First of all, people in Belize are very pleasant. They bend over backward to make sure we're happy. We haven't paid for a dinner yet this week because everyone wants to cook for us and show us their homes. The cuisine is different and delicious. I haven't come upon a meal that hasn't challenged my taste buds and showed me a different way cooking. Although, last night we had barbecue chicken, cole slaw, and dirty rice and it was as good as any southern cooking I've ever had. Honestly, everybody has treated us with such kindness and care that you would think they all work for the department of tourism. They don't ask for anything back in return, simply that if some day they make it to North Carolina, we show them the same hospitality.
The prospect of them coming to North Carolina isn't so far fetched since teachers at San Pedro plan a trip together every year during a four-day weekend, which leads me to my next point: teachers in San Pedro are very tight-knit. I've already explained the functions they have for birthdays, but I forgot to mention the trip they plan every year. All year they plan a trip by fund raising in numerous ways. One such way is that students pay for dress down Fridays. They pay a dollar to wear flip-flops, two dollars to wear a t-shirt, one dollar to wear excessive make-up, etc. Students don't mind, because they get to wear something other than their all-white uniforms and I think they understand that it is another way to help their teachers. Another example of their fundraising is that they had a barbecue hosted by the Lions Club. Community members, students, and teachers all take part in this event, and it becomes apparent that everybody rallies around the teachers at San Pedro High School. The teachers have taken trips to Mexico and Miami in the past and this year they plan on going to Las Vegas. Like I said, teachers here like to have a good time and really love the company of their fellow employees. These fundraisers force them to work together for a common goal and they all put their effort into this cause because they have high standards for this trip. Community is a large part of the culture here.
One last point that I am pleased with is the fact that my teaching has already begun to change. My students at Laney could attest to how much I loved to use technology in the classroom. At the very least, I would have PowerPoint presentations every day which explained what students would be writing about for their daily journals. Here, I don't have that option. There is one LCD projector for the entire school and almost everyday the fuse is blown, so you don't know when you will have electricity. Margo found this out the hard way when she took her class to the computer lab to look at National Geographic's site on volcanoes, only to find that there was no electricity. She had to think on her feet, and from what I heard, she did a good job of taking her plans and making a successful low-tech lesson. It stinks that students don't get to use the computers, but you have to constantly be on your feet if you are going to risk using technology. Subsequently, I have decided to stay away from the technology. My decision was made up before I even stepped on the plane for Belize. I wanted to challenge myself to see that I could teach without using some of the technology that I found myself using as a crutch. I think technology is an ally for any teacher, especially with students who need constant stimulation, but I have really had to revise my teaching strategies to account for the lack of computers, LCD projectors, SmartBoards, and digital imaging projectors.
Like any week of teaching, this first one has had its ups and down, successes and failures, high points and pitfalls, but overall it has been a learning experience. I have taken advantage of learning from everyone: the teachers at San Pedro High, the students, and my fellow teachers who are going through the same thing as myself. I am yet to feel abandoned, intimidated, or nervous about my experience in the school, in large part to the support that I have with everyone who I am teaching with, both at the high school and the elementary school. This journey has piqued my interest in other cultures and in the stratified views our world has with regard to students and education. I should be so lucky to have another week such as this one.
I'll be blogging as more adventures come my way. I have to go now because in about an hour, Belize will be celebrating Earth Hour, in which we turn off all of our electricity along with the rest of the world.
Thank you to everyone who has been writing me supportive emails during my time here. It can be difficult being away from home for this extended period of time. It means a lot to me that I have so many people who have been keeping up with my experience here and are actually interested in the new and strange things I'm seeing.