A New Career In A New Town

It was almost a year to the day after I began my CELTA course that I started putting it to practice, by co-teaching at my new workplace, Institucion Educativa Del Valle in Palmira.

I am here until November and will be working twenty four hours a week in the classroom. I also have an English Club that I will be running with the students and another hour or so each week helping my fellow teachers with their English.

The entrance to Institucion Educativa del Valle, Palmira
The entrance to Institucion Educativa del Valle, Palmira

A Typical Day

My working day starts at 6.10am.

I’ll say that again, shall I?

My working day starts at 6.10am. This took a bit of getting used to as well as producing no small amount of incredulity on the part of my friends and family.

So, I usually wake up at 4.30am, stumble through the shower, get dressed and have breakfast. At five thirtyish Fernando, our regular taxi driver, comes to the house and picks up me and Jenny, another teacher on the same Colombia Bilingue project.

We drive across town through the dark streets. Although it is really early there are already?people about. There are children going to school, the ever present motorcycle taxis or “Motos” and there is even the odd panaderia opening up. ?Fernando drops me off at Valle before taking Jenny on to her school,?Institucion Educativa Cardenas Mirri?ao.

When I arrive the staff room is seldom open so I sit on a bench with a fellow teacher and some students. We mumble greetings at each other in English and Spanish.

Classes officially start at 6.10, but hours are relatively loose here. Usually I’ll get to my first class by about 6.20am and attempt to generate some enthusiasm for learning English amongst the students. Lessons are an hour long.

Break time is from 9.10 to 9.30 and this is the one time of the day when all of the teachers can more or less be guaranteed to be in the staff room.

By mid-morning the day has usually heated up properly with temperatures in the 80s or 90s. Heaven knows what they must be inside the classrooms. By now both teachers and students are flagging a little and ready for lunch. Quite a few students won’t even have had breakfast.

Morning school finishes at 12.30 and there is an immediate changeover of staff and students for afternoon school. I teach a few afternoon classes and so some days I stay in school for another hour. Other days, when my lessons are later in the afternoon, I go home and come back.

Regardless, most days I will leave school and go for lunch at one of Palmira’s two vegetarian restaurants; Mana or Ahimsa. Each of them offer a “bandera” for 6000 pesos. This is a soup, main course with side salad and pudding for the equivalent of about??1.40. After this I wobble back home through the city centre.

Pretty much every day, as soon as I get into the house I realise that my feet are on fire and that I need to get my shoes off before they explode from the pressure. So, I kick my shoes off and then jump into bed for a much deserved siesta.

I wake up an hour or so later and, depending on the day, I might go back to school or have a Spanish lesson with Alba, the teacher who comes to our house, or do some lesson preparation work. Bedtime is early, certainly no later than 10 o’clock, in preparation for another 4.30 start the following morning.