School began in a flood of blue t-shirts and chatter. I have a class of 12, from age 9 to 11: fire rats and fire oxen. There are 4 girls and 8 boys – this ratio is fairly common throughout the school, being a private school it is culturally appropriate to place the education of the son higher than that of the daughter. Over sixty percent of the students receive scholarships: some are sponsored by North American families, others are helped by the school’s fundraising activities. Over ninety percent are local, I have two native English speakers in my class though both have spent almost all of their lives in Central America.
The children are charming, their English is incredibly poetic – beautiful is a common word, or rather vutifol. We will be working a lot with pronunciation. Jose Andreas each morning greets me with, “it is a pleasure Ancel”, while holding my hand and looking along his nose, eyes slightly closed like the count from some early talking movie; Catalina, my one faculty child never stops talking; Eduardo who’s father was killed hunting iguanas grins at me shyly and Daniel my ‘bad’ boy pretends to be aloof. They are great kids, I think I’m really lucky. Having no Spanish may or may not be a blessing. I have very little idea what they are saying amongst themselves, but it means I can’t cheat and they have to hear English. I did however squeak out a little Spanish on Thursday and immediately Michael said with perfect seriousness, “English please” – it must have been a phrase they heard a lot last year. Funnily enough their last teacher had some Waldorf experience – there are definite inklings of Steiner ed., in their mannerisms. My two native English speakers have Waldorf connections also.
I work closely with the other 4th and 3rd grade teachers: this has proven to be the bigger challenge (surprise surprise) – not because of who they are, I have fairly major crushes on both, but because we have completely different perspectives on pedagogy. I am very slowly managing to stop looking horrified and they are very slowly managing to accept my elaborate board illustrations outlining how everything is connected. They talk in state school jargon; personal narrative, writerly lives, baseline literature, and I don’t talk. They are both great teachers. Very interesting.