It’s funny to remember how before I left for Nicaragua two months seemed like a long time. Now that I’m here, I’d do anything to have more time. A week after I arrived, another volunteer came down who was also interested in teaching English. Together, we have set up English classes and are currently teaching three classes: beginner, intermediate, and advanced that are each offered twice a week. English classes are provided in the schools in town; however because there is only one teacher for all of the schools the children do not end up getting a lot of English instruction.
Within the past twenty years or so, San Juan del Sur’s primary revenue has shifted from fishing to tourism so now more than ever learning English is an incredibly useful skill for students to have. In the beginning, the English teacher recommended students for our English class. Students were recommended based on the fact that they were struggling in school; however as word spread, students brought their friends or others who wished to learn English.
One of my main internship goals was to improve my Spanish. It’s one thing to stumble over your words when speaking with your host family and another doing it in a classroom full of your students. This made the first couple of days of teaching a bit overwhelming. However, I soon realized that it doesn’t matter if I have perfect Spanish because the students are all here to learn English. Plus some of my students really got a kick out of getting to correct me, their teacher.
We are now starting our fourth week of class, and I can really feel my confidence growing. At this point, I have no problem speaking Spanish in front of a classroom full of 25 students. Whether explaining instructions, grammatical rules, or simply asking the students to quiet down, I really feel like I am able to lead a class. I try to speak English as much as I can with the students, but there are some students who need extra help and often require information to be repeated in Spanish.
I’m most proud of developing my leadership skills and with the trust I have begun to build with many of the students. At the beginning of classes, many of them were too shy or embarrassed to admit they needed help but now students have no problem asking their questions. I have worked very hard to make sure students feel comfortable and safe in the classroom. Now seeing them feel comfortable joking around or just talking to me is very rewarding. With each class, I get to know more about each of the students and their individual learning needs. I only wish that I had more time to spend with them. Since this is such a small town I often see students outside of the classroom. I love it when one of them takes the time to shout to me and say hello.
Part of my internship learning goals include improving my communication and leadership skills within a classroom setting and to practice my Spanish language skills. So far, almost every day has provided an opportunity for me to hone these skills. Since I am living with a Nicaraguan family and most of my co-workers only speak Spanish, I feel myself getting more and more comfortable with the language. Considering I intend to use my Spanish language skills in whichever career path I end up choosing, the practice I am getting now is extremely beneficial.
My co-teacher and I have been responsible for creating our own lesson plans in which we try to provide a mix of vocabulary, grammar, and conversational skills that are appropriate for the ability level in each class. Being an Education major, learning how to construct a lesson plan and thinking about the types of activities that are feasible and effective in the classroom will help me if I choose to pursue a career in teaching.
The independent nature of this internship has given me a lot of freedom to explore my interests and grow as both a teacher and an individual. As I continue teaching, I look forward to discovering what other surprises and challenges the remainder of the summer will bring.