Brazos de Amor

My time here in Nicaragua is definitely winding down. I still have a month until I’m home, but the majority of that time will be spent traveling, which means I have begun to say goodbye to the things I’ve routinely been doing. My least favorite goodbye was to Brazos de Amor, the elementary school where I’ve been giving English classes. Those mornings with the niños were often the highlight of my week and overall the coolest part of my time here. I mean, they weren’t all fun and games, but they were incredibly rewarding. I sort of got the hang of giving lessons by looking up a lot of ideas online, getting input from other teachers, and winging it. But planning classes is hard, especially for little ones who have short attention spans! Sometimes it was also hard for me to explain things in Spanish, but the kids were helpful and we were always able to figure it out. By our last class, my 6th graders were able to form simple sentences about themselves and their families, count to 100, come up with an English word for (almost) every letter in the alphabet, and sing a handful of songs. The 1st graders couldn’t get enough of the “Hello” song, the 2nd graders never stopped bombarding me with hugs before I left class, the 3rd graders always wanted to know “How do you say — in English?,” and the 4th graders overcame the fear of speaking English in front of their peers. Gosh, I am so stinking proud of them. They are amazing. They come from families where life is not easy. Some are abused and malnourished. I knew that because the director told me before I began teaching, but there are also things I could see. Some of the kids are tiny for their age. Sometimes a student would be totally withdrawn from what was going on in class, looking way too preoccupied for an 8 year old. It’s heartbreaking. They would fight pretty regularly, from poking each other with pencils to punching to straight up face-offs in which I got between them and escorted them back to their desks. These would end in tears, anger, continued provocation, and more face-offs. I didn’t know how to handle it at all. I didn’t really know how to reprimand them in Spanish, except to say something like “We don’t fight.” I felt helpless, overwhelmed and just sad that they are learning such aggressive behavior at a young age. Some days, the kids were super rowdy and I could not redirect their focus to the lesson. I have so much respect for the teachers there. They are incredibly patient and loving, but they also keep the students disciplined. There were multiple times during my classes when the teacher was outside and the kids were straight up out of control – running around, hitting each other, playing Pokemon, coloring, yelling, and totally oblivious to my attempts to restore order. Then their teacher would come in, and, with just a look and a few words, the students would sit back down and look attentively at the board. It was moments like those, or when I underestimated the amount of time an activity or lesson would take and did not know what to do next, when I realized how amazing teachers are. It takes this combination of love, authority, knowledge, patience, organization, and lots of other characteristics…Yep, teachers are amazing. Other memorable moments at Brazos de Amor included the fumigation guy coming in and blasting the classrooms with gases while we waited outside; the day all the students received free hair gel (they were stoked); nurses coming and giving immunizations, which caused a girl to throw up during our English class; and the mothers’ day celebration in which students recited poems they’d written, danced, sang and performed skits for their mothers. Basically, every day was unique. I love those kids. I love entering the school and having them say “Good morning, teacher!” I love when something clicks, and English makes a little bit more sense to them. I love when the 2nd grade teacher asks me to write down some English words so she can keep teaching when I’m gone. I love when they give me adorable drawings. I love when the kids surround me and try to get to the center to hug me and I can barely keep my balance. I love their laughs. I love that they are willing and excited to learn even when their life is tough. What an amazing opportunity. I will truly miss those niños.

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