El Mismo: Teaching in Chile

El Mismo: Teaching in Chile

 “How do dogs in Japan smell?

 With their noses of course!”

It is easy to fall into the mindset that other places/cultures are completely different than your own. They look and sound different so they must then be different right? In many ways other cultures are different but, like the lame joke above that my dad told us growing up, in many ways they are very very similar.

The Chilean government has officially given us permission to work and we have finally gotten to experience some Chilean classrooms!

At first glance, schools in Chile might seem completely different:

Most of the schools are one level with outside hallways connecting all of the rooms and a courtyard/playground in the middle. Classes run in 90 minute blocks and are broken up by breakfast time at 10:00 and lunch at 2:00 during which students can leave the building and walk to the shops or parks close by. Students wear either their dress uniform or their athletic uniform. Since it is winter now, most kids stay bundled up in their jackets, hats, and scarves all day. Each classroom has a gas heater and in some cases the students have to pool money to purchase the gas for their heater. On rainy days attendance is low and in the country schools it is not uncommon to sometimes see a student being brought to school on a horse. The bathrooms are a bring-your-own toilet paper adventure, and recently I walked by a gym class where all the kids were dancing in pairs of two waving cloth rags above their head. (they were practicing the cueca which is the Chilean National Dance)

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Courtyard/playground at one of the schools

But take another glance and you quickly realize how schools here are el mismo (the same) to schools everywhere:

On my first day touring classrooms, I noticed a boy proudly showing a note to all his friends. After class I picked up the same note, which turned out to be a profession of 5th grade true love. The little kids are adorable and instantly give hugs and waves. The 7th graders are embarrassingly awkward and you have to be a complete cheerleader in front of the room in order to get them to do anything. The 8th graders all believe they rule the school and are excited for high school. Each room has that “special child” you instantly notice and know that you will have to quickly build a relationship with him/her or he/she is going to rule your classroom. The girls giggle in circles and the boys scramble to play futbol or to run like crazies in the hallways on breaks. Walk through the parks at lunchtime and you might see some cringe worthy PDA from the older kids.

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“Te Amo” Love note I found in one of the classrooms
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Students excited to have a warm day!

Regardless of language, skin color, or backgrounds…kids are kids all over the world and they sure are entertaining!

Jon, Jenny, and I are each teaching English at a different school in Longavi. (Longavi is a small town about 20 minutes away from Linares by bus) Jenny is working at the High School in town, Jon is at a school about 10 minutes out of town, and I am in a campo school (country) school.

On our first day, the director of Longavi schools took us on a tour to meet the directors of our schools and to see several classrooms. Many of the kids and maybe even teachers had never seen a person from the United States before! It was so entertaining to walk into each classroom and to be greeted by whispers of “They’re so tall!” The directors went out of their way to amp up what a special opportunity to have teachers from the United States! The little ones audibly gasped when we were introduced and some instantly started to yell out numbers 1-10 in English to proudly show-off. They yelled out “bye-bye!” when we left each room.

The older students wanted to know what sports we played, exactly how cold the United States is, and everything there is to know about Rihanna. They crowded around us and asked “What is your name?” their go-to English phrase. When we answered and asked them a question they giggled and ran away. Some even asked us to sign their notebooks!

One thing that was overly evident when talking to the directors was the desire for English instruction. Many emphasized the need for their students to broaden their horizons and to experience more of the world than their own town. Learning English opens up countless doors to better jobs, school abroad, or traveling experiences. The region of Maule, where Linares and Longavi are located, is a beautiful untapped tourist location and the growth of English in the area will grow tourism and the Maule economy.

It’s second semester in Chile and we are jumping into the unknown. The Chilean government has made English a part of the national curriculum. However, some English teachers do not even know how to speak English! Our job is to support these teachers. It is going to be wonderfully humbling and I’m sure at times a challenge to switch from having complete control over the classroom to being an assistant. We are excited to get our feet wet!

It is such a blessing that the Longavi schools have formed a partnership with Kingdom Workers. We will be working as teacher-assistants four days a week and then working with the Linares church on the extended weekend or week nights. Since our work with the church is completely volunteer based, it is such a blessing to be able to receive an income from working in the schools. Teaching in the schools also gives us a platform to build relationships with the teachers, parents, and students. It is a wonderful opportunity to become a deeper part of the community.

Through sharing English we will hopefully be able to share a little Jesus. Fundamentally kids are the same everywhere, and so is He!

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“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

A Day in the Life of Tio Jon 

Breakfast of champions, bread and cheese.
Breakfast of champions, bread and cheese.
My 35 minute ride to Longavi from Linares.
My 35 minute bus ride to my school from Linares.
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The view from my bus stop by the school
Los Cristales Escuela
Los Cristales Escuela
Teaching the kids about family and mountain biking
Teaching the kids about family and mountain biking
Teaching Kindergarden
Teaching Kindergarten

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7th Grade Science Class
7th Grade Science Class. Apart from teaching English I also help out in Science classes.
The computer lab
The computer lab
1st grade
1st grade

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A typical classroom
A typical classroom
Praise the Lord for gas and heat!
Praise the Lord for gas and heat!
Looking out at the mountains from school
Looking out at the mountains from school
Our courtyard at school
Our courtyard
The bathroom area
The bathroom area after a rainy day
Cafeteria for students
Cafeteria for students
Cafeteria for adults
Cafeteria for adults
The basketball court which is mainly used for soccer
The basketball court which is mainly used for soccer
Our library
Our library
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Some of my coworkers
The plaza for our town is right outside of my school
The plaza for our town is right outside of my school
Did I mention I taught in the campo where this is normal?
Life near the campo
My corner store outside of the bus stop
My corner store outside of the bus stop
The students bus
The students bus
Other buses for students to take home
Other buses for students to take home
Along the drive to/ from school there are wineries that I just have to look at
Along the drive to/ from school there are beautiful vineyards
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Celebrating a good day with the family

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