I speak 6 Languages

Do you find verb conjugations thrilling? Does the idea of practicing pronunciation make you quake with joy? Are you slightly obsessed with the smell of dry-erase markers? No? Well maybe this post isn’t for you. But if you answered YES to any of the above questions (or you’re just wondering what I’m on about) then please; read on!


Playing a game

My second English Course has started! We’re really getting into things and while I’m busy and overwhelmed I’m feeling very proud of my students for their dedication and perseverance. Our last class was very grammar-filled and it’s difficult to make that fun. If you have any suggestions feel free to send them my way. When working with this group I remember many of the reasons I wanted to become a teacher and, while that’s no longer a long term career goal, it’s nice to be in a teaching environment. When it comes to language learning things can get pretty tricky. Here are a few of the things second language learners struggle with:

  • Pronunciación
  • Pellín
  • Conjugación
  • Gramar rules

For Spanish speakers who are learning English pronunciation and spelling are difficult–and for somewhat similar reasons. In Spanish things are predominantly pronounced and written the same way. Unfortunately that isn’t the case with English. Students especially struggle with pronouncing /th/ as in third (they often use a hard t sound), /f/ when it follows another “f” as in fifteen (often replacing the second f with an /s/ sound), and /s/ when it is at the beginning of a word and followed by a hard consonant as in study (usually adding en /e/ sound before the s). Why is this so difficult for Spanish language speakers? Why can’t they just listen to the way we pronounce it and copy us? Basically why aren’t they Marcy in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (the namesake for this post)? Well, many of these sounds don’t exist in the same way in Spanish. Entonces, the way that ELL (English Language Learners) hears them is different. They make it make sense to them in the only way they can–by spanishifying it.


Conjugation and grammar are difficult. It doesn’t help that some of the rules we follow in English are the exact opposite in Spanish. In English the adjective precedes the thing it describes but in Spanish it follows it. So “the fat cat” becomes “el gato gordo.” It wouldn’t be surprising to hear an ELL say “the cat fat” because they’re following grammatical rules they’re accustomed to. The important thing is to recognize what it is students don’t understand so you can help explain it to them. What’s a good way to do that? Games!!! Games get students up and moving, they get them talking and competing, and they help students teach each other. Some of my proudest teaching moments are when my students correct each other’s grammar or model proper pronunciation for their peers.


The perils of lesson-prep

Welcome G80! The new group of TELLS and CEC arrived to country on March 1st and I am organizing their practicum week. My life has been filled with visiting schools, finding host families, delivering letters, and basically caminando por todos los lados every week to get things together. It’s been a lot but I’ve got a great support system helping me out (thanks Corina!). School started March 3rd so I’ve had a lot on my plate with that as well. I’ll be splitting my time between the high school and elementary this year and I’m really excited to start working with some older students in a setting I’m more familiar with. My elementary school just started with the Panama Bilingue program and there are lots of changes on the horizon. Panama Bilingue is a government funded program that sends English teachers abroad for 2 months to really practice their English and learn some new teaching strategies. Schools that participate in the program are moving towards bilingual education–my school is increasing the hours of English students have each week and we have two new teachers bringing our grand English Teacher Total to 4! One of the new teachers will also be teaching science but she’ll be teaching it in English. I’m excited to see how the program plays out! This year promises to be busier than last and it’s going to present me with some new challenges. I plan to face those head on (much like the fearless girl that’s currently in front of the Wall Street bull) and grow from each of them. I’m really feeling settled in my community and confident in my abilities here in Panama–I’m better at expressing what I can and cannot do for people and I’m taking time to be more mindful of myself and my well-being. As the saying goes, an empty lamp gives off no light (someone definitely said that and it only makes sense if you think of oil lamps). You have to take care of yourself before you can help others. And that’s what I’m doing.


Taken from my front porch


Becoming a Panamanian Professional in 5 Easy Steps

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week three: Cultural Differences

Picture, if you will, the following scenario: You’re a young woman going to work in a Panamanian elementary school for the first time. Within the first week you’ve been asked by  two different teachers why you don’t like makeup.  Flash forward: You’re working with a group of fellow PCV’s giving a seminar for a university class. The seminar began at 2 and it’s now almost 4—no one has showed up.


My first day in my community. So young. So naive

Does this all seem a little strange to you? Trust me, I get it. But let’s see what happens a little further down the road; now you’re that same young woman but today you’re wearing heels and the reddest lipstick you own. You’ve never gotten so many compliments from the teachers at your school! You head to the second meeting of your community English class and only one person shows up 10 minutes late. Success!

Being a professional in Panama can seem a little confusing at first but you can manage it if you’re open and honest with the people around you and with yourself. To get started try this handy guide:

  1. Go heavy on the makeup (if you’re a lady). Blue eyeshadow is completely professional as long as it matches your clothes. By wearing more makeup you show that you put time and effort into your appearance which is really appreciated in the workplace. I’ve still kept my brown eyeshadows but I’ve stepped up my lipstick game.
  2. Along with number one—dress up. Heels for women, ties for men. Keep your hair looking nice (sorry boys but no long hair allowed) and shower every morning before going to work. Effort is everything!
  3. If you expect people to meet at a certain time tell them in person and keep following up via text. It’s not unusual for people to show up late for meetings here but it’s important to be flexible and understanding when it happens.
  4. Email isn’t very popular here so most things are presented through formal letters. If you want to ask for something or even just introduce yourself to the school principle you want to type, print, sign, and take in a letter. It’s professional and courteous. Plus something about a letter makes the whole thing feel more personal—you get the added interaction of handing it to another human being!
  5. Form a personal relationship with your co-workers. If you want someone to work with you then you need to ask them about their life and their family. Interpersonal relationships form strong teams and make everyone feel more invested in each other’s success!

Do you see a pattern here? Panama is all about connecting with people and making your best effort. It’s about putting people first and working together to reach your goals. And hey, a little lipstick never hurt anyone.14519791_10207743909624822_4282602908173899711_n




Photo Friday! 

Día del estudiante or “students’ day” was on Thursday October 27th. For students’day teachers pick “replacements” and the student they pick to replace them dresses up as a teacher and teaches one or two of their lessons. Then teachers put on skits, everyone eats some arroz con pollo, and we just have a good time in general. ​

All the “teachers”



Photo Friday! 

The teachers lounge

So I thought I’d give everyone a peek at my school! This is where I spend a decent portion of my week working with pre-k through 6th grade! I have 3 counterpart teachers here and we’re just starting the second trimester. Here in Panama the school year is February-December so I won’t be getting my summer break for a little bit. Kids love to run around on the green during recreo in the middle of the day and there’s tipico practice in the teachers lounge on Wednesdays!