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Roller coaster

In my last post I talked about my worst lesson yet. Well, although it was the worst, Wednesday’s lesson was the best thing that could have happened to me. I have been thinking a lot about; how I could have done things differently, lesson structure, behaviour management, pre lesson and post lesson. So, on Friday I decided to give the lesson another go.

The last couple of days I have been walking through the slum to pick the kids up before we start for the day. It started by accident really. I was walking around trying to recruit a few more children and a couple of our regular kids ran up to me gave me a hug and grabbed me by the hand. Then a few more kids joined my possy and before you know it I had a gang walking with me to the venue. (It’s the first time I’ve felt like the cool kid who everyone follows! Never mind that I’ve got 25 years on them, I’m finally cool!)

This walk with my homies gave me the opportunity to talk to them about the one rule that we were going to concentrate on today. “Sigan las instucciones” or “follow instructions”. When we reached the venue, I also placed them in a particular seating arrangement around the dining tables that separated a few kids who end up fighting if they are close to each other. I handed out the food first to those who were sitting nicely. We had milanesas (like a schnitzel) with mash potato and salad for lunch. Milanesas are very common in Argentina so the kids loved them.

I was determined not to use physical rewards as I don’t want them to get used to getting something in return for their good behaviour. So, every possible opportunity I threw some positive praise out there. “Wow Nico, you are listening beautifully today, nice one!” I also had some recycled instruments that I had made, so I used them as an emotional reward (bribe). They love singing so I looked for the best singer and he/she got to play the recycled instrument along to the song we were singing. They all got to have a go in the end.

Now, every teacher will know about positive reinforcement as a great weapon in the classroom, so this is nothing new. I also had a couple of variables on my side. Yesterday, a cool change had come through and instead of being 35 degrees it was 20 degrees. This is a big factor, as I know how different my body functions in 35 degrees compared to 20. High humidity here as well so 35 feels like 45. Also, the class size was slightly bigger. Not a huge class but 13 kids, funny enough, are easier to manage than 4.

In the lesson we talked about how we had made hats and paper poppers from old newspapers. The theme is “making new stuff from old stuff”. We also talked about rubbish like plastic bottles, sticks and bottle caps. These are the most common things you can find on road in the slum. I showed them some instruments that I had made from this rubbish. We will be making them in our next lesson. Then I taught them my new song about “new stuff, old stuff”. This song is the centre of the unit. We will eventually be using our rubbish percussion instruments to accompany the song.

So, the lesson went a lot better than the previous. I finished the week on such a high! The advantage of my regular walk around the slum is that I know where all the children live, so before I went home I stopped off at a few of the residences to tell the mums how good their kids were that day. A theme I have been noticing, and I’m not sure if it is a coincidence or not but there seem to be a lot of homes of many children, living with just mum, and no dad. From what I have seen, a lot of dads aren’t taking responsibility for their actions. It might not be a trend but it is something I have observed in this area.

This week has been a roller coaster. Many ups and downs. It’s true what they say “you need the lows to appreciate the highs!”. Luckily, we started the week at the lowest point and finished at the highest point which is a good way to go into the weekend.