Week 5:
Home


Cornell Fellow in International Student Teaching

Colegio Ecuatoriano Español América Latina | Quito, Ecuador

November 24, 2019

Me at Cuicocha (The Cotacachi Volcano in the background)

Hey everyone, welcome back to the 5th installment of my blog! This week, I’ll tell you all about what I got to do as well as talk a little about missing home.

This week, and for the next three weeks, we have daily inter-class sports championships. This means that we have to block out 2 hours of the school day in order for students to compete against each other in volleyball, soccer, and basketball. We had the afternoon slot this week which means, after 4 periods of school, Wendy and I are done teaching for the day and get to watch Primero Bachillerato compete. The rationale seems to be that it is a way to foster a sense of community and allow students to learn how to compete with others in a supportive environment. I feel as if the same thing could be accomplished in a classroom setting in other ways. While it is fun to see the students in another light, it is very hard to sacrifice half of our school day to something like this for four weeks. But, that just means that Wendy and I need to make the most out of the class time that we do have.

A celebration by primero bachillerato after a win in basketball

Class went so well this week. In every grade, students took quizzes under our new agreement that they were not going to talk to each other or look at each others papers while taking a quiz. For the most part, it went well! Most students were able to come to some sort of realization that they had actually not mastered the material and that, now that they were expected to show what they know as an individual, they need to be more active participants in class. They demonstrated this by doing better on their reassessments as well as being more focused in class. Now, when there is material covered in class, students are actively participating. Sure, it can get loud, but they are talking about the material and they are working together to reach an understanding.

On Tuesday, Dr. Amara Stuehling and Dr. Magdalena Herdoiza-Estévez came to visit América Latina on behalf of the Global Gateway for Teachers Program from Indiana University. They were able to observe me teach in Spanish and in English and we had a meeting to discuss my experience so far. It was great to talk with both of them because it helped me actively think about my entire experience here and how wonderful it has been. I am so grateful to the two of them for coming to see me. I am proud to be a part of a program that is able to provide these experiences for students.

In addition to the championships during the day, we still have extracurricular activities after school. This means that I still have to coach basketball. Dariel (the other coach) had to coach the middle school boys team at an away game so that means that I had to run practice all by myself. I was able to create a schedule of activities that took up the full hour and a half, however I had difficulty with communicating with my athletes. On Wednesdays and Fridays, the elementary students have basketball. I had track and field on Wednesdays and Thursdays up until last week so, by myself, and I had to communicate what we were going to do (exercises, drills, and all) purely in Spanish to a group of students that I did not know. They were able to understand each activity but it took a couple of tries. We warmed up, did some shooting drills, and then scrimmaged. All in all, it was a successful practice!

Fiesta de Lecturain the classroom of Segundo Azul.

Friday was CEEAL’s fiesta de la lectura (reading and literacy celebration). In the morning, we were able to go to both of Segundo Bachillerato’s rooms and learn about what they had been doing in literature class. Students from both classes had prepared presentations, skits, and musical performances that allowed the audience to learn about various authors and their novels through learning about their lives and their environments. It was incredible to learn in these different ways and I am so happy the students got the opportunity to experience learning through multiple disciplines.

Fiesta de Lectura in the classroom of Segundo Verde.

This weekend Gloria, Carmen (the other Global Gateway Student) and I went on an excursion North. We first went to Otavalo, a town surrounded by volcanoes that is known for its expansive artisan market. We were able to walk through the market and shop around, seeing amazing hand crafted goods and bargaining for lower prices. Afterwards, we were able to drive through the gorgeous volcano ridden landscape a little further North to go to Cuicocha. Cuicocha is a caldera and crater lake that sits beneath Cotacachi volcano. Carmen and I had the opportunity to get on a boat and ride out onto the lake itself. It was incredible. The lake itself was so beautiful and brilliantly blue. That, combined with the volcano towering over it, made for an absolutely stunning view. It was great to spend time talking with Gloria and Carmen and I finally feel comfortable and part of my host family.

Carmen and I in a boat on Cuicocha.

Thanksgiving is next week, which means that schools in the United States are out for a week and Cornell has fall break as well. Everyone I know is with their loved ones and on Thursday, they will be sitting around a table, together (arguing over the topics everyone was told to actively avoid). On Thursday this week, I will be at school, with people I have known for just over 5 weeks. I will have a regular Thursday.

This will be my first Thanksgiving not spent with my family. In the past week I have been pondering over that as well as coming to the realization that I have been here for five weeks. This made me feel homesick. Student-teaching in Ecuador has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am so grateful for it. Ecuador is an absolutely beautiful country and my relationships with everyone I have met have been wonderful. My host family has done everything to make me feel welcome and at home. Except, this isn’t home. This is my home for 8 weeks and then I return to the place that I have called home for 22 years.

After I finish this experience I will go back to Colorado, begin my career, move out of my parents’ house, and create a new definition of “home”. I will create new relationships with the people around me and I will continue to nurture the ones I already have. I will live that life every day for years and I will learn to grow accustomed to that life. But it won’t be the same feeling I have when I am in my parents’ house, surrounded by my family. There might come a point where I won’t have that same feeling about my childhood home. Will that feeling of absolute belonging disappear? Will it move with me? I’m excited to continue living my life and figure it out along the way but at the same time I’m hesitant. I’m scared to lose that feeling. Does there just come a point in everyone’s lives where they move and they are exactly where they need to be but they don’t feel at home? What a weird feeling to experience.

I recognize that I have been privileged to have somewhere to call home and I am thinking about the people who have never had that. That lack of a feeling of belonging to a specific place must manifest inside them. I will have students who will be in those situations, and I will have to take them into consideration when I am trying to create a classroom environment that is comfortable for everyone. So, this holiday season, let us be grateful for the feelings we have right now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

When driving back from Cuicocha, we were stopped by a parade of dancers.

Brady Tobin '19

Brady is a math education major, computer science minor from Erie, Colorado.