Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Georgia on my Mind

So, I leave for Georgia tomorrow night!!! I'm soooo excited!!! First of all, I can't wait to experience all this cold weather everyone is talking about!!! It'll be a nice change from having to shower twice a day because of all the sweat here! It's soo sticky and gross! I also won't mind having a few good hair days for a change!

But, obviously, I'm most excited about family, friends, and food! With my family, I plan to go to the Fox, finally meet my new neice, celebrate Christmas in February, watch movies with my little brother, spend the night with my grandmother, go shopping with my mom and my sister-in-law, and get Saturday morning doughnuts with my older brother and nephew. With friends, I have a baby shower to attend, 3 newly engaged girls to visit, a girls' night full of banana clips and fun, a bathtub to use (only showers down here!), gossip to catch up on, a cheerleader sleepover with my girls to watch their State video!, and lots more! And, oh the food!!!! Chick-fil-a, Zaxby's, Mexican (lots and lots of cheese dip!!!), large Dr. Peppers/Mr. Pibbs with ICE, and of course, salmon patties, mashed potatoes, and English peas!!! Yummmm!!! :o)

Of course, I do feel a little bittersweet about my visit. Wilson will not be able to come with me because he has classes. So, I will be away from him for 6 WEEKS!!!! That's such a long time! The longest we've been apart is 2 weeks and that was torture for me! And, especially now that we are so used to being together all the time, just us, I know it will be even harder. But, if I did stay here, I'd go crazy. Wilson has classes 5 hours a day, 6 days a week, plus study time, and about 1 surgery a day. Sooo...my friends and family have assured me that they will keep me very busy, very happy, and very well-fed! :o) I can't wait!!

Graduation 2010

Colegio Americano has 2 teachers serve as master of ceremony each year at their graduation ceremony--one Spanish speaker and one English speaker. This year, I was asked to be the English speaker. When I was first asked about it, I immediately said yes. I would get to wear a full length ball gown, get dolled up, and be on a stage! :o) I couldn't wait. Although all the students are fluent in English, many of their parents are not. Therefore, speaking the English parts of the ceremony wouldn't be that big of a deal.

However, at the first graduation meeting, I was informed that I would also be calling out the names of half of the students. Oh no!!!! Each student has 4 names: two first names, their paternal last name, and their maternal last name. Yikes! And my pronunciation of Spanish names is still sub-par!!! Not to mention the large number of Chinese students we have at the school. But, Wilson and I practiced all the names several times, and I think I did a pretty good job.

As for the dress, the school said they'd pay for me to rent one, so Wilson and I went to see about finding a dress. However, the majority of the ones I tried on were way too short. Ha! I just don't have the body of an Ecuadorian woman. :o) But, for some strange reason, I had brought a couple of my own dresses with me and decided on a bridesmaids dress I wore at a friend's wedding a few years ago. (It's amazing the random things I thought necessary to bring here to Ecuador, but surprisingly I've used most of them!) It felt great being a princess all night!

And the ceremony was really nice. A few speeches, a student band, and even a group of mothers who sang a song to their children. I was pretty nervous in the beginning and was shaking pretty bad (literally), but I relaxed as it went on. They kept making changes to our script throughout the night, and I was having to say various officials and board members names that I had not practiced. I ruined a few, but oh well. What did they expect from the girl with a Georgia accent?! :o) Overall, I had an absolutely wonderful experience!

(The first photo is of me and Geovanny, the other master of ceremonies; the second photo is of me and two of the English teachers at the school.)

A Second Chance (and a 3rd and a 4th, etc.)

Well, I survived my first school year here in Ecuador. Okay, so I sort of cheated by coming in halfway through the year but still. Actually, I had just gotten the hang of it around the time it was ending. So, hopefully that will make me more prepared and ready for next year. Although there are several educational issues here that irk me, the main one is the suplitorio.

Ecuadorian education law states that students receive a chance to pass their classes even if they don't technically pass. If they fail for the year (passing grade is 68 here), they can take a test called the suplitorio. That grade is then averaged in somehow with their yearly average. For example, if a student has a 67 for the year, they can make a 73 on the suplitorio and still pass and get credit for the class. I think this can be a good thing in some ways. They do not take the suplitorio until the beginning of the next school year, so many of them really do spend their summer studying and getting tutored. Therefore, they learn the material better before moving on. It also gives students a second chance who may have had some kind of issues during the school year that kept them from doing their best.

However, many private schools take that a little too far. For example, my school actually offers a complementario for the 3rd bimester (we have 4 bimesters instead of 2 semesters) which actually REPLACES their entire 3rd bimester average. So, the lazy student who doesn't do any essays or projects or homework the entire time can make a 75 on the test and have a 75 average instead of a 40. Also, most private schools offer multiple suplitorios. So, if a student fails the suplitorio (which often happens because they just don't know the material which is why they failed the first time), the teacher is required to give another suplitorio and another suplitorio, etc. And, rumor has it that eventually they just tell you to pass the student. Errr...I'll see how that works out when I return to school in March.

I think that part of the problem is that they don't necessarily have a way to retake a course at my school. If you fail 10th grade Language Arts, they don't have a system that allows you to retake that class while taking all other 11th grade classes like we do in the States. Actually, I could never get anyone at the school to give me a solid answer about what happens if a student really does just fail. The only answer I ever got was that the student is just given a pass (given credit anyway) but told they have to go to another school. Hmmm...that doesn't sound too good either. But, since the school doesn't want to lose money on students leaving, I think they always just tell the teachers to pass them.

...Which may be why I have students in 10th grade, who have been at this bilingual school since pre-k, who still can't speak English to me. Social promotion is huge here, but with no other system in place for repeating classes, I'm not surprised. I have a feeling I'm going to get into some disagreements when I return in March. I just can't in good conscience pass a student to the next level when I know they will just fail again. But, we'll see...