English in a public school
The Republic of Argentina Republic is situated in South America. It has a population of 37 million: about 17 million of the people are poor. at the time of writing every day more people become poor.
While reading this, you may think that Argentina is a country without natural resources. You think wrong! It has 4 very well-differentiated climates. It has more cows than citizens. It can grow any type of agricultural produce. Argentina has rivers, lakes, beaches, a wide variety of animals, mountains, hills and what is more important, plains. You may wonder why we are suffering from famine or other diseases? The answer is that the government is more preoccupied with how to “steal” money from its citizens than how to solve these great social and economical problems.
At this moment we are suffering from a tremendous crisis, many public hospitals have collapsed (they don’t give services to sick people). The Justice system does not work ( you may know that many corrupt politicians who were in prison now are free). It is not safe to walk in the streets: you can be robbed at any moment or what is worse, you can be kidnapped. The police are no longer doing their job.
Now I'm going to write about what concerns me, Education. If your parents have been unemployed for months or years, if you do not have anything to eat or if you haven’t eaten for days, if the Government does not pay attention to your problems, if you know that this country has the most corrupt politicians in the world, Will you be able to think about the future or to care about school?
I teach children between 9 – 12 in a public school in Buenos Aires. I teach in 4th, 5th and 6th grades in a public primary school, children between 9 and 13 years old. The classrooms are quite big. There are individual desks with chairs, a blackboard, a book case and a teacher's desk. Students sit in groups with their friends. Each classroom has 25 - 30 students. Many students are re-attending this course, so they are older than the rest. But classrooms are not prepared for the teaching of a foreign language.
I teach them twice a week. Each lesson lasts only 50 minutes. Due to the economical situation, it is difficult for the students to buy English books or to get them from a public library. I try to get them useful material to work with. I give them challenging activities: activities with a meaningful purpose. We work with authentic materials, like newspapers, magazines, brochures, ads, etc...written in English.
The children are growing up in a country full of problems. They are sad. They are unwilling to dream, to laugh, that is because they live in a chaotic atmosphere. It is very difficult to teach English when you see their faces, their eyes falling because they are hungry. Teenagers are not in a different pair of shoes. They argue all the time about why they have to learn English or why they have to study. This happens because they see their parents, who may be have a university degree, unemployed.
But as a teacher, I try to explain to them that they have to be better citizens, that they have to fight for their rights, that nobody can steal their dreams and expectations, because they are our future, because some day they will become adults and will be responsible for teenagers’ future. I do my best as a teacher of English, but I still think it is not enough.