I’m so lucky in so many ways… love, career, family, travel, …

A silly stroke of luck again came my way last week. At ICPNA Cusco, where I teach English part time, the teachers are not supposed to wear jeans or sneakers. My boss has devoted ample time to this, but I keep flaunting that particular rule anyway.

The other day as I walked up to the main office my boss looked at me up and down, clearly not approving of my jeans and sneakers, when one of the academic coordinators sort of barged in among a bunch of teachers who were there and said…

“… Ward, I just have to tell you, one of my former students is now in your class and she just told me how happy the entire class is to have you, and what a great teacher you are…”

A few of the teachers and I sort of played it down “you sure they were talking about me?” but I know my boss took notice. Thank you Rosanna !!!!

ESL students and me, in jeans and sneakers

ESL students and me, in jeans and sneakers

Now I don’t wear jeans and sneakers to be difficult, but because:

  • At age 35 I’m now officially a middle age white guy and my old suits don’t fit very well any more 😦
  • I try to teach all my students to be rebels

Although I love Peru there are a lot of issues here, such as poverty, corruption, prejudice, environmental protections, protection of land for indigenous people, etc. I tell all my students to be rebels, stop accepting the status quo, if they want a better Peru they are the ones to make it better.

So I am a rebel, I try to lead by example, I wear jeans and sneakers to let my boss know there are more important issues to address than the kind of clothes people are wearing.

Thanks Rosanna, and thanks Silvana!!

Goals and dreams – of a 12 year old

I gave my ESL students a writing exercise, write about “your goals and dreams”. This is from a 12 year old girl, unedited:

“When I was 6 years old my goals was be the president of Peru to change Peru, because Peru in the past was horrible and destroyed by other presidents…”

And a few other excerpts:

“Now I’m 12 years old… I plan to collect a lot of money to construct a big house … I plan to buy other house to give to my parents, because they did anything to me.”

Maybe I’m being sentimental because we’re getting ready to have our own baby soon, but I thought that was worth sharing.

Last day of class

The school where I teach English (ESL) is on a monthly schedule, like many of the private institutes here in Cusco. Last day of class is typically quite an experience and yesterday was no exception. This month my schedule was in the afternoon, when most students are teenagers, and here’s how it all went down:

  • I arrive about five minutes before class starts, when the students are feverishly copying each other’s workbooks. In true Peruvian fashion, they generally ignore my daily reminders not to wait until the last minute.
  • We get in the class and all the 15 year old girls pretend to really like me, tell me I’m the best teacher ever.
  • I go over everything that’s on the final exam. Most students ignore me entirely and instead make a feeble last-minute attempt at studying for the exam.
  • I hand out the exams and someone promptly asks me to explain the very same question that I was giving them the answers to about 30 seconds earlier… At that point I can’t help them because I’m busy tracking down the one student who tried to steal an extra copy of the test so he can sell it at Molino later.
C.C. Molino, a place full of pirated CDs, movies and ESL tests...

C.C. Molino, a place full of pirated CDs, movies and ESL tests...

I wish I hadn’t said that…

After I snatched the exam back from the kid who tried to make a profit of extra exam copies, one girl gave me a mean look because I wouldn’t explain to her the very same thing I was talking about a few minutes earlier… and that’s when I told her exactly how I felt. In no uncertain terms I explained to her this is my “fun job”, that I get paid as much to teach the class for an entire month as I used to make in 3 hours and that she better not give me any grief because it’s not worth it to me.

Shame on me 😦

Then I went home, graded the exams and saved the grades on a diskette. You read that right, a diskette. Some fool in IT conned the “Directors” into believing diskettes are somehow safer than email.

Teacher… I have to have a really good grade or else my family will…

When some kid fails class, it’s often a huge problem in their families. I wish someone would explain to parents here that it makes no sense to send their kid to the next class – where they won’t learn a thing – if they haven’t mastered the fundamentals in the class before. The point isn’t to get some arbitrary grade, but to be able to express your ideas in a new language.

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with your knowledge that matters.”

My best friend, Bert, used to tell me that, and he did more to bring an end to the Cold War than Pope John Paul II. It took me years before I actually started to believe him.

Here in Cusco kids study a lot of things, but they often don’t apply what they know. Many families want their kids to bring home good grades and fancy certificates from institutes all over Cusco, but none of that matters unless you actually apply what you’ve learned.

Overall I really enjoy teaching English. Most students like me because I’m a gringo, and for that same reason I can get away with flaunting all the petty rules our “Directors” make. Instead of teaching my kids good old fashioned values like the Directors want, I play loud rock ‘n roll music in class and tell them all to be rebels, not to accept the status quo in Peru but to fight against poverty, prejudice and the injustice of “haves vs. have nots” in society.

Then I walk out, smile at the old ladies who run the place and say “hola chicas”. Bert would be proud.

IPCNA Cusco ESL teachers blog

I finally got around to putting some content on the new ICPNA teachers’ blog. Since I’ve had good luck using this blog in my classes our academic director and I decided to start a blog for use by the ICPNA teachers as a group. Here are the links:

ESL teaching is my “fun job” here in Peru, I’m by no means an expert in the field. So please, visit the blog and contribute your ideas!


My ESL students at ICPNA in front of the Qoricancha in Cusco, Peru

My ESL students at ICPNA in front of the Qoricancha in Cusco, Peru

Stories and traditions in Cusco – ICPNA AV2 writing exercise.

This is the writing exercise for AV2 9:05 at Icpna Cusco.

The Cusco area has a rich history with many great traditions, myths and legends. In the comments to this post, write a story about any of the legends or traditions in our area or Peru in general. This can be a well known story (e.g. origin of Cusco, Señor de Huanca, etc) or a story only you know (e.g. someone in your family who believes they saw a ghost). I especially like the less well known stories, the kind that a typical tourist would not hear about.

Make it interesting and entertaining. Above all, use your own words!!! Everyone in the class writes one story, but you get extra points for commenting on your classmates entries (or any other entries on this blog).


Starting a business in Cusco, Peru (ICPNA I-12)

Since I’m teaching about business in my current class at ICPNA, I decided to start a class project to open a coffee shop on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. We already have a McDonalds in Cusco and will soon have a Starbucks, so let’s give them some competition.

Our fictional business will be a fancy coffee shop with yummie breakfast, snacks, etc. We will have wireless internet, friendly service and a hip atmosphere.

Here’s what I need from my team, that is, the class:

  • Ideas for names.
  • Ideas on how to set the place up (decorations, themes, uniforms, ….)
  • What kind of things we will sell.
  • Legal stuff: how to set up a legal entity (EIRL, SA).
  • Financial plan and accounting policies. Let’s not get in trouble with SUNAT or my uncle Alan Garcia.
  • Marketing plan.
  • A good location in anywhere in beautiful downtown Cusco Peru.
  • Employees, employee manuals, policies, procedures, …
  • Ideas on how to reward our employees.
  • Policies / ideas to prevent theft from customers and employees.
  • Suppliers: where to get good food, coffee, drinks, ice cream,…. Also furnishings and furniture to open our place.
  • Lobbyist to have lunch with the mayor and governor of Cusco once a month.
  • Business plan.
  • Exit strategy, meaning, what to do if our business doesn’t work out.
  • Any other advice or items I’ve overlooked.

Write at least 2 or 3 comments before the end of our class next Friday 9/26!!!! Any thoughts and ideas are welcome, explain/justify your ideas.


My I-12 class at ICPNA

My I-12 class at ICPNA