by Nadia Rosales
From when I first arrived in Nicaragua, I was set in my expectations of what my work would be. I expected to be doing what some would call ‘’busy work’’- an extra helping hand for my organization so they could focus their efforts on bigger projects. Efficiently doing menial labor for the good of a larger community was what I was ready to perform, and I opened my conversations with my bosses and supervisors saying exactly that. I would be working with kids to help them with their homework and help with the after school activities to keep them entertained. I could definitely do that.
Yet, when I entered, I only got a few days of that work. Once my half-days of work wrapped and I began my routine of full shifts, it happened. My boss sat me down and basically told me that my job was to convince the kids that reading was good.
Now here we are, 7 months after that moment. It took 7 months to get to the point where I feel like I genuinely have done a lot of good, but I did not have all the resources I have now. The timeline of the evolution of my responsibilities began with a once-a-week hour long class. All I had to do was fumble my way through a few games and books that were unpopular.
Right before the winter break, as I was preparing a trip that would be two weeks long to take advantage of the break, my work load changed. As it got lighter because of the coming break, it also got vaguer. I had heard mentions of extracurricular classes I might have to teach, but only faint whispers. I had mentioned it casually to some co-workers and received shrugs in reply. My boss waved it off and I could not tell what was a natural change in the way my host agency worked and what was being dropped because there were not enough people to make it happen.
I was not sure what to do. These classes that I would theoretically be teaching would be 3 hours long with the same group of kids for about a week and a half. The curriculum I was planning was all baseless- I had no idea who the kids would be. I only knew their ages, certainly not their reading levels or interest levels. I knew I wanted to do debate classes, but did I have the skills to teach that to kids younger than who I typically taught, and with a clunky, sparse vocabulary?
In the end, the kids told me they enjoyed class and were wondering if I would be implementing some of the lessons when we came back from break.
Since then, I have gained confidence in my ability to teach subjects more complicated than ‘’reading is good.’’ I have taught poetry classes, gone to conferences about implementing complicated literature and poetry into curriculum, and am planning to make a book with stories the kids will write themselves.
I had expectations when I walked into my host agency as everyone does (and shouldn’t). In the end, I am glad that my expectations were broken. Had I just been filing papers the whole year, I do not believe I would have learned or helped nearly as much as I am now. Plus, some highly-specific skills ended up being more useful than I thought.