10/18/12

Princess Jasmine, Elton John, and Impromptu Aerobics: WorldTeach Colombia



WorldTeach volunteers Ariel Shapiro and Zack Feere have been teaching students ages 5-18 in Colombia. Recently they helped organize English Day, a schoolwide event focusing on English language programs such as aerobics and a fashion show. The day turned out to be a phenomenal success, featuring guest appearances from the likes of Spiderman and Michael Jackson! Thanks for sharing, Ariel!


Last week was English day. Every subject department is given an entire day to do as they will with the entire school (over 2,000 students, ages 5-18). Our department has 10 teachers. One of whom had disappeared. So it was a bit of an undertaking.



Princess Jasmine walking down the runway!
Zack and I helped critique the performances of students acting as different historical or fictional characters in a fashion show, with a short monologue after. For a 7 year old girl dressed as Jasmine, I think I had to repeat "I like flying my magic carpet" about three hundred and one times. "my my mag...," "my...car...," ""like I fly my my..." was about all that came out of Jasmine's mouth for the first 300 go's.



On English Day itself the kids had to perform twice, very impressively in front of half of the school at each time. While I would be trembling in my boots having to speak in front of all of my peers in a language that was not my own, every one of the students stepped up to the plate. Including Jasmine, who--causing immense swelling of pride--said it perfectly the first performance. At the second show she blanked on "magic carpet," which I yelled out from the audience like a true stage mom, and then cheered my face off when she finished. Other highlights included Charlie Chaplin, Steve Jobs, and Shakira.



Helping to direct the fashion show presentations was not my only duty. I found out--very last minute, of course--that I would be in charge of groups of 140 students at a time, teaching "English Aerobics." This would be done alone, without any English teacher support.



As a consolation prize, I was told that five 11th grade students would help me. But when we met, I found that their English was worse than most of the 6th graders. They were told that helping me would be extra credit, and were the students that needed extra credit the most.



Yikes! That is A LOT of kids! 
To make matters worse, I found out that it was outside on the basketball courts, and that I was unable to have a loudspeaker or anything to help me project my voice because they were all being used. I was feeling more than a bit pessimistic and anxious about the chaos and doom I foresaw in my mind: the 11th grade students being unable to help at all, kids fighting or getting hurt, no one being able to see me because of my at-times-damning height, me screaming for 5 hours and losing my voice, in top of having to sing the aerobics songs and keep enthusiasm high.


That all being said, nothing to do but proceed. I begged, borrowed, took, bargained, and demanded with everyone from the gym teacher, to the tech guy, to the head of the music department. This resulted in a microphone, two extension cords, a radio, two benches to stand on, and 14 cones to demarcate lines for the children to organize themselves.


It was a bit chaotic at times, especially when random older students dressed in strangely sexy costumes kept distracting the students to stop and say hi for no apparent reason, but I have to say IT WENT GREAT! I'm proud to say that the kids had fun and the 11th graders were as helpful and sweet as ever. We did the cha-cha slide with the 5th graders for 45 minutes and a whole of the "the twist" and the hokey pokey with the younger students. I reviewed and taught vocab for the body, as well as movements and directions like slide, left, right, up, down, and turn around. I don't think they retained any of it, but for a glorified babysitter--which is how I often feel when trying to teach the younger kids--it was pretty damn successful. Woo hoo! Nothing like the after-effect of knowing you tried your hardest and pulled off what at first seemed like the impossible.


English Day is a success!

If you want to get up and moving in Colombia like Ariel, visit out website at www.worldteach.org! If you have any additional questions, feel free to email us at info@worldteach.org or give us a call at 857.259.6646.

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