep. I know it has only been two weeks, but I have yet to even come close to needing to bring something home. In conclusion, I am a fan of the schedule.

We usually have meetings after school but if we don't, the first teacher bus leaves at 3:30 and another at 5:00. I have taken both and they are equally as terrifying as riding shotgun in a cab. I swear we've both gotten "air" off a speed bump and been on less than four wheels going around some corners. These bus drivers must moonlight as demolition derby guys on the weekends. (They actually do double as the grounds crew and maintenance during the day. One even came to our apartment to fix the oven on day!)

Most days I either take the 3:30 bus home or go for a run in the country around school and then run home. (It is about 3.5 to 4 miles from my barrio to school so I estimate I'm putting in around 6-8 miles a run.) Running outside of the city is an interesting experience. You always have to be ready for giant horse poop in your path or the cow parade that comes around the corner out of nowhere. But the air is cleaner out there than in the city. It is amazing how much good emission standards on cars really does!

Alright, I'm sufficiently awake now. Time to do some work before my first class two and a half hours. Uff dah. Hope all is well and good luck with the new school year!!!!!!