Friday, March 27, 2009

The Wild World of Concept Mapping

Yesterday was another fine day here on La Isla Bonita. The task I was given was to teach introductory paragraphs and thesis writing to third form classes. I felt rather confident teaching this topic, as it was one I taught at Laney. I don't think that students in America loved it that much (particularly because they had a standardized test attached to their essay writing), so I didn't get too excited about teaching it. However, I had some fun with it, and the students did as well.

I began class with students writing a short journal on a time in which they got into an argument. We then discussed how we argue and how one wins an argument and then applied similar principles when writing an argumentative essay. We then had a debate on who the best artist or group is. Students got into it and surprised me by naming primarily American artists like Slipknot, Disturbed, Linkin Park, and Tupac. Not so surprising was the fact that probably the most popular artist was Bob Marley. 

I then introduced the students (and the teachers) to circle mapping to begin planning writing. This was a concept that nobody had heard of. For teachers in New Hanover County, ideas like concept maps are pretty basic and old shoe, but I think I might have blown their minds with them. I read students' theses last week, and they were simply one long sentence separated with a barrage of conjunctions and semi-colons. I decided to teach the idea of the introductory paragraph, which separates what students were writing for there thesis into three to four sentences. I was really impressed with the work they did. I understand that things are different here with regard to writing and grammar, so I don't know if what I taught will be something they will continue, but it is certainly a new perspective on teaching for both myself and the other teachers.

Something that never ceases to amaze me is how outgoing the young female students are here. I don't know if it's my pasty white skin, my generic brown eyes, or my bed-head hairdo, but I the students make me feel like a celebrity. I have had several girls ask to take pictures with me and I (along with my cohort) will be sitting and class writing observations, only to look up to see a group of faces staring at me. We quickly realized that this island is rather small, and we really can't go anywhere without being recognized as those "teachers from America." To make things worse (or better, I suppose) we just had two articles written about us in the local newspapers. When I went to the breakfast bar this morning to get my OJ, the guy behind the counter said "Hey, I saw you guys in the paper!" in which case he told Kristen that she should sign her picture for her students who keep asking for her email address: for what purpose, we haven't figured out.

Another cultural difference that became apparent yesterday is that teachers here at San Pedro love to have fun. Now, I'm not saying that teachers in North Carolina don't, because I had fun everyday with the teachers at Laney, however, these teachers love to celebrate everything. The teachers had a collective birthday party for all of the teachers with March birthdays. I don't think it was a requirement to attend, but every teacher was there from the school. The way high schools are organized in America doesn't really lend itself to interdisciplinary relationships; the history department is on one side of the building, the English department is somewhere else, and who knows where the math department will be from day-to-day, seeing as many float. At San Pedro High School, all of the teachers know each other and hang out during the day and sometimes during the evenings (that is, if they aren't teaching at the junior college as well). Now, probably the biggest reason for this is that the staff is made up of only 31 teachers, where as the faculty of most high schools is at least twice the size, maybe even three times depending on where you are. This makes relationships amongst teachers a little more difficult, but it is fun to see how much these teachers enjoy each other's company.

Now, back to the faculty birthday party. I don't know if their goal was to make the Americans look like fools, but we sure did our best to ensure this would happen. The party began at 3:30 pm and we were so tired that we needed to go back to our hostel and relax a little to recharge our batteries. When we got back to the school, we were just in time for musical chairs, in which case Kristen pushed me and I fell out of the chair and landed on her foot; this is the first foolish thing I did. Next, the teachers chose two groups of four and the teacher had to teach us how to dance salsa and meringue. I quickly was reminded of my lack of dancing skills as both the men and women in my group could move their feet and hips in ways I couldn't even fathom. At one point, they made us go out on a cat walk and show off our skills. I chose to educate the teachers on some of my personal moves including ones I've now entitled "the rump shaka" and " the monkey." Don't ask me to repeat these flashy steps, as I don't think I could. After embarassing ourselves, it was finally time for the pinata. We had a pinata that was shaped like a mermaid. I don't know if they did it in our honor, but instead of the traditional fruit-flavored hard candy, and corn-shaped lollipops (which I'm a little scared to try), they had Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. Evidently the pinata had been sitting out in the sun a little too long, because all of the chocolate had melted by the time one of the teachers cracked it open. This didn't stop me from eating them: it was a little reminder of home.

After the party, I had expected to go home, but Alberto insisted that we hang out with him. John, Dr. K, and myself decided that we wanted to watch the basketball games, so Alberto took us to a sports bar. When we entered the bar, they were all watching football (aka soccer) and we had to request that they put on the basketball games. I felt bad until a guy came in wearing a Villanova jersey. We played a lot of pool and had another nice evening out on the town. Of course, I was just in class and one of the students (who I have never met before) said "Mr. Will did you have a good time at the Royal Caribbean bar last night?" Apparently he saw us out last night. I'm telling you, this island is too small and we stick out like a sore thumb. Now I know why Brad Pitt gets so angry with the paparazzi. Look for us on the local Belizean TMZ.

1 comment:

  1. Uh oh! Mr. Wilmington has become Mr. Sister City of Wilmington!

    I love it!