Cultural and Language Struggles: Interview with a Teacher in Honduras

Natelee with a student
Natelee with a student

This is part of the World Education Blog’s #TeacherTuesday project in which they share interviews with  teachers from around the world. Stay tuned for the next interview which features a teacher who ran secret schools during the Taliban’s era in order to make sure girls could continue their education. You will find these interviews posted under the Global Issues in Education category. Continue the conversation by asking questions or leaving comments on Twitter to @EFAReport.

This is the second interview with Natelee, who teaches on the Bay islands, Honduras.

I still remember my first experience as a young teacher. I was 19 when I started teaching at a preschool. I was working in a bilingual private school and I was amazed by the learning pace and products of the students. I believe that everything hinges on the presence of intelligent, passionate, caring and sensitive teachers working day to day in country’s classrooms. We also have to find way to motivate and appreciate them. As a young teacher I realized early that I had to keep upgrading myself, which is why I attended self-development classes. I am hyperactive!!

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EIB Teacher Training Program

During my third year of teaching, I realized that one of students was an autistic child. I wanted to ensure that I cater to his needs, so I had to get training to try my best to make my class dynamic. Sometimes we have limited resources, however that did not detour me from changing the décor in my class every month, I also invited speakers to come speak to my class. I brought in people (police, firefighters and dive masters) as a way to complement the curriculum. As the years went by, so did my need to do more, so I got myself certified as a teaching instructor and did a lot of traveling to help me better understand why intercultural education is important in a multicultural context. Building a solid relationship with parents was a way for me to motivate them about getting more involved with their kids learning. By integrating all those elements into my teaching style, I feel like I’ve become a better teacher. The kids that I taught in 1st grade are now in the 9th grade, and it’s so nice when I see them, I can say I did something!

Children writing in Natelee's class.
Children writing in Natelee’s class.

My teaching style is based on the teachers I had in school because they saw I was hyperactive so instead of bashing me, they helped find ways to respond to me and to integrate it into their teaching. It was important to have teachers who understood and saw my potential. Those teachers helped shape the way I teach and learn. For that I am thankful. And most importantly my mother and grandmother are teachers, as was my father. Teaching is in the family!

In Honduras there are 9 indigenous groups (Miskitu, Tawakha, Lenca, Tolupan, Maya-Chorti, Garifuna, Nahao, Pech, Negro de Habla Ingles) and 7 languages. Two groups have lost their language and became fragmented. One of those languages (lenca) is almost extinct, there is now a process of revitalization to try and keep that language alive.

As a result of the historic and cultural background in the Bay Islands, English is the main language of instruction. On mainland Honduras, Spanish is the main language of instruction.

The English speakers on the Bay islands are descended from Grand Cayman and Jamaica and we speak English. The others speak Spanish or Garifuna language. The Garifuna people have lived in Honduras for the past 216 years and have become very important for the cultural framework. They live in the North eastern sector of the island and we are trying to revitalize their language. When people don’t know how to read or write, that’s how a language becomes extinct.

Some of the children who are impoverished are black minority people. Their first language is English and their second language is Spanish. There are attempts to help them, this is done by developing volunteer programmes where people send or donate materials, books, pencils, colours, rulers, backpacks, uniforms.

Language definitely has an impact on how children learn and how they perceive themselves as being part of the teaching-learning process. As a young child growing up in the Bay Islands, there were many times in school when we were not allowed to speak English. (Bay Islanders are English speakers living in a Spanish country). To not be taught in your mother tongue, leaves a gap, and makes you feel that your language is not important. Over the years you tend to develop certain humps.

Natelee on a fieldtrip with her students.
Natelee on a fieldtrip with her students.

The first thing teachers need to do if teaching in a multilingual classroom is to keep an open mind. They need to be stay focused and motivated and not to let the system itself get the best of them. They need to build a strong relationship, integrating parents, the community, teachers in the school community and the students. They must strive to use a learner-centered approach, which places the child at the centre of the process. If we find ourselves in a multilingual classroom, it is vital that we bear in mind that our approach must be multicultural, multilingual and needs multi models to reach all students. We must teach the majority language speakers to speak the minority language and the minority language to speak the majority language, which builds on the principles of inclusion.

In classes with children who speak different languages, I tend to use a lot of visual cues. I divide the class into groups, those who don’t speak the majority language, those who are beginners, and those who are advanced.

Children need their early education to be in their mother tongue but then should be exposed to other languages at grade 3,4,5. When they’re taught in their mother tongue, they can better understand the context and the world, in turn developing a better understanding of the culture around them, and of what’s happening in their surroundings. I also think that they should be exposed to other languages, which aids in developing global learners. Our educational system must strive to enable us not disable us. It should help ground students in an ever-changing and globalized world.

So by teaching students other languages, we open the gateway for them to interact with others, to become global leaders and to embrace diversity. Just because you speak a different language, doesn’t mean you’re less important than others etc… It also promotes a cultural sensitivity.

Over the years there have been a number of dropouts in our system, this in part is due to fact that students feel lost in the classrooms. Sometimes it’s because their learning style is not catered to, and others it’s because the language at school is not their first language.

The General Direction for Intercultural Multilingual Education (DIGEIM) is to ensure that indigenous and afrodescendent people are a part of the agenda; lobbying with representatives of the various ethnic groups to integrate the cultural elements into the curricular framework. Inclusion is at the forefront of education, and we’re not excluding their cultural content from entering into the curriculum.

The majority of materials are in Spanish, however part of my work at the DIGEIM is development; create allies to lobby for resources, to be printed. As well as ensure that teachers being allocated to communities where children who speak minority languages, have been trained adequately.

Children who spoke the minority languages were not getting the best teachers ten years ago. But there have been training programmes for intercultural bilingual teachers since 2003 in Honduras, and those teachers are now certified to teach with a focus on diversity. The DIGEIM provides training once or twice a year, to get feedback, to see that assessments and evaluations are being done, and that they’re culturally focused.

There are cultural differences that we need to be incorporate in our teaching as well. The arts and crafts are different, the astronomy and traditions, and there are religious and spiritual differences. Some chant, some are more evangelistic, some rain dances, or drum, and appreciate connections with the earth and the ground. Those are big differences and need to be appreciated. We integrate that into the arts and crafts classes, and into maths and science and music.

Last year at the Lunsford Johnson School, the teachers worked with the students to make instruments, using coconuts, wood and boxes. By using the elements around them, they become aware of their variety of resources around them, as well as the creative value. Some of them use coconut shells as a drum. Some used an empty metal can and attached a piece of cloth and bound it with tape, and used a mix of water and flour around the edges. Very fun and very culturally focused. Sometimes you don’t have money to buy expensive stuff, but teachers are taught to use all elements. It’s amazing what you can do when you teach outside the box, and how that can affect big changes.

In maths instead of using counters, we used to invite them to use almond seeds, rocks, or shells and leaves of the coconut palm.

In science kids are exposed to the natural environment. We help them understand the coral, and how do their part to educate others about pollution. We have had a problem recently with lionfish. We want them to consume our lionfish so they don’t kill other fish on the coral. They learn about how sand comes about. Learning about fishing and consumption. And we focus on recycling. We are happy to have the RMP collaborating with us.

I traveled to Chile to specialize in indigenous law and I took out a certification in special education. Those trainings helped me to understand the learning styles; by identifying my own style, and why different methods are important. I also did a lot of training on natural resources which helped me integrate those concepts into my teaching. I learnt how to teach ESL or EFL students.

In Honduras, regular training courses prepare teachers to teach only in Spanish. If you want to specialize in other subjects, you go to university level. In the govt. programme there are sub-programmes catering to the development of minority languages. But not every teacher learns that. The majority do not have training or skills to teach in multilingual classrooms.

The Ministry of Education has declared that 2014 is the ‘Year of inclusion’ ‘el Año de la inclusion’. In our country they’ve realized the need to prepare every teacher to create an inclusive classroom, embracing learning styles and cultural baggage of the children they will come in contact with. Whether it’s due to economy or a result of the internal migratory movement- people move around. There’s not just one particular group of students in one school, they’re all interacting and you have to be sensitive to their needs.

There are some adults who went to the public school system and now they can’t read Spanish well due to the system that was used in the public schools. There are many cases of that. The elderly English speakers also most of them do not speak Spanish.

Finally, it’s essential that to teach students in the language of their thoughts. Some children won’t be able to read or write because they’ve been taught in a language they don’t understand. They’ve been pushed beyond the limit, and they simply don’t understand. However if we teach from the heart with sensitivity and a focus on diversity, we will serve as change agents whose sole goal is that their students become lifetime learners, proud of their cultural identity and respectful of others.

Challenge

Continue the conversation with Natelee by asking her questions or sending her comments on Twitter. Tweet to @EFAReport.

What kind of cultural and language struggles do students face in your area?

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11 Random Facts

rosco me glasses

This post is different from my usual ones, because I’m participating in a blogging meme, in which you get to find out 11 facts about me. I think this meme would be a great way to motivate language learners to write and learn more about each other. It’s a great way to build a community, especially online.

The mission:

1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger(s).
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4. List 11 bloggers.
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

I was tagged by Sandy Kendell, Adam Simpson, Kathy Fagan, Sarah Thomas, and Carol Goodey. I’d like to thank them for their thoughtful questions. I’ve chosen to answer their questions in this audio recording:

11 Random Facts About Me

  1. When I travel to a place with a beach, sea, or lake, I try to watch the sunrise or sunset, and listen to Maria Callas or Sarah Brightman. I’ve done this in at least 10 countries and possibly 50 cities.
  2. I often write messages in the sand hoping to inspire someone.
  3. My favorite artist is Marc Chagall and I’ve traveled throughout 3 countries to see his stain glass pieces and paintings.
  4. I love the 80s!
  5. I sometimes make Rosco dance with me and sometimes we make spoofs of songs.
  6. I was a traveling poet and a slam poet.
  7. I’ve lived in Greece, Germany, Oklahoma, and Texas.
  8. I used to collect hippos when I was younger and have over 100 hippo figurines, etc.
  9. One day I want to write a comic or children’s book about Rosco. I often create the comic of his antics in my head to amuse myself. There was a series in which he had an evil arch nemesis, Anna the Dotson.
  10. My dad was a championship bowler so I grew up in bowling alleys.
  11. I’ve written a Spanish poetry book with the artist, Ruben Luna, in 1999, entitled, “The Paintings on the Wall.” It was my first self-published book and I only have 2 copies.

My 11 Questions

The bloggers I’m tagging are Tyson Seburn, Fabiana Casella, Sylvia Guinan, Theodora Pap, Débora Tebovich, Hana Ticha, Maria Bossa, Georgia Psarra, Marijana Smolčec, Nikki Robertson, and Cristina Monteiro Silva. I’ve listed their Twitter accounts below in this listly.

  1. What is a goal you hope to accomplish from your bucket list?
  2. What is one goal you hope to accomplish in 2014?
  3. If you could host a reality TV show, what would it be about?
  4. How do you blow off steam?
  5. What is one of your personal theme songs?
  6. What are you incredibly proud of accomplishing?
  7. What was one of your favorite gifts?
  8. How have you dealt with a past failure?
  9. What is one piece of advice that has helped you throughout life?
  10. What was your favorite toy when you were a child?
  11. What’s your favorite piece of art?

The mission for these 11 bloggers:

1. On your own blog, create a post and mention I tagged you along with anyone else who did.
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. In addition, to these facts answer the 11 questions I created for you.
4. List or tag 11 additional bloggers, not me.
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated.

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Interview: Tyson & Rocco Seburn & the Klingon Scandal

Tyson and Rocco

Tyson Seburn (@seburnt) is an incredibly multi-talented ELT star in our Personal/Passionate Learning Network! In Canada, he stays busy running his own website, CourseTree, managing an industry book distributor, conducting webinars, and teaching in the International Foundation Program at University of Toronto. Avid tweeter and blogger, his current area of interest is purposeful integration of online technology in the classroom. When Brad Patterson challenged us to interview our PLN, I quickly jumped at interviewing Tyson because we share a common bond, parents of doggy kiddos who have their own Facebook page. As the mommy of a social media puggy, Rosco, I understand the challenges Tyson must face as the proud daddy of a mini pincher socialite, Rocco. After our interview, Rosco decided to conduct his own interview with Rocco.

The 5 Standard Questions

For this challenge, each of us asks the following questions:

  • If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?
  • What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
  • If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
  • What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession?
  • What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

Pt I Video Interview With Tyson

In this interview be warned that Tyson and Rocco have caused a scandal within the Star Trek community! You’ll have to watch to find out how!

Pt II Video: Rosco’s Interview With Rocco

Find out the secrets of being a socialite dog. Rosco, the pug, gets the dirty scoop! No pun intended ;-)

Other entries in this Blog Challenge:

Challenge:

Interview a member of your PLN! Make sure you ask the same 5 questions then put your own spin to it.

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Kinect and Game/Gesture-based Learning: Interview with Johnny Kissko

Interview 16 of Education Voices

This week I had time to catch up with Johnny Kissko (@JohnnyEducation) on Skype. Johnny is a math teacher in Lubbock who is passionate about the potential of various technologies integrated effectively into the curriculum. What do we mean by effectively? In his interview, you will discover that he envisions and develops online communities where technology specialists, students, and educators can collaborate. He has developed the K12 Mobile Learning website. However, in this interview we talk about his most recent community, KinectEducation, that gathers developers, students, and teachers to collaborate on integrating the Kinect software into the curriculum. Kinect allows the user to use gestures to control any PC. The MAC software is also available but still developing. This means that students would be able to move while they learn. In most schools, students sit in uncomfortable desks for hours which is not healthy. Therefore, I was super excited to be able to discuss the possibilities of gesture-based learning and game-based learning with Johnny!

Bio

Johnny Kissko is currently a secondary math educator; his background and experience within the IT sector has afforded him the ability to assist school districts, individuals and education-affiliated companies effectively integrate technology into K12 curricula.  He was recently selected as 1 of 76 Apple Distinguished Educators and is Google Apps for Education Individually Qualified.  In addition to KinectEDucation, Johnny also owns and maintains K12 Mobile Learning, a website devoted to providing mobile learning tools and resources for education stakeholders.

His primary objective with KinectEDucation is to engage and develop learners with free access to Kinect applications along with a community of like-minded educators, developers, and students.  Find Johnny on Twitter, @johnnyeducation.

Stay up-to-date on Kinect in education by registering and becoming active in the KinectEDucation community.  Additionally, you can follow the Twitter hashtags #glearning and #kinectedu for instant access to discussion related to gesture-based learning in education.

Previous Interviews

Check out the previous interviews Twittering for Education- Jo and Phil Hart, Twittering for Education- Eric and Melissa Sheninger, Twittering for Education- Will and Elle Deyamport, Connected Principals- George Couros, 1:1 Programs- Rich Kiker, Mobile Learning with Kids- Scott Newcomb, Effective Leadership: Interview with Patrick Larkin, Using Skype for ELT Lessons: Interview with Marisa Pavan, Teachers as Leaders and Continuous Learners: Interview with Dr. Doug Green, Blogging with Students: Interview with Greta Sandler, What Does the Innovative School Look Like? Interview with Dr. Tom King, How Do We Animate Lessons? Interview with Ken Wilson, Building the Twitter Academy: Interview with Kelly Tenkely, Leading by Example and Teacher Evaluations: Interview with Akevy Greenblatt, and A Student’s Voice about Technology and Learning: Interview with Shantanu Bala.

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What do you believe is the ideal education students should be receiving?

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A Student’s Voice about Technology & Learning: Interview with Shantanu Bala

Interview 15 of Education Voices

In the move for education transformation, we need to listen to many voices including students. I was fortunate to meet high school student and web developer, Shantanu Bala. We met online while collaborating on a project to further improve education. Shantanu is a high school student who developed this really cool software to help his fellow peers and other students worldwide, Quicklyst. Quicklyst is a free notetaking tool that does really cool things such as if you type a ? next to any word it searches through Wikipedia and other sources to find more information. I was so excited about Shantanu’s motivation to develop Quicklyst and his motivation behind joining a teacher led reform project that I asked him if he’d mind me interviewing this past week. So glad he agreed!

Bio

Shantanu Bala is a high school student in Phoenix, Arizona, and one of his interests is computer science. He learned programming when he was in elementary school, he was introduced to formal web development when he started working with the Joomla! Project. He volunteered and contributed to that free software project for about a year during his freshman year of high school, and states he really enjoyed it. He was introduced to the Joomla! Project through the Google Highly Open Participation Contest. After that, he started becoming more confident with his programming, and decided to find other projects he could work on. After looking at Arizona State University’s website for information about the university (towards the summer of his sophomore year of high school), he stumbled across an interesting laboratory called the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing , and asked for a tour of the place since he was very interested in applying to Arizona State. He found some of their research really interesting, and asked if there was anything he could work on. One of the PhD students became his mentor, and with his help Shantanu published a few research papers at a couple conferences (http://www.chi2010.org and http://have.ieee-ims.org). This past October he presented at the IEEE HAVE Conference in Phoenix.

Shantanu reflects:

Quicklyst merged a couple of my passions. I enjoyed taking part in academic pursuits at Arizona State University, but I’m also very interested in education as well. I’m currently the chair of the Education Workgroup of the Arizona Governor’s Youth Commission, and I’ve always been interested in the possibility of starting a company.

Previous Interviews

Check out the previous interviews Twittering for Education- Jo and Phil Hart, Twittering for Education- Eric and Melissa Sheninger, Twittering for Education- Will and Elle Deyamport, Connected Principals- George Couros, 1:1 Programs- Rich Kiker, Mobile Learning with Kids- Scott Newcomb, Effective Leadership: Interview with Patrick Larkin, Using Skype for ELT Lessons: Interview with Marisa Pavan, Teachers as Leaders and Continuous Learners: Interview with Dr. Doug Green, Blogging with Students: Interview with Greta Sandler, What Does the Innovative School Look Like? Interview with Dr. Tom King, How Do We Animate Lessons? Interview with Ken Wilson, Building the Twitter Academy: Interview with Kelly Tenkely, and Leading by Example and Teacher Evaluations: Interview with Akevy Greenblatt.

If you enjoy this series, you may want to subscribe for FREE!

What do you believe is the ideal education students should be receiving?

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