Chile Update!

Hi all!  This post is long overdue!  I’ve been pretty busy adjusting to life abroad, including teaching English, traveling when I can, and just spending time with my host family.  It has been challenging to make the time to call home more frequently, so to all my family, please be patient with me!  I will make the time, I promise!

I thought for this post, I would dive into this whole teaching English abroad thing.  As you may already know, I am teaching English through the English Open Doors Program.  The primary focus of this government run program is to improve English levels in public schools.  One branch of the EODP is the National Volunteer Center, which organizes the placement of native (or near native) English speakers in Chilean public schools.  The NVC team interviews and selects volunteers, finds the schools and host families, organizes transportation to and from the placement city, and organizes a week of orientation in Santiago.  During that week in Santiago, all volunteers learn everything they need to know to hit the ground running once they are in their placement city.  So no previous teaching experience or certification is required!

A brief overview of orientation week:

  • Day 1 – Learn about the program and go over all expectations.  We work with the English teachers and only teach half the class at a time and then swap (2-45 minute classes).  Our focus is on listening and speaking activities with the students.  We are expected to work 35 pedagogical hours (1 pedagogical hour = 45 minute), which includes 24 hours of teaching, 7 hours of planning (2 with the English teacher), and 4 hours of extracurricular activities.  One thing worth mentioning, the school system in Chile is quite different than the states.  The students remain in their classroom, while the teachers rotate rooms.  However, the program works it out with the school so that volunteers have their own space to teach the students in.
  • Day 2 – Dive into lesson planning.  Learn about the format that the program uses.  This includes a daily agenda, an introduction, the core (I Do, We Do, You Do), and a conclusion.  We also cover content connection since it would be ideal to teach the same things the students are already going over in the classroom with their English teacher.
  • Day 3 – Go over the use of classroom management systems.  This provides both individual and group incentives for the students to want to participate and also is a way to minimize disruptive behavior.
  • Day 4 – Microteaching.  We were placed in groups and worked on mini-lessons. Then we presented to fellow volunteers and NVC team members and received feedback.
  • Day 5 – Adjusting to life in Chile and learning about the NVC teams previous experiences while teaching with the program.  The chill day which ended with a cocktail hour. 🙂

As you can see, it was a lot to take in, especially for someone with no teaching experience.  But the NVC team has a good system going and it was definitely very helpful and made me feel more confident as I arrived at my placement school.  I knew everything I needed to get started right away.

I did not get too much of a say in setting my class schedule.  The principal and English teachers (I work with 2) had already selected the classes they wanted me to teach.  So my schedule sorta sucks, with early morning classes 4 days a week and some big gaps in between classes as well.  However, it is very front of the week heavy so by the time Wednesday comes, it almost feels like the weekend.  Also, I don’t think one week has gone by when a class hasn’t been cancelled for some reason.  If my class is having a test, then I do not have class.  There have also been random activity days where class is cancelled all day and instead they play music, dance Zumba, and compete in other physical activities.

My classes consist of the following:

  • Three classes of 4o medio (seniors) students.  One class I see twice a week, while the other two only once a week.
  • Two classes of 3o medio (juniors) students.  Both twice a week.
  • One class of 2o medio (sophomores), twice a week.
  • One class of 1o medio (freshman), twice a week.

The younger classes are definitely more challenging as they tend to be rowdier.  The 3o medio classes are probably the best since they happen to be my smaller classes and are all very well behaved and eager to learn.  The 4o medio classes are hit or miss.  They are well behaved, but sometimes lack the desire to participate.  They definitely have that “I’m about to graduate, so I’m just gonna chill” attitude.

My school has classes from 8:30am to 5:40pm on Monday to Wednesday (looong days!) and from 8:30am to 1:30pm on Thursday and Friday.  After lunch (1:30-2:30pm) on Thursdays and Fridays, there are workshops for the students, if they wish to attend.  So my extracurricular activities are scheduled for Thursday afternoon which includes an English Club and the Debate Team.

I had a lot of ideas for my English Club, but was worried about how many students would actually show.  It is set to start at 4pm after the other workshops (History, Math etc) are finished which makes it hard to plan activities without know a head count.  I assume most kids just go home once that bell rings (which sounds like a weird machine gun by the way).  The week of my first English Club meeting, I went to every class that I do not teach and personally introduced myself and invited them to join along with reminding my own classes of the first meeting.  Well turns out, I did the right thing because the only students that showed up were from the other classes (6 total)!  Luckily, I had borrowed the family’s Jenga game and we played the game while practicing English.  I also asked them what sort of activities they would be interested in doing during that time along with sharing some of my own ideas to gage interest. 🙂

As far as the debate team, I am also working with 5 students (all from my classes) to prepare for an English debate.  We just found out the theme and pretty much have 2 weeks to prepare (which is definitely how they do things in Chile), so if you need me, I’ll be helping to write and translate speeches.

Anyways, enough talking.  Here are some photos of my classroom and students.

Name Tags and Classroom Planes (part of the classroom management system)
Classroom management system (race to the USA, top 3 classes gets a 4th of July party at the end of the semester!)
Flight Status: If the class follows the rules, the plane moves forward, if not they get a warning (delayed) and a second warning means flight is cancelled and the plane does not move forward.
Classroom Rules, How are you? Wall, and WhatsApp board for English Slang.
My wall is filling up
I also made an Instagram and FB classroom newsfeed to share pics and upcoming English Club events and classroom birthdays. (My classroom is also where the teachers eat lunch, hence the microwaves)
Selfie with students from my 1o medio class.
Group shot with students from the English Club (they are super hyper!)

Well that’s it for this post!  Next post, I will share some of the places I’ve had a chance to travel to so far!

Until then,


P.S. Highschoolers crack me up.  I introduced “What’s up?” on the WhatsApp board last week and I swear every class had that class clown that started to give me their WhatsApp number when I asked them “What’s up?”.  So clever guys.  So clever.

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