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Working With Children: Ecuador vs U.S.

By Heather

My name is Heather and I’m working at a primary school in Ecuador for 4-year-olds. In the states, I have experience working with children that are a variety of ages but mostly 3 and under. I feel like my experience has helped prepare me for a lot of situations (in and out of the classroom), but Ecuador certainly has a lot I wasn’t prepared for. However, I’m happy to say I have a supportive work environment to help me through it!

The first thing I noticed was that, unlike daycares in the U.S. where the kids usually referred to you as Miss [First Name], in Ecuador most teachers are simply known as “Profe.” The language difference can still be difficult for me, but for the most part, I feel I have improved a lot since the start. A lot of what you say around kids is repetitive, so I definitely have “Vamos,” (Let’s Go) and “Sientate!” (You, sit!) to a tee.

Another big difference is the expectations for the kids. In the U.S. I was very used to unruly children running out of the classroom or blatantly disobeying the teacher (especially in the 3-year-olds). But here, the kids are able to come and go freely, with minimal supervision, and they’re expected to come back. I know the difference between 3 and 4 is big but I couldn’t imagine that happening in my daycare back home. And, for the most part, they do really well. However, these kids are not really in “school” unlike the U.S. In Ecuador, kids don’t really start school till 5 or 6, and working with the 4-year-olds feels a lot like working with 3-year-olds back home. The 4-year-old class had a very rigorous schedule in the U.S., while here, the only thing set in stone is lunch and recess. A lot of the lessons are done on the spot by the teachers (which I always find very impressive).

The teacher I work with is always attentive and kind, and has always tried to include me. I immediately felt very welcomed and supported. In the U.S., my first few weeks were emphasized with strict rules and expectations for me, the children, and many, many training videos. I haven’t received any explicit training from this new school. Part of me doesn’t mind it, since I’ve already done around 14 hours of just training videos back in the U.S. However, it was a stark contrast from what I was used to.

I also have found that the community has a much deeper connection to the school than I have seen parents have back in the states. They often stay to help clean up after school. They even come to paint on days off to revamp the blacktop with hopscotch and murals for the kids. In my daycare the parents were always so busy I don’t think they could muster up the energy to do something like that even if they wanted to. Also, in the U.S., more often than not I notice PTAs more often doing monetary-based work and less hands-on labor.

I’ve heard from my host family that since this is a public school that guarantees free education, I would be dealing with a lot of kids from difficult homes. I will say that there have certainly been hard days, but nothing that seemed any more difficult than my days in the U.S. I have definitely found my rhythm within the school, and feel very supported by the staff, and very excited for the future!

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