Teaching English at the Belga School in Guatemala City, Guatemala
For three weeks this past July I worked with the seven English teachers at the Belga School in Guatemala City, taught some of the English classes and helped the faculty evaluate ways to improve the English program at the school. The Holy Family Sisters, our sister community in Guatemala, had asked Loretto to help them strengthen the English program. I was thrilled to be able to go. The youngest students are so much fun, the primary students are so eager to learn, and the secondary students are eager to speak in English and discuss a range of personal and social topics.
The school, which has students from age 2 in the preschool to graduating secondary school students, recognizes the increasing importance of a strong English program for many of their students. The Belga has a comprehensive, coordinated curriculum that begins in the preschool and continues through secondary school.
My contribution to the program was threefold. First, the students and the teachers heard a native English speaker pronounce words, and it gave them the opportunity to strengthen their own vocabulary and pronunciation of words. The English language is full of exceptions to the rules and many of them became examples in our conversations.
Secondly, as a teacher I was able to share some teaching methods I think teachers found useful. I brought several U.S. magazines with me as prompts for discussions of global news with the older students, and they seemed keenly interested in discussing the news and celebrities. I was there at the time the U.S. government was urging Guatemala to declare itself a safe third country, and we had good conversation about what that would mean for Guatemala. The students also were very aware of climate change and ready to discuss that.
Thirdly, I had the time to discuss ideas about what would improve the program. After observation and discussion, several ideas seemed to be of interest. The school has a small English books section in the library, and the students would benefit from more opportunities to read in English. The Belga has a 15-minute reading period for the entire school each day. It would be wonderful if the students in the English classes could read in English during that time. I have raised several hundred dollars since July for books and hope to continue that effort. Since customs fees are very high it is not practical to ship books to Guatemala, so the focus is on raising funds that the librarian can use to purchase additional books.
Seeking Internet access, ongoing English speaker at school
The teachers would also like Internet access in the English classrooms to make a wide variety of additional resources available to them and to the students. I hope to get some funds from Loretto and help the sisters in Guatemala write a grant request for additional funding.
Sister Gloria and the English teachers would also like an ongoing English speaker at the school if possible. We discussed several things that another person could do. If someone was not there for an entire school year (January to October) they could come and assist by tutoring students who are struggling with the English language, working with the teachers on curriculum enhancements and special projects such as plays and teaching some classes with the teachers. If you have any interest in spending two or more weeks in Guatemala doing some of this work, please contact the Guatemala Sister Community Committee. The Holy Family Sisters provide living space at the Belga and there are two communities of sisters there who love to have Loretto visitors.