The children giggle, Ruth is asking them to bark and meow like dogs and cats. They love it and are very noisy in their efforts. We are learning English with small phrases and exercises. In our classroom are 35 kids, ages 4-15; a widespread age group to keep the attention span of! The little 4-to-5-year-olds like to play with each other in the classroom, so we developed a game of passing a ball around with each one saying an English phrase. They giggle some more, and there are wide smiles. Now we are learning a song. Ruth separates the boys and the girls, and we do notes. “Oh, happy day…” the children love to sing.
Ruth Hiebert is a resident at Gran Pacifica Resort – Canadian by birth, but definitely with a “world citizen” mindset. She is a grandmother, musician, and comes from the Province of Manitoba. She started teaching at El Rosario School in February of 2017, by the invitation of the teacher and Dinh Nguyen, whose foundation helped build the school. The foundation was started by Dinh and Rachel a few years ago and primarily deals with charitable work in Asia and Nicaragua.
Dinh is a resident of Gran Pacifica as well, and he and his friend Chip Oliver were driving through back roads to Masachapa and saw all these kids being taught out of the old plastic church. For those who have not been here, plastic tarping is often used as shelter, wrapped around trees. Chip and Dinh stopped to talk to the kids, and the idea was born to build them a school. The school was built by many residents of Gran Pacifica Resort, and also a group of surfers from Surfers on a Mission.
Ruth invited me out to help, so here I am too, teaching English to native Spanish speakers in a rural 2-room schoolhouse in Nicaragua. She is happy with how things are going, teaching 2 hours per week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “We are communicating!” says Ruth, and she got a big compliment this week. A special study abroad group of college students from Carlow University, PA, came to the school to do a different kind of exercise with the kids. Kevin Spencer, faculty member of the Special Education Program, said, “The students were very eager to introduce themselves to us in English and to try and talk with us.” The group was amazed at how much English the kids were speaking and how much they understood. With repetition and regularity, they are learning some basics of English. This is exactly how I learned my prior languages: Portuguese, German, Sinhalese, and how I am learning Spanish here now. You have to be willing to feel like a fool, it keeps you humble, but you learn to overcome and converse. The Nicas here are so happy that people are trying to speak Spanish, they will almost always help you along.
Back to the classroom: Ruth tries another phrase and hands out a stick of gum to all those that repeat and learn the phrase in English. School is open until noon, and when we arrive they put the two classrooms together so everybody has a chance to learn. If a Nicaraguan can learn English, their income and wages are going to increase – so they all know it is important to do.
These children are eager to learn, and like most small ones, are eager to play too. I hope the children in the United States learn what a privilege it is to go to school and have support from their teachers.
When we leave, there are hugs for all, smiles, and more giggles. We all had an enjoyable English lesson.