Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Conferences, Protests, and Preparing for a Trip

It has been a long while since I updated.  I´ve just been keeping busy with day to day life, working, and part of me has been putting off updating.

Today a good friend of mine arrived to visit.  She came to visit 2 years ago, and as we´ve been talking we realized how quickly time goes by.  2 years ago I had left Teaching Chile and had starting working at Grants English.  It was a change that made a really big difference in my happiness and overall experience in Chile.  I was also living in a shared apartment with two Chilean roommates, but now I can proudly say that I have my own apartment.

Dana´s arrival has also made me realize how quickly July and August have gone by.  Winter was not really much of a winter at all, and it was a nice change after the past two years.  I´ve taken off my flannel sheets and have put my space heater away, and I´ve started to pack away my sweaters and heavy coat.

August brought a few nice events.  The first one was my proposal to TESOL Chile being accepting.  TESOL  stands for Teaching of English as a Second or Other Language, and it´s a branch of an international organization that aims to improve and promote the teaching of English.  My bosses were excited about it, and so they had me give the presentation at Grants.  Overall my colleagues were very receptive and positive, and it was a good test run to prepare for the conference the following week.

The TESOL Conference took place over a period of 3 days: Friday evening, Saturday all day, and Sunday morning into the early afternoon.  Most of the people there were teaching in Chile, but there were a few teachers from Uruguay and a few visitors from the States.  A PhD candidate named Heather Linville presented some interesting sessions about assessment with English classes, and there were some other good sessions about using Socratic seminars and various writing strategies in the classroom.

When Saturday afternoon rolled around it was time for my presentation.  I was a bit nervous, but I knew it would work out fine.  At first there were about 15 people in the room.  I waited a few minutes and chatted with the people that arrived, and people started coming in bit by bit.  After about 5 minutes of that I got started.  I had a Powerpoint prepared, and we started doing the first activity of learning food words in German.  Then more people came in.  By that time there were about 45 people and I had to ask the assistants to bring in more chairs so everyone could sit.

We went through some more activities, and everyone was really getting into it.  They asked great questions and were really engaged.  I didn´t have enough handouts so I sent around a sheet to get everyone´s email to send them copies of it, and everyone gave me their information.  The 90 minutes flew by, and I felt like I could have gone another 90 minutes with sharing ideas and activities.

By Sunday afternoon I was mentally exhausted.  I had sat through some great sessions, exchanged teaching ideas, made new contacts, and given my first international workshop.  It was a great feeling, and it always feels good to keep growing professionally.

The other big event (or events) has been the protests.  Students here are continuing to protest for a free education.  I remember one day was particularly bad.  A few coworkers and I had to cross Alameda (the main street in downtown Santiago) to teach classes at Banco de Chile during the lunch hour.  Our boss warned us that the teargas was pretty bad outside and that we should go a few blocks east to avoid it and go around that way.  I suggested just going one block east, but when we glanced towards the main street we were able to see the teargas thick in the air.  We took her advice and went the extra few blocks, and as we crossed the street I remember seeing a photographer wearing a gas mask.  Then we got a huge whiff of teargas, and it instantly started burning my eyes, throat, and nose.  I got a tissue out from my travel pack I always have with me and passed one to one of my coworkers.  After about 5 minutes we were inside and safe, so the teargas only turned out to be a small nuisance in the grand scheme of things.

Tomorrow Dana and I are going to explore downtown Santiago before getting on a night bus to go down south.  We´re going to Puerto Varas and Chiloe, and we´ll be there for about a week.  That means we´ll miss the big dieciocho celebration here in Santiago, but it will be a great experience to go down south and see what they do to celebrate there.  It´s very green down there with lots of outdoor activities, so I´m looking forward to it.

My next update will have pictures and more that just writing.  For those of you reading this in Chile have a wonderful dieciocho holiday!

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