In a week of despair, a ray of hope

I just finished my last class with my Elementary ESL group in Ecuador. I’ve been with this group for a long time—some of them for over six months—but now I’m going to start with a different group. It’s actually good for them to experience a different teacher, because each teacher has his or her unique set of talents. But of course, it’s sad to say goodbye.

Well, to my unexpected delight, my students had planned a surprise tribute for me. As I began the last class, one of them said “Look at us.” I did, and this is what I saw:

I was deeply touched, and told them how much I love them and will miss them. They said the same to me, and after that, there wasn’t a dry eye in Ecuador or Mexico!

Of course, this isn’t necessarily the end. I may have some of them again in a later class. I played my own planned tribute at the end of the lesson: a video (with lyrics of course!) of the classic song “We’ll Meet Again.” The song says “don’t know where, don’t know when,” but when it finished one student said, “We don’t know when, but we do know where: You’ll visit us here in Ecuador!” I think she’s right!

But we’re saying goodbye and good luck for now, and as we do, I feel enormously grateful. In a week marked by horror at the US Capitol, an American living in Mexico had a holy encounter with some wonderful human beings (most of them teenagers!) from Ecuador. In a week filled with despair, my students’ wonderful expression of love filled me with hope.

So much going on, so little time

I haven’t posted to this blog for quite a while. But it’s actually for a good reason: I’ve been so busy with my English class that I really haven’t had the time. My students will be finishing Elementary 5 when they get back from the holiday break in January, which means they’ll move on to Pre-Intermediate. And International House is pleased enough with my performance that they’re giving me a second class. So, I’ll be busy with two classes in 2021.

Meanwhile, things are going well at home. The big news is that Patricia’s daughter, Marina, is pregnant! She and her boyfriend, Hiev, are very happy, and so are we. The baby will be born in late May or early June. I’ve been officially designated part of the grandparenting team, so I managed to become a grandfather without ever being a father. I get to do the spoiling.😊

And now it looks like we’ll have more than one English teacher in the family. Marina, who is Mexican but who speaks English with a perfect Midwestern accent after years in Chicago, will teach English for a school here in Xalapa. So, we’ll be colleagues who can give each other pointers. I’m looking forward to that!

So, all in all, there’s lots going on here, and soon there will be a very active and noisy newcomer. I wonder how the cats will react? Things will be very different around here, pretty topsy-turvy I’m sure. For now, though, we simply want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a blessed 2021!

You will never disappoint me

I haven’t written a blog in a while because I’ve been so immersed in my English class. Elementary 3 is now complete! And at the end of it, I had a touching holy encounter with a student that I’d like to share with you.

“Juanita” is a 17-year-old girl who dreams of one day studying in the US or the UK—and maybe also becoming a fashion model, since she’s already working as a professional runway model in Guayaquil. She’s a real delight to have in the class: friendly, intelligent, funny, and full of life. She’s a good student, and is an especially gifted writer.


Continue reading “You will never disappoint me”

On to Elementary 3

I haven’t posted a blog in a while because I’ve been so busy teaching my  online Elementary 2 English class to my students in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Turns out that putting together ESL lessons for presentation online is pretty time consuming.  The class has been a lot of fun, though, and I’m happy to report that Elementary 2 is now complete. Elementary 3, with mostly the same students, will begin on Tuesday. I think I’ll be with these guys and gals until they graduate from Cambridge. 🙂

Guayaquil, Ecuador, where my students live. Hope I’ll be able to visit them someday!

I’ve kept busy with other things as well. I’m still helping Patricia with her work on immigration issues. Just this past week, I helped her put together a letter for a woman who is seeking a Fulbright grant. The grant is for an exciting film project that involves making creative documentaries about the migrant and refugee experience in Mexico. Hope she gets it!

Oh, and today I cast my vote in the 2020 US election. Arizona has a system where people living abroad can vote with absentee ballots by e-mail. Feels good to get that done. However your state does things, make sure and vote as soon as you can!

Elementary 1 is done; Elementary 2 begins Thursday

Tonight was the last night of my Elementary 1 English class. It was a great class. Patricia gave a talk about her journey from a Mexican high school girl in a beginning English class to a woman who turned down Oxford and got a Ph.D at Northwestern. An inspirational talk for young people making the same journey. After that, I talked to my students individually to give them progress reports—all excellent, I’m happy to say.

Onward we go—and very quickly. All of my current students plus two new ones will be on hand for Elementary 2. It begins Thursday. Well, at least I get one night off. 🙂 We’re all looking forward to continuing the journey!

“I love the chicken brothers”: Connecting in English class

All is going very well with my new online English class. I’m teaching four delightful young people (ages 16-21) who all live in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Two are in high school and two are in college (studying law and industrial engineering). In other words, they are all very sharp, and are learning  quickly—the kind of group any teacher enjoys. 🙂

Continue reading ““I love the chicken brothers”: Connecting in English class”

My first ESL teaching job: Guayaquil, Ecuador (online)

Good news, everyone! I just landed my first ESL teaching job. I’ll be teaching online from my home in Mexico for International House in Guayaquil, Ecuador. (International House is the same organization that trained me.)

My first class will be an four-week Elementary class for about five young adults, Tuesday through Friday for two hours a day, starting July 21. There’s a good chance that it will go beyond the four weeks if everyone is happy with the class, but with all the COVID-19 stuff we’re not planning too far ahead.

Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to it! Of course I’m a little nervous too, but the director of the school assures me I have nothing to worry about. I’ve been well trained, and my tutor in Mexico gave me a glowing recommendation. Plus, the director says, if I truly connect with the students, everything else will take care of itself. In our last meeting, he shared some words of wisdom from a colleague of his: “You can train a nice person to be a good teacher, but you can’t train a mean person to not be an asshole.” I think I qualify. 🙂

My final night in the neighborhood

Done! With a big assist from my hero Fred Rogers (the subject of my listening lesson tonight), I finished my ESL teacher training with flying colors. All that’s left is a Saturday morning meeting on employment opportunities followed by an online fiesta.

As Fred Rogers said via video to my students tonight, “The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.” That’s what I want to remember going forward, whatever ESL employment I end up pursuing. I look forward to many more opportunities to give and receive love as my journey continues. But for now…time to rest! 😴

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!