I went to bed on Sunday night with butterflies in my stomach, nervous about what the next day would bring. I woke up hourly throughout the night until 5am, anxious I would sleep through my alarm. A cold shower and two boiled eggs later, the sun had risen and at 6.15am I made my way to school. Walking to Comfenalco, I was nervous about taking a jeep on my own for the first time and knowing where to get off. I was nervous walking down the steps to the school, unsure of what to do when I arrived. I was greeted with open arms by Gildardo and my fears subsided! He took me to Edith, who proceeded to introduce me to a ridiculous amount of people, none of whose names I remembered. Leonor, my co-teacher was there to meet me and took me to our class, where she settled the class, introduced me and started to explain lots of things to me. Edith and her then took me around the school, into every class, to introduce me. I was overwhelmed and felt quite intimidated with so many kids looking at me, which was a new feeling for me as I am normally very confident.
The first day passed like a blur, I tripped and stumbled through my words as my Spanish seemed to fail me and I struggled to understand and make myself understood. But despite this I was made to feel welcome. People greeted me, smiled, hugged and kissed me. Over the next few days I was given food (from empanadas to fruit) from 5 different members of staff, little things that made me feel comfortable and welcome. Edith and Leonor even bought me a t-shirt with the school emblem on it that I can wear to school.
I spent my time in classes observing Leonor, although the first couple of days passed calmly with very little teaching being done as the kids did the homework they should have done over the holidays. The classes are big from 25-40 students although considering their size, their behaviour is amazing. Leonor has incredible classroom management and the students, for the most part, don’t step out of line. I was once again flattered by their interest in me; where I was from (London-WOW!), why I was in Cali and did I have a boyfriend? Their level of English is incredibly low and teaching them, trying (emphasising trying) to use only English, is going to be a real challenge. One I am willing to take and I hope that over the next couple of weeks I will be given the opportunity to take more of a lead in class and get to know my students.
My days finish with a lift home from the lovely James, who drops three other teachers home too. With Terron being renowned as a more dangerous area, walking up to the street to take the gualita home has to be done with more caution, especially if the students have already left. Needless to say I am very grateful for James and his kindness!
On Friday, the students had the day off due to teacher meetings. A big test for my Spanish as I sat through about 4 hours of meetings, trying to piece together words and make sense of what was being said. With this not being completely successful I was obviously rather mortified when someone asked me to give my opinion. Luckily the situation was avoided, probably due to the evident fear I was wearing on my face. Instead I had to introduce myself in Spanish at the little social event that happened afterwards. The people who had had their birthdays in July sat at the top table, and Leonor insisted I sat there too as a welcome. We were sung happy birthday to, given a massive breakfast and cake. After this, I nervously proceeded to do my mini-speech (briefly rehearsed beforehand), making ‘un monton de errores’ I’m sure, and thanked my new ‘compañeros’ for all the help they have already given me. Despite my mistakes and the few jokes some teachers made throughout, in general I think it was well received! I felt a new warmth and sense of being very welcome and left in the afternoon on a high having survived my first week!