Today, Barranquilla's Bilingualism Week comes to a close.
It's my second one, here, although as a trainee my participation in the first one was limited to visiting schools (my native presence a "reward" for English well-done).This time around, as a full-fledged "teacher," I had a bit more of an active role.
The week itself is an interesting concept, designed around promoting bilingualism in the city, bringing teachers together to share best-practices and talking about current successes. On the one hand, it's pretty amazing that the city is organized enough to do this--this year marks the 4th annual. It's also a huge step forward in promoting the network of English teachers that the district so desperately needs.
The problem that I see is that it's mostly about "inspiration," and lacks tangible outcomes. Although teachers shared their successes, there weren't many takeaways for other teachers to use these for their own classrooms. Although the theme was technically tourism and global outreach, as inspired by the US-Colombia Trade Agreement that should bring a great deal of English-speaking business to this city in the next years, including the plan for a huge port to be built to support the trade influx, most presentations did not reflect this.
And, of course, the week was held during a school week. Which meant, while teachers gathered to receive inspiration, the students were left without English class all around the district, in one of the few productive weeks left in the school year (Though classes technically end late November, between end-of-year celebrations, two Monday festivos/days off, finals, reviews, clowns, and elephants, we're just about done with any productive class)
I hope that teachers were able to forge connections with other schools, to make some meaningful relationships, and to receive some of the tools they so desperately need--like, how to make curriculums without textbooks. How to teach English when too many teachers don't actually speak English. How to move forward in schools without resources of even the most basic sort, while meanwhile the district is taking away English teachers from schools and increasing the already high numbers of students per class. I hope that one of these years, things start to add up.
On a super high note, Peace Corps at the least has been establishing one of those free "tools" for teachers as best as possible, including the Saturday classes that Jessica and I, and some of the other volunteers, teach. But hey, I won't bore you with more typed explanation, when you can check out the super-cool video Jessica and I (well, really mostly Jessica) put together to advertise our classes for next year, and talk about our progress!