The great thing about volunteering at Local Dreamers is that you also face challenges outside of your comfort zone. A lot of volunteers come to Quito to join our sports projects, but many of them also fall in love with the work as an English teacher. This is just what happened to Tristan, who wrote about this in the article below.
By Tristan van Oorschot
I have been in Quito as a volunteer for almost two months now. I’m particularly active as soccer trainer and English teacher. Especially teaching English has surprised me in a positive way. But why exactly? It aren’t the explanations of grammar or correct answers from students that make these classes so nice to teach. Of course, I like it when students make progression, but this doesn’t make a class unforgettable. To explain my point, I will tell you about an English class in Quito. And maybe I’m not allowed to say this, but yes, it’s my favorite one.
Diversity of students
Especially the diversity of the students in the south of Quito is extreme. First of all there is Julio (51). Julio likes to tell stories. Stories about his trip to Italy and how he learned to make a real Italian pizza. Knowing that most Ecuadorians ruin a pizza Margarita, Julio is pretty good. To show his thanks, he brought two big pizza’s to my final class. Julio stole my heart, I liked him from the beginning. Especially because he can ask totally irrelevant questions. When I’m explaining the past simple, Julio can ask how to pronounce Buckingham Palace.
Then there is Fanny (57). Let’s say Fanny has not mastered English. But although the other students have a higher level and she has problems understanding what’s going on, she is enjoying every minute of the class. She smiles and giggles all the time, particularly with Liesbeth (17). Sometimes I, an English teacher who is almost 40 years younger than Fanny, have to make her be quiet. What follows are a quick wink and an innocent face, like a kid who stole a piece of candy from the candy shop.
And then there is Paulina. Paulina is very good though. I once thought to give her an extra, more difficult, assignment to challenge her. I told her to do the exercise at home. Next class she brought copies for everyone else and before I could begin my class she started explaining the exercise to the other students. Fanny took a look at the exercise with big eyes and asked me: ‘tenemos que hacer este?’ which means something like: ‘Do we have to make this?’
Describing an ice cream
The last two of my group are Caesar (17) and Ronaldo (16), two sober and smart Venezuelan brothers. To see how such a diverse class goes, here is a little sketch of my last one. We played 30 seconds and Fanny had the last turn. Chaos guaranteed. She took the card and had to explain ice cream. Caesar, Ronaldo and Paulina had to guess.
Fanny: ‘Oh dios mio, como explico este?’
I: ‘ Only in English Fanny…’, a smile and a wink follow.
Paulina: ‘El tiempo Fanny!! Rapido, rapido!’
Fanny: ‘oh si, si, me like, me like!’
Caesar: ‘I like?’
Fanny: ‘Si, I like, I like!’
Julio: ‘Tristan? How do you write penguin?’
I: ‘p-e-n-g-u-i-n-g, but we are playing a game right now Julio..’
Paulina whispering to Fanny: ‘Cual palabra?’
Liesbeth: ‘Cheat, cheat!’
Julio: ‘Yes cheat! And it is time…!’
Fanny: ‘La palabra fue ‘ice cream’. Me like ice cream!’
Everybody is laughing.
I: ‘It’s time to finish this class, are there any questions left?
Julio: ‘Yes, why do you have to leave my beautiful country?’
That was the final question I got in this amazing country. I think it’s the gratefulness, enthusiasm and the way these people respect each other that make this country so special. I have been in Quito two months and I thought it would be very long, but I’m going to miss every little bit of it.
© Local Dreamers, experiences as an English teacher during volunteering at Local Dreamers in Quito, Ecuador