Hello friends and family!
Primary project here, reporting from the big and bustling Belize City (relatively speaking). We are now stationed back at the lovely Smokin’ Balam guesthouse for the final two weeks of project! Can’t believe it’s the final stretch — it seems like the other day we were all sleepily boarding the plane together in Toronto.
Our second week in Cayo was very different from the first; isntead of teaching in Belmopan, we were assigned to smaller village schools which were more similar in size to the schools we went to in Toledo. We still bussed to Belmopan every morning, but once there, Annie and Kayla hopped on a bus headed south that would take them to a village called Armenia, and Trevor and Joanne travelled in the direction of Belize City to a little village called Franks Eddy. All in all about a 2 hour commute, but really worth it as both schools were really welcoming and accomodating this week!
Once again, there was a public holiday on Monday, so we ended up starting our week on Tuesday. Both teams knew the general direction of where they had to go, but we weren’t entirely sure where our destination villages were! Trevor and Joanne ended up being dropped off on the side of the highway and then had to walk a few miles in to find Franks Eddy. Luckily most mornings we were offered a ride from either a friendly villager or one of the tour vans heading for the close by cave tubing adventure sites. Franks Eddy Government School was very small — there were probably only about 150 students in total, and the older classes were merged together into a Std 3/4 and a Std 5/6 class. One unexpected challenge was that all the students spoke spanish as their first language, so they would often start talking to each other during class and we would have no idea what they were saying! It turns out that Franks Eddy is a completely Spanish community; the majority of residents are recent immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras. Just another example of Belize’s diversity! Our very first lesson was with a Std 2 class, and during our introduction activity we quickly learned that we would have to adjust our speed and teaching style for those students who were struggling to understand us. We found the Franks Eddy students to be much more shy than the Belmopan students (especially in the older classes), but after a few lessons with each class they opened up and started answering our questions. It is with classes like these that we really see the value of staying with one school for a whole week. We also managed to cover all of our lessons with each class – we even got to teach the infants!
We established some really great relationships with the teachers during our stay at Franks Eddy; the teachers were very interested in what we had to teach and were very active participants in our classes (especially the Std 3/4 teacher). They made sure to address anything that we missed during the lesson, and were really great at bringing up community specific issues that we were unaware of. We were told that bullying was a significant issue at the school and in the community, especially among the younger children, so we taught bullying and self-esteem to all the younger classes, and mental health to the older students. We were also invited to a teacher’s house for dinner on Saturday night, so we ended up our week at Franks Eddy with a really enjoyable evening with Miss Marla (the Std 2 teacher) and her adorable family.
Annie and Kayla headed south on the hummingbird highway to the small spanish town of Armenia, to start their week at Armenia Government School! We spent our first few lessons with the infant 1 and 2 classes (4-6 year olds) talking about hygiene, and after that spent our week focusing on lessons with the older standards, the fives and sixes. For many of these students, more so than in other communities that we have taught in, teaching in english was challenging. While all of the students classes are taught in english, for many of the students spanish is their first language. This was a fun challenge as we had to work diligently at breaking down and explaining terminology moreso than we already do. Come the end of the week we had a great relationship with the students and they started to participate in more discussions during class. It was great to see how much the students had learned in such a short period of time!
We got to know the students in the other standards over recess and lunch breaks. One day in particular many of the younger students were hanging out with us and wanted to learn how to make bracelets and take pictures with the cameras. We ended up having a bit of a photoshoot with some of the students rocking their best blue steel faces while others became bracelet making professionals! Whether in or outside of the classroom it was evident that the students at Armenia Government School were eager students!
The four of us spent our last weekend in San Ignacio relaxing and catching up on some paperwork before hopping on the bus to Belize City Sunday afternoon. We pulled into the big city around 6pm and went straight to the Smokin’ Balam, our home for the next two weeks! We can’t wait to see what the big city holds for us!
Until next time!
Your Belizian Primary Dream Team,
Trevor, Joanne, Kayla & Annie