They Have Dreams
Carmen Naz volunteered teaching Spanish Literacy during the summer as part of the Outreach360 Caminos Volunteer program in Nicaragua. This is her story:
When I signed up to intern with Outreach360, I knew I could speak, read, and write Spanish really well. I grew up in a bilingual household, speaking Spanish and English, so I felt pretty comfortable with how much I was able to communicate in Spanish. However, I am not completely confident with what I say. I can get my message across, but I am always nervous about how I am saying it. Because of this, I wanted to teach English. I would later find out I would be holding down the fort for Spanish Literacy for a majority of my time with the students. My thought- “Oh my goodness, I’m teaching Spanish Literacy. What if I don’t do a good job?” I’m an Elementary/Special Education teacher candidate and student taught last semester. I should be able to apply everything I’ve learned, right? This is what I discovered during my 8 weeks:
From a beginning teacher’s perspective, I would say you should definitely be competent in all areas of Spanish if you want to teach Spanish Literacy with the students, especially critical thinking. You want to show you absolutely have some knowledge of what you’re talking about, but you don’t have to be extremely knowledgeable to the point in which you know the significance of every single word you can possibly come across. You are ALWAYS going to be learning along the way. I found that I was teaching the students what I was teaching myself prior to acting on the actual lesson plan; preparing myself with extensive knowledge of what I wanted the students to know, looking up words I had never heard of and thinking about how to involve the students and their ideas in the learning experience. The students and I were truly learning. I could prepare myself as much as I anxiously thought I needed to, yet the students would teach me something new every day about how they learned, what they learned, what they did or did not like about the lesson, and about myself as a future educator, as well as a person. I learned a lot about their strengths and weaknesses, but most of all I learned about what it meant to Release the Hero Within each child.
The perk of being a Caminos Volunteer is that I created a strong relationship with many students. I learned to laugh at their hilarious comments, I smiled with a huge hello wave when they smiled at me, I learned that it was okay to hug them whenever I had the chance, and I walked with them to and from the learning center as much as I could, engaging in non-academic conversations to get to know a little more about them beyond the classroom. Being a Caminos Volunteer also gave me the opportunity to see many students outside of the academy every day, every week. I saw students riding their bikes to a friend’s house, I saw students riding on the back of a motorcycle with their parents, students walking around their neighborhood, students walking by the volunteer house (sometimes to catch a glance of the teachers during dance class), and always heard, “Hi teacher!”
In the classroom, I was able to get to know the students so much that I knew what words they would find funny or make jokes out of in the book we were going to read that week. I watched the students make fun of each other, I watched them succeed, I saw them struggle, listened to them ask questions, answer each other’s questions, and be capable of analyzing a text-the goal of Spanish Literacy. Sometimes they felt they couldn’t, so they would answer with their typical, “I don’t know teacher,” “No, I don’t like,” “Teacher, no.” Although it was difficult to get a student to keep going I would say, “Yes, you can do it. You are very smart.” I would help them see that they could absolutely do the activity. I knew who was going to try to give up at the sight of the first question, I knew who would finish the worksheet before everyone else, but most of all I knew what they were capable of doing. I knew that they had dreams. I knew that they had goals. I knew that they envisioned themselves to be these grand, successful adults. So I did not let them give up on anything.
When I was teaching English, I was also able to listen to all of them give their speeches about the field trip to Managua, Nicaragua. I was actually with them on this field trip to the university and zoo in Managua, and I knew that all of them were inspired. This was absolutely evident in their speeches. For example, one student who was very distracting in the classroom prior to this trip, I truly believe, turned himself around after being told by a scientist at the university that he was very smart. His dream is to be a nuclear scientist who will change the world someday. When you are able to provide an opportunity that will show someone who they can be, their eyes are further opened in that you show them there is more outside of their current perspective, in this case more to Jinotega, more to Nicaragua and the world. Although the students may not recognize this sometimes, it all goes back to the effort they put in now and what they choose to do when opportunities are presented to them.
As I finish my 8th week here in Nicaragua, I can say I am extremely happy to have been a part of the process in which the students are encouraged and told they can be amazing people with amazing futures. I leave such a huge part of my heart here with all of them and hope that they continue to show future volunteers the HERO within themselves. I absolutely took away more than I feel I may have shared with all the wonderful children Outreach360 works with. The children are loving, caring, and filled with enthusiasm. This is and was a huge learning experience. Not only did I get out of my comfort zone for teaching. I learned that I indeed was part of the pathway for all of the children to continue to Release the Hero Within.