Thursday, March 18, 2010

orientation: day 1

We have orientation for two weeks, a whole stretch of interesting stuff: lots of sessions about teaching, but also Spanish lessons from some outside folks, and a bunch of stuff about Chilean culture and society. It's mostly our field director Allyson and her assistant Rad, with a few outside projects, like going to the Embassy, or a "human rights tour" from a socialist who was imprisoned and tortured under Pinochet. (Also a lot of hammering home the need to be careful talking about Pinochet, because the country is still divided on whether he was good or bad.)

We talked a bit about "icebreakers", which are ways to start off and warm up the start of a class. Apparently kids' other classes are likely to be sit-still lectures, so they'll love us; we're here because kids can study English for years in Chilean schools and not be able to get past "Hello"; and the English skills of our Chilean co-teachers vary widely, but could well be not so good.

We talked a lot about WorldTeach's mission in general and in Chile in particular. Pinochet decentralized the schools into the current division of public and semi-private (which are pretty equivalent) and private schools. The private schools are very expensive and to give you a flavor of the problem, 7% of Chilean students go to private schools, but provide 51% of the students at the University of Chile. One of the vols pointed out that Harvard and Yale could well have 50% private-school students, but the problem is that in Chile that situation represents the entire country and eliminates opportunities for other students, since there are only 25 public and 50 private universities in Chile, fewer than you can find within 15 minutes of Boston.

We looked at the mission statements themselves, which was interesting. I'm going to edit the one for WorldTeach Chile, since I find it a little abstract in spots.

Allyson and Rad gave us a passionate session about the earthquake they just lived through, to impress on us how it's affected the country--the southern regions closer to the epicenter are a serious mess, and apparently the government's relationship to everything outside Santiago can be like the government of Massachusetts's relationship to Western Massachusetts: sort of an afterthought.

And they're convinced we can teach. Which I'm sure we can. But that's next week.

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