As part of my study abroad program, not only will I be required to take two classes (Medical Anthropology & Medical Spanish) but I will also be working in a community health placement of my program director’s choosing three days a week for about four hours. My professor has assigned me to work at CORAL, Centro Oaxaqueño de Rehabilitación de Audición y Lenguaje, for the month I am here in Oaxaca. CORAL is a non-profit organization that works to provide a variety of services to hearing impaired Oaxaquenos. They provide prevention and early detection of hearing loss, clinical care, complete audiological speech and hearing therapies, and preschool to hearing impaired children.
Today I met with the director, Raul, and some of the teachers of the preschool and learned that I will be working as a type of teacher’s aid during my time here. The preschool has kids as young as three and as old as six. CORAL splits the kids into two groups based on age, and I will be working most closely with the five and six year olds. A lot of the kids have already learned how to sign as their primary form of communication, so alongside Spanish I will be learning LSM (lengua de señas mexicana) or Mexican sign language.
I am a little wary about working with these kids because I have no background in special education or education in general. Also I have never had any interaction with young kids before, so I’m not sure how to treat them. In addition to my personal fears about my lack of teaching experience, I am worried about a negative global impact. Before departure the Center for Global Studies warned all the service learning abroad students that they should be cautious about their impact in communities abroad. Many students think they are helping a community because they volunteer abroad, but in fact their “help” can sometimes be detrimental, and I feel this is glaringly true in my case. I’m worried that my time with these kids will be disadvantageous to them. I feel as though they will either be distracted by a new presence in the classroom, and that will setback their learning progress or I will teach them something incorrect because of my inadequate mastery of the Spanish language. Mostly I just hope to stay out of the teacher’s way and try to learn as much as I can about how deafness is handled in an academic setting and compare the Mexican and the American educational systems.