The Value of English

Ecuador_-_Cooper__Marilyn_Spr_2017_pic1.jpg“As a volunteer with FEDICE, I am making a difference in indigenous communities. The leaders of the future, the children, are getting an enhanced curriculum because FEDICE has the foresight to provide this service of teaching English in these communities. It is a gift for the next generation."

I have taught pre-school English classes for 6 years here in the greater Otavalo, Ecuador, area.  My background as a physical education and adapted physical education teacher hardly prepared me for classroom work with young children.  Given my limited ability with the Spanish language, what was FEDICE to do with me?  Flexibility might not be my greatest asset, but I have been determined to be a beneficial volunteer for FEDICE.

It was rough going, probably more for my students than myself, in the beginning.  Teachers were so interested in getting English into the brains of their charges that my classes often included over 20 students less than 5 years of age.  Given my “disability” of remembering names, the children’s distrust of this gringa who looked and spoke strangely, and the fun of pestering one’s neighbor, it was a wonder that the youngsters learned.  But they did.  One mother told me that when her daughter started English classes at the school, she already knew the names for animals and colors and fruits in English.  OK, so I can at least claim one student learned.

Now, I feel that my plans hold the children’s attention.  They learn the new words, and with time, they understand the concept of different languages.  Yes, I still have Alex who for the first 6 weeks of classes this fall, said “Spanish”, whenever I asked how to say something in English.  But he’s finally repeating the English words and has quit asking me to teach Spanish instead of English.

The number of pre-schools where I work has grown to eight.  This fall, I have worked with an average of 103 students twice weekly.  (No, not all in one class!).  The teachers keep asking me back so I know I am making a difference.

A mother told me her daughter sings songs in English at home.

At one of my pre-schools where I have a class of 10 students, the 10 member class slightly younger sits in the doorway with their teacher so they can see the English videos and learn the words, too.

At another, pre-verbal students are sent to my class to absorb the English with the older students.

Recently, the director of a school in a different district (who had worked at one of the pre-schools where I currently have classes) called me and begged me to teach at her school.  The parents and teachers wanted their children to learn English.  Fortunately, I was able to add this eighth school to my week.

As a volunteer for FEDICE, I am making a difference in indigenous communities.  The leaders of the future, the children, are getting an enhanced curriculum because FEDICE has the foresight to provide this service of teaching English in these communities.  It is a gift for the next generation.

Marilyn Cooper serves as a long-term volunteer missionary with FEDICE (Ecumenical Foundation for Holistic Development, Training, and Education), which is based in Quito, Ecuador. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.