Yesterday found me in a strange school, acting as a judge for an English song festival of students I had never met before.
How did that happen?
Well, a few weeks ago, one of the English teachers that I’m not co-teaching with this semester approached me and asked me for some help. Of course I’m willing to help! “I’m having an English song fest and I need help with the posters.” So, we sat down and talked about who, what, when, why, etc. At one point, I suggested a flashy title (Name of our school’s) Got Talent!
Then she told me that, actually, this English song fest was going to take place at her other school. You see, many teachers in Colombia work two shifts, the morning shift from, say, 6:30 am – 12:30 pm, and an afternoon shift from 1:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Some teachers will even work the night shift from about 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm. These shifts are generally worked at different schools. Good luck grabbing lunch!
So, here I am with a teacher who I haven’t really worked with that much, but who I will be working with more closely come July, who wants me to make posters and who knows what else, for a school and a community that is not my school, or my community. And which is also probably a private school.
Another segway, we Peace Corps volunteers in Colombia have a much different situation than most other Peace Corps volunteers. With around a million people living in Cartagena, I can’t very well give everyone one-on-one lessons in English for free (and I’ve had lots of people expect me to do just that). I also can’t reasonably work at my school and another place all the way across town (I’m pretty you can take a bus for an hour and still be in Cartagena). There are also lots of people in Cartagena that are really wealthy (It’s not that I don’t want to teach you English one on one for free, but really, you could go take classes at the Colombo Americano. I think you have enough money if you are living in Boca Grande). So, what is my community? Is it my neighborhood? Is it my school? Is it just the students at the school? Sometimes I feel like if I were living in a village of 5,000 some people, like my hometown Adel, it might be easier to see where to get involved.
Well, I helped her with what she might write on the posters, but I stopped short of actually making the posters. I feel that this is an acceptable compromise for me.
Fast forward to Tuesday. The teacher in question comes up to me and tells me that the English festival is tomorrow, and she could use my help making a Powerpoint. Well okay. I help with that, even though it makes me late for class. Luckily “late” is not really something that matters in my school. Later, she asks me if I can help her review a script for the presenters. I agree, even though I’m waiting for my English club students to come (who are my pride and joy). Later, she asks me if I can watch her students from her other school present a role play, and to help re-write the script.
And, oh yeah, can you be a judge at the English Festival tomorrow?
So, in my capacity as an actual Native English Speaker, I got to judge the talent show.
She also asked my 11th graders if they would present a dialogue that they did for the Dia del Idioma almost a month ago at the Festival the very next day. Surprise! It’s a great opportunity! Let’s use the rest of our class time today to practice.
Well, I met up with the 11th graders, and, after about an hour of milling around and waiting for the various persons to show up, we embarked. We got to the other school, but realized that we didn’t have President Obama, a key actor in our “A Conversation with President Obama” dialogue. I went in to be a judge, hoping that Mr. Obama would show up.
Luckily he did, and all went well. There were a fair share of people who could not sing singing, but there were also some quite talented people, singing songs, in English! And, one of my 11th graders did an impromptu rendition of a song in English when the judges asked if anyone else wanted to show off their skills. It ended up being quite fun, although I didn’t really do anything as a judge.
Sometimes interesting things happen to me, even when I’m not looking for them.
Sometimes these things happen even when I try my best to get out of them.