Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog


Life in the Classroom

Up to this point, all of the kids in my class at Colegio Anakena have been between the ages of three and four, which is of course the most adorable age and size kids come in. Most of the children have some minor learning or behavior problem, but they all also have some sort of speech impediment or difficulty with pronunciation. There are many times they have to repeat what they are saying three or four times before they are understood. I’m sure it’s as frustrating for them as it is for the listener.  It can feel very debilitating to be misunderstood even when you can pronounce every word perfectly, but even worse when the recipient is unable or refuses to understand what you are trying to say.

Attendance is generally low, and almost zero when it rains. There are major problems with flooding in the streets here so it becomes nearly impossible for people to get in and out of their homes.

A new student joined our class last week. Her name is Laura and she is mute. She hears and understands everything you say but she cannot say anything. How difficult it must be to have all the words and thoughts in your head but no ability to communicate them vocally. A critical case when actions must speak louder than words.

My heart has a special place for Nely because she doesn’t have a mom or a dad. She can be very disobedient at times, but knowing her situation gives more than enough patience to provide her with the affection and attention she is looking for.

My birthday at Anakena with previous students

I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but Miguel is my favorite. He was the first one to understand my language barrier.  He gets in trouble a lot because he has a free spirit and he’s a four-year-old boy, but he listens and respects authority.

Amanda has the most adorable face you could think of putting on a child. She has puffy pink cheeks, big brown eyes and a sweet personality.

Monserrat is four years old and a little more mature than the other students. She knows how to color inside the lines and loves to sit on your lap.

Benjamin is the trouble maker. He is always disobeying and testing the authority of the tias. He can be so adorable at times but so frustrating too. He has taught me the incredible difference in patience it requires to discipline children with disabilities.

Fernanda was the first child I really connected with because on my first day working at Anakena, I had to console her for about 10 minutes while she cried in my arms about missing her mom. It was comforting for her to be held and it was comforting for me to feel needed.

Javier is the biggest kid in the class but he acts the youngest. He is always copying what the other children do or say and requires a lot of patience. But he always greets me with a hug, a kiss, and an “Hola tia!” which I love.

Victor is a kid who tends to blend in with the crowd. I try to give him extra attention and encouragement because I don’t think he is used to receiving it.

Anthony is the smart kid in class. He always knows the answer and seeks the praise that follows. He respects the tias and is a good leader in general.

After spending about two months getting to know these kids and pouring my heart into them, I was asked to begin working in another classroom. A classroom where the kids have more severe disabilities and the tia needed more help.  Of course I want to be used wherever I am needed most. I miss all my kids but I still see them every day and they are excited to see me when our classes cross paths.  My new classroom is great too. The kids are between the ages of five and seven years old, and are also very adorable. I deal with a variety of disabilities, such as Down syndrome, varying levels of autism, and some physical disabilities as well. It is challenging to say the least but I am excited to continue getting to know them and to create a lasting connection with each of them.

There are times when the days fly by and there are times when the days seem long, but my time in Chile is limited with these kids. I know I only play a small role in the grand scheme of life, but I want to leave the biggest mark on them that I can. I want to do something nice for the kids and the tias before I leave to let them know how special they are to me.

Any ideas? Please share!

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yyyeeeaaaapppp

Comment by will




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