Introducing: La Escuela Jose Cecilio del Valle

Almost ten months in and just as I’m about to say goodbye, I thought it was time for you all to get to know my school and my students! I imagine everyone says this but the kids really are the best part of the year, they make all the hard days worth it (even when they’re the reason why it’s a hard day in the first place) and never fail to put a smile on my face.

Kinder (Prepa) 

Prepa is the year of Kinder before they start primary school. Sometimes they can be tough. There are some very strong spirits in this class and often come in very restless and as I see them first thing on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays I have the challenge of settling them. I use games, channeling their energy into running from flashcard to flashcard, we sing songs all day long and occasionally we just sit on the floor and practice our numbers. I have sung If You’re Happy and You Know It so many times this year that I never want to hear it again. We also Wind the Bobbin up a lot and put our right arm in, our right arm out, our right arm in and shake it all about.

First grade – Profe Norma

These little guys used to be Amy’s prepa class in Kinder but are now all grown up and have joined us in the big school. While their attention span isn’t brilliant (but then whose was at age 5?), we have some very bright kids in this class, very keen and quick to pick things up. They are big fans of drawing and singing, with their favourite songs being our months of the year macarena and the days of the week song set to the tune of Chris Evan’s Breakfast show!

Second grade – Profe Aminta

We have seen a lot of changes in this class over the past year. Those that were cheeky monkeys last year and struggled to focus are now very attentive students. They participate more, their writing has improved and so has their ability to retain what we teach them. They are a very kindhearted bunch too, always ready to ambush us at the door when we arrive to smother us in hugs and our walls and their jotters are full of drawings and notes saying thank you to us and that they love us. A lot of the little girls take a great deal of pride in their jotter work, drawing lovely borders, using their best handwriting and making sure everything is perfect.

Third grade – Profe Marina

Once again, we have seen some big changes in this class. When we arrived in August they were a young and wildly immature second grade class that we had to fight to control and even had me on the brink of tears once. Now they are a stellar example of how we wish all our classes would be! They listen, follow instructions, are climbing over each other to participate but will settle down when we need them to. This isn’t to say that they don’t have their bad days, when chatting is rife and concentration is hard to find. I have a lot of love for this class, partly because of how far we’ve seen them come but also because of their continued hard work and effort. Their favourite game is a mix of chinese whispers and splat the board where they pass a word down their line and then have to touch the right flashcard on the board.

Fourth grade – Profe Rosaura

This a very lively class – they can be very loud and energetic which makes them a lot of fun to be around but difficult to reign in. They like to play games but at times their energy overflows the space that we have available in the classroom. Progress is slow going but whenever we revisit a topic, I usually have a smile on my face because they are good at remembering. They are at an interesting age in their education – a kind of make it or break it point. If they’re interested in English now, I believe it’s an interest they will carry with them. All I can do is try and light the spark and I’m doing my best!

Fifth grade – Profe Doris

The opposite has happened with this class than has happened with many other classes. As we’ve spent more time together, the noise levels have slowly increased as have some of the cheeky comments but it’s all well natured. I feel very comfortable with this class, they are all great kids and I get on well with all of them. As with most classes there are some students who have a natural knack for English and others that struggle but the common denominator in this class is the hard work. The absolute favourite in this class is without a doubt X y O (a.k.a. noughts and crosses) with hangman a close second.

Sixth grade – Profe Lucia

How do I describe sixth grade? A brilliant class, brilliant behaviour, brilliant work. I have never had any problems with this class and that is not an exaggeration. They are bright and eager, always do their best and are truly a joy to teach. What’s helpful too is that their teaches appreciates the value of learning English for them and is a big help to me in class and very encouraging to them. They have a new favourite game that I introduced them to recently, Heads Down, Thumbs Up.

And now for the grand tour!

This is our Kinder, it is approximately a 45 second walk from our house. We work here every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8-8.45am. There are two classes – Pre-K which is the younger class that Amy teaches this year, full of 3 and 4 year olds, and Prepatorio who will be next year’s first grade.
 The grand entrance to La Escuela Urbana Mixta de Jose Cecilio de Valle! 
The school buildings are spread over three levels – this is the top level that houses the director’s office, 1st-3rd grade, both 5th grade classes and my 6th grade as well as the bathrooms down at the end.
The middle level of the school has the salon (basically the assembly hall), a spare classroom, the library and my 4th grade class. At breaktime they have a someone selling crips and sweets through the bars of the salon.
The salon during a school meeting
Next to the middle level is this construction. I think it used to be a kind of lunchroom but isn’t really used it anymore. We’ve seen it used once to make tamales at the start of the year.
The lower level has Amy’s 4th and 6th grade classes.
A football pitch next to the classrooms – mostly used by 6th grade boys
On the other side of the lower classrooms is this little play area. The seesaw and monkey bars are new but the swing set is deadly! I’m surprised that no one has ever gone flying off and into the river!
These tables line the playground on the top level of school and is where the kids get their provided snacks at breaktime.
And this is an example of a classroom, specifically my 6th grade. All the classrooms have tin roofs which can make them extremely hot at times but they also have fans which helps. We use the whiteboards to teach but don’t use any technology.

And there you have it, a little insight to my everyday life in Candelaria. The kids here are so special to me, even when they’re driving me crazy! Leaving in two months will be heart wrenching but I know I’ll be back one day.

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