"Can you wait outside for an hour?"
And so began yesterday's chapter of "Life at My New School."
When I responded incredulously, "No, I'm going to the office," Esperanza* was out the classroom door like a flash, beating me to the office door. Since the director was already in conference with someone, Esperanza stood beside the door glaring at me until she finally gave up and went back to her classroom. I took a seat to wait for the director.
This was my third visit to the director's office in as many days. Over the past four weeks, I've been asked to wait outside more often than I've been allowed to help in the classroom. I'm pretty sure that this wasn't what the director had in mind when she invited me to create a volunteer English program at this school, but Esperanza isn't on board. Instead of allowing me to help in the classroom, she's come up with a dozen different ways to try and get rid of me.
At first, I tried putting myself in her shoes. Before I arrived on the scene as a volunteer, she went about her daily business of "teaching" English at this colegio in Barrio Lo Prado without giving it a second thought. Probably no one knew for sure that she could neither speak nor understand English, spoken or written. Or that she was teaching the children erroneous things because she doesn't understand them herself or that her English pronunciation is atrocious.
If you're a long-time La Gringa reader, you will know that for several years, I volunteered at a school in Barrio Franklin. My good friend, who was the lead English teacher there, retired last year. When this new volunteer opportunity came up, I decided to do it.
The students at this school come from low income homes. Many of them have parents who are incarcerated, are drug or alcohol addicted, or are just plain absent.
I have been told that it is not uncommon here in Chile, in a school like this, to find an English teacher who doesn't know the language. Perhaps the Powers That Be figure "Why bother?", but I think differently. These children face many challenges in life, but they deserve the opportunity to be well-educated.
As of now, the director and I have come up with a new plan. If it works, I will talk about it another time. She wants me there. The kids want me there. Only the English teacher doesn't want me there. Sigh.
*Not her real name.