Departure, Arrival, and Immersion
October 26, 2019
Hey everyone! My name is Brady Tobin and I am currently in Quito, Ecuador finishing up my degree in Math Education. For the next 8 weeks, I will be student teaching at Colegio Ecuatoriano Español América Latina. I only just finished up a wonderful 8 weeks of domestic student teaching at Iowa City West High School this past Friday. After school on Friday, I packed up the apartment that Caleb Wilson (another Cornell Fellow currently student teaching in New Zealand) and I had sub-leased, drove 12 hours from Iowa to Colorado, saw my family for 24 hours, then I got on a plane and flew to Quito.
I arrived in Quito at 10:30 pm on Monday where I was greeted by my host mom, Gloria Jaramillo. By the time we arrived at her house and I was able to go to sleep, it was around midnight. I woke up to get ready for school on Tuesday at 6:15 am. I met Gloria’s husband Santiago as well as her son Adrian and her beautiful dog Luna. After a quick introduction, we raced off to school where I had a full day ahead of me.
Colegio Ecuatoriano Español América Latina (CEEAL) is a private, secondary school for students. It has a great reputation, an amazing campus, and a caring staff full of dedicated people. From 8:00 am to 2:00 pm everyday I am with my mentor teacher, Wendy. We teach first through third year baccalaureate students (high schoolers). Each year is separated into two groups, Azul and Verde. Our schedule looks different every day of the week. With forty minute periods, we switch between blocking classes together to not having a specific class for a couple of days. It is my role in the classroom to help with lesson planning as well to teach students in English. The English ability in the school ranges from beginner to proficient. Students do take English classes. In addition to this, there is a Financial Management class and a Physical Science class that are exclusively taught in English. But besides that, CEEAL is a Spanish speaking school. In order to communicate, I have to speak Spanish. It is my role in the classroom to help expose students to English in the mathematical world as well as to increase their exposure to English in general. This week I taught polynomial division in English to the students. It was amazing to be able to teach such a fun subject my first week but I definitely could have used a lesson plan if I had known about it.
I have had nightmares where I arrived in Ecuador and then couldn’t communicate with anyone because I lacked the ability to speak Spanish. Thankfully, these nightmares did not come true. I am able to communicate, however not to the extent that I would like. My Spanish is… lacking. I thought it was strong, but, after being immersed for an entire week, I now realize that I need immersion to truly be able to speak the language. Sure I can have a conversation and communicate my ideas. But I cannot pick up on something a student says in passing or overhear a conversation and understand what it was about. Sometimes, someone will ask me a question and I feel nothing but embarrassment as I stare back at them with no idea what they are trying to say. I am sure that in a couple of weeks my Spanish will be much better. But for now, I am trying every day just to hold my own. I want to thank everyone in my life who has helped me with my Spanish speaking ability. I am so grateful for the patience and the support I have gotten throughout my life and it has already paid off.
One of the reasons I fell in love with mathematics is because it is a universal language. It is beautiful and simple. Huge ideas can be translated through the language of mathematics. I am so glad to have cemented this by having witnessed it firsthand. Despite every other difficulty I have had communicating thus far, I can speak the language of math easily with my students. It doesn’t matter what the variables are called and it doesn’t matter what structure a certain equation has. All that matters is that I can fluently communicate mathematical ideas with my students.
After school each day, I am to attend a school club and participate in it. I am in art every Monday, Basketball (my actual worst sport but since I’m American…) every Tuesday and Thursday, and Track and Field every Wednesday and Friday. I absolutely love participating in these clubs. It is great to see my students outside of class working together towards a similar goal. It is awesome that I get to participate, but also help run these clubs and play a dual-role as I work with the students in multiple ways. On Wednesday I ran a workout (4 x 1200) with the distance team, and it was amazing. There is nothing quite like that feeling of knocking out reps with others and pushing each other to be better. Despite being at 9,000 feet, I felt really good. I look forward to doing more workouts with them as well as working with the track and field coordinator to develop a psuedo-training plan for the team.
Outside of school, I did a lot this week. On Thursday, I went with Santiago to downtown Quito to go to La Carolina Park and visit the Botanical Gardens while Gloria and Adrian had appointments. The park is expansive. In the middle of downtown it covers 165 acres and is full of activities; from a skate park, to a paddle boat rental, to an entire botanical garden, La Carolina Park has it all. The Botanical Gardens of Quito were pretty small and unfortunately two exhibits were closed due to an event, but it was absolutely gorgeous. It is one of Gloria’s favorite places in the world and I can see why. It features many fauna indigenous to the Andes region as well as to all the biomes found in Ecuador.
On Thursday night, I began to have stomach pains, which quickly manifested itself into Traveler’s Diarrhea. I was up sick all night and when I woke up for school on Friday, I was completely out of it. Since Santiago is a doctor, he decided that instead of going to school, I would go with him to the hospital. After 4 hours of an IV drip and miscommunications with doctors and nurses, I felt much better. Turns out that after all of that normal sickness from travelling, I was just super dehydrated. We joked on the way home that I was finally a traveler and that my immersion was well underway, but man, did that hurt a lot. I slept all day on Friday and woke up feeling a lot better Saturday morning.
I am writing this on Saturday morning. Today, we are going to Santiago’s mom’s house for lunch. I am looking forward to meeting her and to seeing what a family gathering is like. I am feeling much better than I did yesterday. I apologize for the lack of pictures of the school. Be sure to tune in next week to see what it looks like!
Brady is a math education major, computer science minor from Erie, Colorado.