My time here is pretty much divided in two. I spend the morning volunteering from 8-12 and then I go off on adventures after lunch.
Volunteering here has been…trying. I am helping out a teacher with a class of twenty-two 4 year-olds with special needs. One boy has a very severe case of autism, and a few others might be a little behind, but it seems like the majority of the special needs are bad behavior.
The students kick, bite, and push each other all day long, and getting them to do an activity has been nearly impossible. The school systems are in a transition period and they are attempting to create a more effective system, but right now there is no discipline and not much learning is happening.
At the end of the first day the teacher pulled me aside and asked me to come up with lesson plans and ideas to help the class be more organized. Without a disciplinary system we really can´t get anything done, so I decided to make a giant chart to hang up on the wall with all of the students names so that we could give them stars when they behaved well, and take away stars when they behaved poorly.
Two minutes after hanging up my chart a boy ran up and tore it apart. And that essentially describes how my efforts go in the classroom.
Since then I have made a more durable version of the chart, and there has been some improvement in the behavior, but it feels a lot like I am trying to teach this large class on my own.
Aaanyways, this sounds very negative, but I do have faith I am making a difference. I have already seen a slight shift in the attitudes of the kids since I made my chart and started giving high-fives for doing well. Unfortunately, I am only here one month and making any sort of significant difference with this group is going to require time, so hopefully I can start some changes that will be continued by future volunteers.
Also, while the volunteering is really hard, the island has been AMAZING. I have been here less than a week and I have gone snorkeling with turtles, seen a blue-footed booby and tons of iguanas, swam with a sea lion (but really, he was swimming around me as if we were dancing and he even toughed my toes with his nose!), ridden in the back of the truck through the jungle to a beautiful beach, watched the sun set….and these activities are just part of an average afternoon here.
Which is why I don´t have time to blog. Anytime I think about needing to check my email, something like hiking to an inactive volcano or swimming with a shark pulls me away…it´s really tough for me.
In fact, I am only blogging now because I am waiting for the stores to open so I can buy my own snorkel gear and go swim with the sea lions again. Then I think I´m going to hike to this tiny isolated beach and watch the sun set.
So that is what I will be doing. I am taking a ton of pictures and I can post them when I get back!