That’s Guatemala For Ya

Today at work I was asked to substitute teach the Spanish class.  One of the high school Spanish teachers had called out sick and being that I was the only teacher with a free period during that time, I’d been picked to fill-in.  Which would have been perfectly fine if it weren’t for one teeny, tiny problem.

“I don’t speak Spanish,” I reminded my supervisor.  Sure, my SpanGlish has gotten pretty near fluent over the last three months, but about the most in depth conversation I can have in Spanish involves things like Jennifer Lopez, guacamole or whether it’s my turn to buy toilet paper.  And unless “El Sol” (the novel the Spanish class is reading at the moment) was about the weather forecast, there was no way I’d have anything even remotely intelligent to say about it.

“I know…” My supervisor sighed.  “But there’s no one else.”

“Um, well okay.  What should I do?  Teach English instead?  Have a Study Hall?”  I’d hoped that she’d jump at the Study Hall idea, since I’d been banking on using my free period to print-out Linkin Park song lyrics for my afternoon classes.

“No…No. You’ll have to teach Spanish.”  She handed me a copy of their Spansih textbook.  I stared at her.  Hadn’t we been through this already?  Asking someone whose Spanish vocabulary is barely above that of a two-year-old Chiuaua to teach a Spanish lit class is like asking Jessica Simpson to teach Astro-Psychics.  It’s muy loco.  The chiuaua would probably be better suited for the job.

But that’s Guatemala for ya.  Not everything makes sense.  It took me nine months of teaching English in Japan before I finally realized that I’d enjoy it a helluva lot more if I stopped questioning their teaching methods and just went with the flow.  I’m now trying to apply that same attitude to the education system in Guatemala.  Because from what little I’ve seen of it thus far, it’s not the most efficient.  Or even functional.

But I’m determined to not let that discourage me.  Show up, teach (or try to) and not ask too many questions.  That’s my game plan for the next three months.

Which is why I chose to keep my mouth shut today and teach the Spanish class. The old Reannon might have refused and from the comments from the other English teachers, perhaps I should have.  It would have made far more sense, for example, to have had one of the other English teachers (who both speak Spanish fluently by the way), to teach the Spanish class.  I could have then substitute taught one of their English lessons instead. But I suppose that would have been a little too logical.

When I walked into the classroom, the one student from the US (her parents are missionaries here) looked at me in surprise.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m your substitute Spanish teacher.”  She frowned.

“But you don’t speak Spanish.”

“Yeah, I know…”  I said, scanning the first few paragraphs in the textbook and comprehending exactly nada.  “Should be a pretty interesting next hour and a half, huh?”

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3 thoughts on “That’s Guatemala For Ya

  1. Are you still at the same school? The posh international one, and yet it can’t find someone fluent in Spanish to teach a Spanish lit class? 😀

  2. Hi… came back to your blog after a while…
    Did you let them teach you spanish for that hour and a half? 🙂
    Good luck

  3. @ Edd – They don’t really have substitute teachers here (or not a set list of teachers that they could call to ask to sub-in anyway) and all of the other teachers were busy teaching during that period. But it does seem incredible that they don’t have some sort of system in place for when teachers are out sick, huh? I mean it happens quite often here.

    @ Leia – No! But I should have…that’s a good idea.

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