Teaching In Paraguay

Although it’s been over three years since I’ve been a teacher, it all came back to me last week. Tuesday I helped teach a class at the teacher’s college that’s just down the road from our house. The regular professor and I used the strategies we intended the future teachers to learn that day – like having a “lead off task” for the students to independently work on a soon as they entered the room.

We also did two different hands-on activities for working with statistics that got the students out of their seats and fully engaged. After each activity the professor and I asked questions to get the future teachers thinking about why they might want to use similar strategies in their someday classrooms and the benefits in switching up their teaching style to reach the many different learning preferences their students will have. We all agreed that hands-on was a great strategy to prevent sleeping students!

We wrapped up the lesson with an exit slip – a way of collecting feedback as well as a sense of what really soaked in from the lesson. Not only a good tool for them to use but a helpful way for me to receive the responses and feedback of the group about my first lesson in Paraguay.

It’s funny that I mentioned in my Peace Corps interview that I’d rather not be a teacher for my service assignment, that I’d like to try something new. Yet being in front of the class again, leading activities, writing on the board, and seeing a look of excitement flash through the eyes of a student was exhilarating.

With that lesson under my belt hopefully I won’t feel as dreadfully nervous the next time around. I was a night and day difference from when I took a deep breath and shakily left the house that morning to when I skipped through the door, pacing and flailing as I recounted every last detail of the morning to lucky Isaiah.

Unfortunately I won’t be doing more lessons in that setting for a few months as they are now taking their final exams and leaving for the summer break. But it’s good to have contacts at the college for next year or really, who knows what could get cooked up over the summer. Things seem to spring outta nowhere sometimes. Kinda like this radish that peeked up from our garden! Our first homegrown produce harvest! We’re like proud parents. Except that we ate the little guy and found him mild at first with a nice bitey finish. Perfect.

But back to the teaching. On Thursday Isaiah and I both put on our teaching hats to co-teach our first of a series of seven basic English classes through one of our local cooperatives. The co-ops are required to offer classes to their members so although teaching English isn’t our sector’s primary focus, we knew it’d be a great foot in the door. And we had fun!

Seven students of varying ages attended. It was a relaxed but engaged and hardworking group. We taught them how to introduce themselves and where they’re from, greetings and farewells. My favorite part of the class was when they worked in pairs at stations of beautifully handcrafted manipulatives. Yes, those oatmeal and yerba mate cardboard boxes I’d been saving came in handy for tiles of words or phrases to sort, match, or put in order. Wanted: Peace Corps projects. Large budget not required.

Our goal in the class is to teach them grammatically correct English but also how people really talk. They left the class thanking us and saying (in English) “Okay, see ya later!” and “Buh-bye!” We’ll teach them once a week until Christmas.

So there are a couple of concrete things we’ve been up to just in case you thought we were only hanging in our hammocks and reading away (although we do a whole lot of that too)!

What have you guys been up to? We’re always excited to hear news from “home!” Any other teachers at heart? Have you ever taught an English class? It’s definitely more than a matter of knowing the language yourself. It’ll be a good challenge, I think!


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