Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLOG) High School is where it’s at. They’ve got palm trees, exotic flowers and plants lining the sidewalks, a volleyball court, picnic tables, delicious burritos, and all the Fanta soda you could ever dream of.
The sun (usually) shines, giving this open campus some much-needed natural light. The quality of the classrooms makes me want to blend our structures with their natural lighting and bright colors. One of my classrooms is horribly ventilated, and has nine fans going during class—nine!—and the room is probably somewhere around 600 square feet. I could be exaggerating, more or less.
The kids don’t move from class to class, the teachers do; so, they’re in there almost the whole day. The students (mostly underclassmen) are in this building, which is the newest. It can hold upwards of thirty kids per classroom. Those rooms are pretty nice…well-lit, brightly painted, and the Caribbean breeze flows through them.
All of the staff is in one big room—this is good or bad, depending on how you look at it. I think it’s nice because I know the staff here way better than I even did at Loveland, just because I can listen to them all the time. I’ve been here a week and even though I don’t speak creole, I can understand some of it. And that means I hear just about everything any teachers would talk about when they’re together…and I’ll leave it that, because where the bad comes in.
I made a list of similarities and differences between Ohio schools and Belizean schools, and I gotta say that Belizeans get it right when they start their high school days at 8:00. I think this is mostly due to the traveling some students have to do to get here (some travel from at least 50 miles every day!) and to the fact that they can do it because they freaking want to. That’s the beauty of private schools. Plus, everyone’s way more awake…at least most. Students sleep in class no matter what time you start the school day.
My teacher’s name is Ms. Lopez, and she’s head of the department. Their department heads seem to have significantly more duties than ours, because Ms. Lo is all over the place. She’s evaluating other teachers, substitute teaching, etc. OLOG makes their teachers sub during their plan periods if another teacher is out. Because of this, they have more plan time. My teacher just has seniors, so she only has one prep (that’s teacher-talk for preparation time per course). This is good news for me, because I only have one level to prep for, and only three different classes. This is about 65 percent less course preparation for me, because I had 2.5 preps last eight weeks. I don’t think I did that math right, but whatever. What I’m saying is that I drew the long straw.
But I’m not going to say it’s smooth sailing for me just yet. I start teaching Monday, and the classroom management is going to be the biggest challenge. For some reason Belizean students talk constantly during class, making it very difficult to be heard over those nine gazillion fans. I don’t tolerate that, I never have, so they’re going to be in for quite a shock when I give them the eyebrow raise and the death stare (learned from my grandma Sue and my high school choir teacher). Will they respond to the eyebrow raise and death stare? I’ve no idea. This is my time to try the craziest of the crazy ideas! Even corporal punishment! (I’m totally kidding, please don’t report me, I need to land a teaching job somewhere). I can’t wait to see how it goes, though. I’m sure I’ll have many anecdotes to illustrate my role as an American teacher in a Belizean school. I’ll probably fall on my face a couple times, but as my writing methods prof Dr. Romano once said to me, “If you fall on your face, do it magnificently.” And I’ll do just that.