As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have a lot of freedom and flexibility in my day.  Luckily, I’m very self-directed and I look for opportunities to integrate, and keep myself busy and fulfilled.
Initially, I was assigned to work in the mornings at Colegio Teodoro Gómez de la Torre; a huge 
K-12 school with 15 English Teachers.  I share this school with another Peace Corps volunteer, 
Kendall Ogle.  I’ve written many posts over the year about all the happenings at Teodoro, 
as well as my work to organize English Clubs for the International Baccalaureate Students.  
For today’s post, I thought I’d give you a quick glimpse into my day-to-day and how 
I’m trying to help advance education practices here in Ecuador. 

This is Jennifer, a 2nd grade English teacher.  Second grade is the first year that students receive English lessons in school, and they receive three hours of English Class each week.  This first year, students spend a lot of time learning their English letters and sounds.  Jennifer also likes to review basic words like colors, shapes and school supplies.  English class is especially fun when she teaches them the words to a new song or they get to play an English language game.

Yomaira (Yomi) really loves her 11th grade students and tries to make her classes 
interactive with games, activities and projects.  Middle school and high school students receive five hours of English class each week.  Here, Yomi is listening to her students teach each other 
about common English Phrasal Verbs.  I help Yomi think about her plans, 
her projects and how she is going to assess their progress. 

At the end of the last unit, Yomi asked all of her students to record a travel video to advertise a place to visit.  I made her make a model tourism video to demonstrate her expectations for her students.  This is a screen shot of our tour agency video with our special tour map in the background.  After we recorded it, she sent our video to her students using Google Classroom, a teaching platform she already had established before I arrived.  Modeling and providing examples to students isn’t really part of the teaching culture in Ecuador, so this idea of the teachers making a video was new for everyone.  In the end, the students’ videos turned out fantastic 
and they taught me about a few places I still I need to go! 

Gonzalo is a trained music teacher but since he studied in the US, he has become an English teacher by default.  He is passionate about wanting his students to be able to communicate in English (as opposed to only teaching the vocabulary or generic dialogues in the book).  So he had his students make their own whiteboards from a transparent folder and with a little support and lots of repetition, he has his 4th graders writing in complete English sentences.  I’m helping Gonzalo focus his lessons to help his students even more. 
In my International Baccalaureate Class, I often get the opportunity to teach the students and help expand their horizons about the world.  Their English textbook is divided into different units by themes.  They understand English fairly well, so Sandra, the teacher, often asks me to teach them about something related to the theme, and help them practice their English listening skills.  Then, sometimes, I ask them comprehension questions at the end of my presentation.  For their theme on Natural Disasters, I took the students to the Computer Lab and we looked at websites that plotted Earthquakes, Tornadoes and Hurricanes throughout the world.  For their unit on Environmental Problems, I gave them a presentation on the Great Garbage Patches forming in all of our oceans.  
At the end of this unit, they had to create an oral presentation about local environmental problems, and many of them took a hard look at the garbage so prominent in the gutters and streets of Ecuador.  I also have shared with them some of my Blog Posts and photos from my Galápagos Vacation- a place many Ecuadorians can’t afford to go.  So, in small ways, I think 
I’m helping them get a glimpse of the wider world. 
Other teachers at Teodoro Gomez want my help in their classrooms to correct pronunciation, or they just like to have conversations with me on the side to practice their own English.  
So, as you can see, every day is different.  And often, due to so many conflicting schedules, classes get cancelled, or changed, and the lessons I planned just don’t happen.  The picture below demonstrates this point well.  These 11th graders were attempting to practice their English writing skills in Reported Speech on the last hour of a Friday afternoon.  As our class started, another class used the courtyard just outside the window to practice a traditional dance routine for some upcoming event.  Their speakers were blaring at full volume.  About 30 minutes later, they finally finished and I thought maybe my students might have an opportunity to concentrate.  No such luck.  Just outside the classroom door, a very loud soccer game started celebrating the last day of school for the seniors.  (They finished their classes three weeks before everyone else in order to prepare for their college exams.)  Then, a group of 3rd graders moved into the courtyard just outside the windows with a giant foam cannon.  They had a raucous bubble party the rest of our 80-minute period.
In these situations, there’s nothing to do except laugh.   
In the afternoons and evenings, I help to teach a remedial English class at the local University, Universidad Técnica del Norte, here in Ibarra.  But when I found out that this University also had an English Teacher Training Program, I offered my services there, too.  

For the past eight months, I’ve been teaching various classes on lesson planning, unit planning, classroom management and how to integrate more dynamic speaking, listening, reading and writing activities into their future English classrooms.  My work with these college students and future English Teachers is really fulfilling and my classes with the different cohort groups keep me very busy.

In the above picture, I’m teaching about Language Practice Routines and 
Professional Partner Expectations.  In the picture below, I’m teaching about how to 
lesson plan for a gradual release of responsibility to the students. 
The future teachers of Ecuador
In addition to that, I sometimes am able to support other Peace Corps volunteers in their efforts 
to promote English language throughout the community, or teach health education 
(positive relationships, sex education, and family planning) to high school students.
This is Mikayla, another local Peace Corps Volunteer, who works in
Health Education and promotes efforts in gender equality.  
This next year, Peace Corps Ecuador is trying to expand the number of volunteers in the country.  They have asked current volunteers to “scout out” new locations for future volunteers.  Through my contacts at the University, I learned about a little school named Agustín Cueva Dávila with approximately 450 students and only two English Teachers who teach the entire span of grades.  Although the teachers do have a high level of English, they are open to new and different teaching methods and need help planning a variety of activities for all of their different classes.  The student population of this school comes from a much lower socio-economic background and 
they are ripe for more extra-curricular opportunities.
Seeing this as a perfect Peace Corps fit, I started working at this school in May for two mornings a week.  I’ve already gotten to know many of the students and I envision a lot of after-school clubs for them in my future.  Because the school is small, the staff is really tight-knit.  They know the names of all the students and they work really well together (and teach a variety of subjects) to provide the best educational experience for these kids.  Basically, it’s the community school model that is so 
near and dear to my heart.  I really enjoy the days I get to spend in this learning community.

This is the student body of 4th -12th graders at my new school, Agustín Cueva Dávila.  They are lined up in their uniforms for their Monday Morning Civic Moment which often includes a thoughtful exercise in values, school announcements, and of course, the National Anthem.
The K-3rd grade students have classes on a separate campus.
This main courtyard serves as the playground, the soccer and volleyball field, the area for
PE classes and the parking lot.  It is surrounded by six small buildings with classrooms,
two small offices, and a small kitchen for the teachers.

There are plants everywhere in this school.  I see both students and teachers tending to them daily.  I’ve also spotted an herb garden in the back so I hope to work with the 5th grade classes next year during their unit on Medicinal Plants.

This is the student “snack bar”.  Since this school is so small, local “lunch ladies” are contracted to bring in huge pots and trays of food to sell during the morning snack break.  Usually they have a variety of bread and cheese sandwiches, rice with beans or hotdogs, jello, chips, fruit, or cakes.  The students take turns helping to sell the food as well. 
Some of the classes have a smaller number of students which means there’s some extra space in the classroom.  The 9th graders have set up chess boards in their classes while the 10th graders have a ping-pong table.  These recreational games are regularly used before school and during recess when some of the teachers come in to teach and play with the students.  
It’s a super fun and supportive environment.
Paulina is one of the English Teachers and she does a great job assessing her students’ reading and pronunciation.  I’m helping her integrate more speaking and writing activities into her lessons.
This particular class of 6th graders chant a song when I enter their room:
“Buenos Dias”

“Goodmorning, Welcome, Miss Becky”  It’s the cutest chant.  I wish I had a video!

I brought the idea of personal whiteboards to this school, and Ernesto’s high school students have really seen the power and fun in this learning tool.  Here, the 10th graders are demonstrating their knowledge of the Present Progressive Tense in English.  I’m helping Ernesto think about how to engage “all of his students, all the time” with more whole class and partner speaking activities. 

Ernesto is also very creative in assigning projects to his students.  When his 9th graders
had a thematic unit on food and nutrition, he had them demonstrate in English
how to prepare a type of snack.  These students made ice cream for the class.  
To prepare for Inti Raymi, the Summer Solstice celebration, the students had to practice traditional dances.  The fancy footed 11th graders led the practice in the school courtyard.  They performed these dances in full traditional costume in a street procession on the 21st of June.  Unfortunately, I was not able to see them because sometimes my varied schedule conflicts with student events. 
Here are my 8th grade students practicing how to make a turn at the corner of a city street.   
Since it was dance practice day, the students didn’t have to wear their uniforms.
5th graders David, Tatyana and Franklin really loved the dancing!
This is the fabulous staff at Agustín Cueva Dávila.  They have all welcomed me with such open arms and since this is the only table in the school, we gather in this tiny kitchen for meetings, and to share snacks together.  Classes in this school are self-contained through 7th grade, so some of these teachers teach all subjects in 4th-7th grade, while others teach a variety of 
math, science, history, and language courses to the high school students.  
Then we have music, art, PE and the English teachers, too.

Thank you to all of my teachers who have welcomed me into their classrooms.  And thank you to all of my students who have welcomed me into their hearts.  I love walking down the streets of Ibarra and hearing greetings for “Teacher Becky” or “Profe de English”  shouted by students from second grade through college.  Overall, I don’t know if I’m making a big difference in people’s lives or if I’m really helping to better educational practices long term, but I love being in Ecuador, 
and I love helping make my students and my teachers smile.  
And after all, isn’t that what it’s really all about?