All the volunteers I know who have hosted a JumpStart always say it flies by and they are right! It’s been three weeks since JumpStart Katsi launched and so far it’s been great. 31 kids from the area come every day at 7am, some walk over an hour just to get to the high school.
The first week was fun and challenging. Getting to know the kids, getting a feel for their educational level as well as setting the rules . We started with the basics, “hello, what is your name, nice to meet you etc.” A few of the kids had received some English from me for a few months, and for them, this was a breeze, others had never spoken it at all, and it was significantly more challenging. I had three amazing people helping me, PCV Carl, PCV America and a friend from Spain/England Raquel. Having them was great, it felt like we could be everywhere at once.
My JumpStart team included Fabian a University Student and Erick, Jasmin and Yerlin, two high schoolers. Fabian is studying to be an English teacher and is helping with the camp Monday through Thursday. He asked if he could participate in order to gain teaching experience as well as practice English. It’s been great having him, and also to see his English improve. I also asked some local teens in the area, Erick, my host brother, Yerlin and Jasmin, two 7th graders to come help. They help keep the kids in order and also have an opportunity to practice English.
The first week also included Halloween, it’s typically not celebrated here so the kids really loved it! We did scary voices and talked about it being the most magical day of the year, and then of course, masks and face paint!
Every day starts with the “good morning song” and a review of the rules, and ends in giving out the homework for the next day and a delicious lunch prepared by my host aunt.
The second week was a bit more challenging. At this point it was clear which were the more outgoing students and which were the quieter ones. The kids themselves started to relax and out came their nasty side. The unfortunate side of working with preteens and young teens is that they are MEAN! The girls were quite harsh to each other, and really good at giggling and making fun of others in the class, and the boys are just rough. All of this was expected, except it culminated in one girl threatening another little girl. What surprised me was that students who were shy and would stay silent when asked to participate would then laugh at the students who tried but mispronounced the words. Week two felt like a never ending session of me talking about empathy, respect and the rules. One mother even called me to tell me she was pulling her daughter out of the camp because of the bullying which led to me having conversations with other mothers and students and the little girl herself asking her mother to be allowed to return, which luckily she did.
PCV’s Brittany and Alicia, who will be doing a JumpStart in their sites in January, were with me during the second week, and their patience and hard work was much appreciated. They made really awesome materials, did great small group work, and helped give the kids more one on one attention.
The third week third week felt like the kids and I were really clicking. Aside from your expected issues (locked out of the kitchen until almost lunch time… ooops!) it was great. It seems kids are learning not only the English we are teaching, but also getting into the stride of studying and learning. Whereas the first week many wouldn’t do their homework, now almost no one misses it, they follow the rules, they ask questions, and even the shiest kids are raising their hands to participate.
PCV’s Lauren and Sonia are here, and have been troopers through our first solid rainy week. They even helped me switch classrooms in the rain! The kids love competitive games, and work hard for stars (students with the most stars receive a prize every week) and also are starting to help each other understand the activities and worksheets we do. Teambuilding among the students was one of my primary goals, since they will all be classmates for the next 5 years.
This week we also invited the High School Student Government, led by the English teacher, to present to the class; they introduced themselves, explained a bit about what life is like in high school, answered a couple of questions, and took us on a tour of the high school as well so the 6th graders could meet their future teachers.
We have one week left, I’m starting to feel like it’s not enough and I find myself wishing we had at least one more month to get through everything, but as Lauren said, I’m sure I’d always feel like there is just a little more I could be teaching.