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Monday, October 24, 2011

The World is a Classroom

SF to Paris in Two Minutes from Beep Show on Vimeo.

Roars of laughter echoed from our table throughout the dining hall of Mcdonalds as the three of us sat there together in what would be our very last lesson. As I look upon the faces of both Ceci and was unmistakable that something in them had changed forever through the course of this three month period.  The course in english was only for 3 months but the lessons they learned would stay with them forever. It may have been the last lesson with me but truth be told, for them it was only the beginning.

I had arrived at the school around 10am as usual to find that the doors were still locked. Normally this would be a problem because I needed to get in, grab a classroom and prepare for today's lesson.  Later I would find out that there had been a mistake where the secretary had thought our class started at 11.  But her "mistake" would be one that actually ended up benefiting us greatly as we ended up on comfy seats in the upstairs dining section of Mcdonalds next door. In addition to that, I had a huge bonus for the ladies.....movies, books, and other resources that I would be donating to them to help them continue learning english while I was in Canada.

When they turned up, I quickly greeted them with the traditional "beso", explained the situation, and beckoned them to come to McDonalds where we could do the lesson.  The ladies didn't see any problem with this set up and we quickly made our way to the dining hall upstairs to begin what would be the last lesson. For weeks now I had been imagining what that last lesson would look like. But nothing on earth could have prepared me for what an amazing finish it would be. And I truly believe with all my heart that God planned for our last class to be the very best.

Not only where we in a comfortable intimate atmosphere but it would be during the course of this lesson that for the first time ever I could see how my labor has bore fruit in the lives of these two women. During our session, they would beam excitedly and tell me how this course has changed everything for them in all aspects of their lives. Even the way that they watch movies isn't the same. Before they would just watch the subtitles in spanish when they view english speaking films. Now when they watch a film, they not only catch phrases but they are beginning to understand the culture BEHIND the movie.

Julieta and Ceci went beyond learning english, somewhere along the line wisdom and understanding took root in their hearts. And in 3 short months the course took them from knowing nothing about english or about North American culture to a whole different place where they are just getting their feet wet in grasping the American pop culture. Their eyes went huge with delight as I showed them all the spoils in the bag for them to help them on this journey : Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss, Season 1 of Glee, a collection of R & B CD's, Finding Nemo, Ugly Betty Season 2 etc. This collection of items may not sound like much in comparison to what other people have but for them its going to work wonders in exposing them to pop culture. A little goes a long way with these ladies :)

But the benefits of the course didn't just stop there, their language skills came to life. On the first day of class, I had told these ladies that if they took my advice to heart, they would grasp the english language. And it looks like my words became a self fulfilling prophecy of some sort. For the last 3 months, I concentrated so much on teaching them that I wasn't able to really observe the course's effects on their life.

It was only on that last day while we were eating, drinking, laughing and learning that I could finally see the full manifestation of their abilities. Julieta, I believe is a visual learning who learns through reading and writing. Ceci  learns through sounds and repetition and prefers an audio method.  Julieta has a passion and a gift for teaching other Argentines the difference between North American culture and Argentine culture. Ceci on the other hand has a real knack for patterns and pronounciation in english. Her passion lies somewhere within exploring and learning about pop culture through entertainment.

One of my last pieces of advice to the girls was that it is normal to take a break from formal lessons and explore english in other ways. I did the same with spanish, I would do formal study and then just have a season where I would watch movies and read books in spanish. I encourage them to learn english informally the next few months while I was in Canada and to figure out their gifts and their passions. Once they do, I will be able to show them how to reach each one of their respective goals. It was becoming more and more obvious that they have different ways of learning and different goals as learners so taking a break to explore while I jetset off to North America was quite timely.

There is a sound that accompanies every single lesson that I do with others, it is the sound of laughter. Scientist say that people who laugh live longer. If that is the case, then each one of my students really might live into the next century because in our sessions, we sometimes don't got 10-15 mins without bursting into peals of laughter. And laughter was definitely present as I whipped out my book and taught them how to say things like "I am near sighted" in spanish as well as phrases like "I have a hang-over".  Of course I did mix in a good dose of much more useful vocabulary having to do with themes like religion, society, beliefs, social matters. It was such a pleasure to see two people reach a point where they knew enough english to be able to make use of these less basic vocabulary words.

It is such a privilege to have nurture them into all that they are now and to be able to be a resource for them in the future.  All the books and teaching material that i had cost me the last of my savings that I had saved up from my previous job. But to be sitting in mcdonalds munching on medialunas and seeing their beaming faces from across the table, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

In essence, Ceci and Julieta served as the bait drawing me back to BA for season 3.  They expressed to me their desire to keep learning and that they had full intentions of learning english even while I was in Canada. As an ESL teacher, those words are music to my ears. Their desire to learn fuels my desire to teach like logs being tossed into an asado. But perhaps the greatest lesson I could ever teach these two is that the world is one big classroom.....

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Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas