Haute Teacher was designed to create a worldwide community of teachers connecting to help and inspire each other. We believe in being authentic and using our voice for good. Scrolling through Instagram, I found a very interesting fellow teacher and blogger in Guatemala. Thank you Mr.Noondi for taking the time to share your adventure with us!
Written by: Nandi Devan
Back in late 2015, my girlfriend and I were starting to feel the financial pressure of living in our beloved San Diego home. Known for its incredible beauty, San Diego also struggles with increasing concerns of expensive real estate and a high cost of living. We were in this boat. After toying with idea of moving to another lively west coast city, such as Denver or Portland, nothing seemed to click like San Diego did for us. Yet, one day, we jokingly mentioned of the idea to move internationally. It soon became very serious.
After weeks of contemplating various countries and their natural beauty, culture, and cost of living, Guatemala was mentioned in passing. I am very much an open-minded individual and even though I had never visited Guatemala before (my girlfriend had a year prior), I was all in. A quick Google search resulted in an international school located in Antigua, Guatemala, a city known for its colonial architecture, historical feel, and touristic nature. Luckily enough, they were hiring a science teacher! A quick job application and 30-minute Skype interview later, we had purchased one way tickets to Guatemala for the following July.
Now well into my second year teaching in Guatemala, I have had ample time to reflect on my teaching practice and embed the immersive experience into my teaching philosophy. While it may seem obvious, the most influential moments have cumulated into me become a more naturalized global citizen – or into an educator who can very easily see the value and beauty of other human beings. These human beings (my students) come from all areas of the world (U.S.A, Canada, Guatemala, Spain, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, and many more), from all types of cultural upbringings, and from all types of socioeconomic backgrounds (unlike most private international schools, 50% of the student population at my school is on scholarship). And it’s downright beautiful.
Teaching in Guatemala has taught me to value what resources I do have. I am already well known for being an incredibly patient person, yet Guatemala has further strengthened that ability in myself. For example, the most frustrating aspect of my time so far has been the immense lack of resources. Technology resources. Internet resources. Laboratory resources. Professional development resources. For example, the Internet is extremely unreliable. It cuts out regularly and, when it is working, isn’t even half of the speeds found elsewhere in developed countries. As an educator who relies heavily on technological resources in the classroom, this proves to be very challenging. Back in San Diego, this was the norm in my classroom. We used Canva for restaurant menu design and marketing materials. We used Netflix to incorporate media and fictional elements into my science classroom. We used Blurb to self-publish books that the students wrote. Yet, in Guatemala, there is no Target. There is no Amazon. There is no BioRad (for all you science teachers reading this). There isn’t even a national public mail service actively working. Therefore, resources are incredibly hard to come by and, if you do find them, are very expensive. What these challenges have taught me, aside from patience, is how to be creative – how to embrace what resources are available and milk them until you can’t milk them anymore. It has also taught me how to manage my resources. Manage them so that I use them efficiently enough so that they value and quantity does not diminish out too quickly. It’s a balancing act and that is an extreme understatement.
As for my students themselves, they have proven to be some of the kindest adolescents and teenagers that I have ever worked with. They are thankful every day of the education that they receive. Virtually every student that I interact with thanks me for my lessons, assistance with homework, help with copies, etc. – and they do so daily. It truly is spectacular. It is very clear that the students see this campus as their second home or even as their only place where they feel secure. So many of them look forward to their time here at school to engage in authentic, meaningful learning and collaborate with their peers and staff. My school has blossomed into a close-knit community that allows all staff, parents, and students to have a welcome home to celebrate academic and social well-being.
An interesting development in my life has been living outside of the United States throughout its increasingly chaotic political climate. No matter what your views are, I think we can all agree that a larger divide is never a good method of progressing a beautiful country like the United States. Despite this, it has very much positively affected my method of instruction. I have recently subscribed to major news media outlets to improve my teaching practice. Simultaneously, these subscriptions and living in Guatemala has increased my awareness in both the political and natural environment of the entire globe. So, what I have done is incorporated many elements of current events into my curriculum. In science, and other subjects, one of the biggest challenges in getting students to see the beauty of why. Why do we need to learn about neuroscience? Why do we need to learn about One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest? Why do we need to learn about Incan history? I am a firm believe that so much of this can be remedied with current events. When students see how the content they are learning is applied to something occurring in this current day, they see the importance of it. They see how it can potentially impact their lives, negatively or positively. (see The Climate Change Agreement as an example project). The key indicator that students respect their teachers and understand the content is not the “a-ha” moments. It’s not the moments in which they simply respond to a question correctly. It’s the moments in which they realize how it affects them. It’s when they analyze global issues and find connections from those issues to the content. It’s when they discuss with peers to gain the deep understanding that allows them to be critical thinkers and global citizens just as I feel I have become with my unique experience in Antigua, Guatemala.
All this being said, I say to all educators out there: Do not be afraid. Take risks. Try something new. Be different. Teach internationally if the opportunity arises. Your lessons and projects will never perfect and neither will you. Stay current with your local, national, and global community and you will most certainly see the incredible engagement and results in your students as I have seen in mine.
Nandi Devan is a science educator currently in his 5th year teaching. Originally from the Sonoran Desert of Yuma, AZ, Nandi moved to Tucson to receive in B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. After college, Nandi worked in wildlife conservation in Cape Cod, MA and Henderson, NV before settling in San Diego to start his teaching career. Nandi writes a weekly Sunday blog on Mr. Noondi, has a TpT store here, and also runs a class website for his students. He can also be found on Instagram as @mrnoondi.