Sunday, June 10, 2012

New beginnings and big challenges

I began looking for some new challenges around the end of last year. Finally I decided to take the plunge and I have changed job. I loved my position with Grant's English, and institute I would recommend to anyone looking for work in Santiago, but in terms of professional development there were not too many avenues left to me. So I have changed positions, and quite frankly I feel like I have changed worlds.

I am now working as an English Coordinator in 3 semi-private schools in some of the lowest socio-economic neighbourhoods in Santiago. There have very few resources, enormous classes (up to 45 kids) and very little support from home. All three are technical highschools which include education from kindergarten to year 12, but with the senior years having the option of focussing on a technical profession (gastonomy, automotor, electrical, secretary, early childhood education or tourism). 

I am in charge of organising the English programmes in these schools, including teacher observations, teaching and promoting workshops with students and parents, and organising English events such as 'English day' which will take place in October. The level of English is so low in these schools that in the annual national examination which takes place in year 11 in one of the schools none of the students passed. Admittedly the ministry set an exam which was out of the league of most of the schools involved (there goal is an A2 level upon completing school), but to not even have one student able to achieve an A2 was astounding to me. In saying that, I have one or two teachers who may not yet be of an A2 level.

The event that more or less summed up my week happened on Thursday. I was going to teach a workshop to an unknown number of 15-18 year olds with a completely unknown level (though I was warned they would probably be low). I walked into the classroom which was a mess and looked around for a board marker, no board marker or eraser. I asked the kids and they laughed at me. I asked the teachers and they laughed at me. I asked the academic directors and they more or less laughed at me. So I went to the director who didn't laugh, but told me he could probably have a marker for me by next week. Teachers are issued one refillable board marker for the year, that's it. One board marker, 45 students per class, 10 classes per teacher. So I guess they are issued one board marker and 450 students for the year. Welcome to the reality of education in Chile Karen.

The good news, is that barring the students going on strike for most of the year as happened last year, I can't really see the situation getting any worse. I don't think that there is much room to do any damage, the only way is up! Wish me luck.....

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