Today we’ve got an interview with Sarah Graham, a fellow alum from the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). We met on Team Global, a group which welcomed international students to our corner of the globe. With our mutual interest in the world’s cultures and peoples, it’s no wonder that we both ended up abroad. Here, Sarah shares about her experience teaching English in Honduras to third graders in El Progreso.
Sarah and her students work together to paint their classroom
Sarah, how did you choose to teach English in Honduras?
I have always wanted to teach abroad and I figured it would be easier to start somewhere that I spoke at least some of the language, and some friends at UCA had prior experience at the school, so I was able to ask lots of questions before leaving.
Where do you live? How hard was it to get established?
I live in El Progreso, Yoro Honduras. Although I am doing homestay (living with another teacher from the school), it was very financially draining to get established in my classroom. I had to purchase all my own school supplies and paint my classroom the first week, so that was a lot of unexpected expenses. School supplies are ridiculously expensive here.
This was my classroom when I arrived the first day. It was the old computer lab.
Can you give a brief summary of how the culture is different from that of the US?
This is a culture that sees little value in reading. There are no bookstores or libraries. My biggest victory was instilling in my students the love of reading. I am very proud of that.
This culture is very focused on tradition. Americans are more concerned with innovation and progress. The pace is a lot slower here. I have learned not to get uptight about every schedule change or last-minute project.
People on the street are usually very accommodating to poor language skills; they might giggle at your bad pronunciation, but are generally willing to help you.
How is the school system structured?
Students and teachers must wear a uniform. This is not a big deal for me since that frees up a lot of clothing space in my luggage for books and other supplies. The school uses a lot of “drill and kill” methods with rote memorization. The students may be able to verbally repeat the information, but not comprehend it very well.
Is there an emphasis on post-graduate education?
Not really, but then again I teach elementary so maybe I just don’t see it.
This is what $90 of school supplies looks like in Honduras.
What have been some of your most challenging moments?
Losing electricity in the middle of the day, that means no air conditioner =(
Sometimes it can be very frustrating to communicate with parents and administration. Mistranslations can cause a lot of headaches!
What humorous or unexpected questions have students asked you?
- “Is China a real country?”
- “When can we have homework?”
- “When are we learning about Shakespeare?” (I teach 3rd grade)
- One of my students brought me a bowl of animal feces and tapeworms for science class. He was so proud of himself!
This is the view from my classroom window