Teachers' Perspectives on Teaching in Guate
Kerry, 9th Grade English
It’s been a year of firsts for me: my first time teaching 9th grade; my first time working at a K-12 school; my first time riding the school bus to school every morning with my students.
I have taught in the U.S. and Brazil, but the students here at Interamericano are a unique experience for me. Whether it’s analyzing literature or chatting about their social calendar, they are a communicative bunch, and with this eagerness to communicate comes a warmth and personable quality that’s a bit harder to find in the states.
The students and the culture exude a sense of friendliness and community through their gift of gab, and also through physical connectedness. Hugs, cheek kisses, pats on the back, and hair playing is not uncommon amongst students, nor is it uncommon amongst teachers and students. In the states, this kind of behavior is discouraged, and here it’s embraced.
At Inter, students and teachers don’t hang around school as late as I’m used to. People work hard, but don’t overdo it, as is classic for the American workaholic. There are days off for riots instead of snow. Many kids are greeted by their chaueffeur and bodyguard after school. The students’ laissez faire attitude about homework is simply a microcosm of the country’s laissez faire attitude about life.
These have all been firsts for me. Looking out the classroom windows and seeing lush green the majority of the year, or walking out of the classroom door only to step outside are also pleasant firsts. But I think my favorite first is the genuine hugs I received before and after break from my high school students, without embarrassment and without hesitation. Those are the firsts I hope are not the lasts.
Brian, 5th Grade
For me, one of the most important factors in having a successful teaching
experience depends on the relationships and community I build with my
class. The students at Colegio Interamericano are very warm, open and
show a tremendous amount of care and support for each other. This has
made it easier for me as a teacher to create a safe learning environment
where students feel confident in their abilities and are willing to put
down there guard, open their minds and take some risks.
Since I taught in a K-5 school in the States, I also really appreciate the
opportunities that come with working in a PreK-12 school like
Interamericano. This has made the community of educators that I work with
that much more diverse. I´ve used science experiments and materials from
the High School Biology teacher, invited 8th Grade students into our class
for presentations, gained great insight into different philosophies
through discussions with different grade level teachers, and I coach High
Melissa, 6th Grade Language Arts
Teaching in Guatemala has turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me. There are so many differences between teaching here and in the States worthy of mention, but one of my favorite aspects of teaching in Guatemala is the relationship available to me with my students. The Guatemalan culture encourages children to be loving, giving and affectionate to teachers. In addition, the helpful and friendly locals make teaching at Interamericano comfortable and enjoyable. Although the instruction is entirely in English, learning Spanish has become a welcome opportunity for me, one that aids me even in my teaching of English. Of course, the travel opportunities are unlike teaching in the states; weekend trips to exotic and interesting places, vacations spent traveling throughout Central America, all make the teaching experience here enriching. Finally, the other foreign hire staff are compadres in the real sense, making ideasshared prized possessions, and experiences together, priceless.
Why not come teach in a country that has a national holiday dedicated to teachers?
The school is committed to growth and offers many opportunities for staff to develop professionally. You can attend regional conferences or take advantage of the Master’s level courses offered on campus by SUNY-Buffalo.
The school atmosphere is energetic. My Kindergarten classroom is small, compared to US Standards, but is generally well-resourced. My student group is composed entirely of English Language Learners from Guatemala and Korea. Teaching them challenges me to find and apply fresh, creative strategies to encourage English language development. Watching my students progress from blank stares to conversational skills in less than a year makes all the hard work worthwhile. Administration is responsive to new ideas and is working to build consistency in instruction between grades. Parents are positive and supportive.
Guatemala City itself is fast-paced and modern. Most of the name brands and conveniences you could find in the States can be had here, at extra cost. The weather is wonderfully temperate. There are malls, excellent restaurants and a decent night life.
The city can also be dangerous. Most of the same precautions you would take to stay safe in any big city apply here: avoid public transportation, stay aware and cautious on the street. I live here with my eight-month-old daughter; we visit markets and have traveled throughout the country with very few problems.
Guatemala is an ideal place to come to learn Spanish. Private tutors are easy to find and will come to your home for just a few dollars. Or, you can study in one of the Spanish schools in the elegant colonial city of Antigua, just over an hour away. Beaches, rivers and fascinating Mayan villages also within easy reach.