Que pasó en mayo
Hello all! I´ve actually been pretty busy in May, but let me first vent a little bit with regard to the backwards priorities of the Guatemalan public school system. The school day begins around 8ish and goes until 12:15ish depending on the schools, and while this obviously is not enough time to teach anything, the school day doesn´t have to be a complete waste; the kids could actually learn a thing or two. Things are made more difficult by the Ministry of Education who decides to suffocate the teachers with actividades. In Guatemala for Dia de la Madre (Mother´s Day) schools invite the mothers to an activity at the school and the kids put on mini-performances to show their appreciation. I like the idea of Mother´s Day activities, but instead of using non-class time to rehearse the presentations, precious learning time is wasted so that the kids can ensayar (rehearse). So Jessica, wanting to be a productive volunteer, shows up to school ready to give her lessons and meet with the teachers, but instead ends up critiquing skits and dances. So second week in May gone, but one week wasted can be made up. The Ministry, with good intentions, then decided to have a artistic competition of sorts between schools of the same district. Each school was responsable for putting together and performing a theater skit, song, dance, and something else. The good intention here being that art is kind of a foreign concept to the Guatemalans I live near. Instead of a creative individual expression that uses the imagination, art here is the copying and coloring-in of disney characters. I remember the day I actually tried to explain this to some students because I just could no longer take having them proudly show me pictures that¨they drew¨ and seeing a copied picture of Mickey Mouse. The wording they use it key, the say ¨Mira Seño a mi dibujo,¨ and I would always say to myself, ´but you didn´t really draw that, and it´s not really yours because you copied it .´ I also couldn´t take it when I asked to kids to draw a picture of something they were visually familiar with but without giving them an example. Instead of using their imagination, they all looked at me paralyzed and said ¨Seño no puedo.¨ So one day I decided to break it to some kids that it really wasn´t their drawing because they copied it, and if they wanted to call something theirs they had to draw it without copying something else. The picture of Mickey Mouse is someone else`s picture. I know this sounds mean, and you´re probably thinking, Jess why can´t you just let the kids feel good about themselves. Well, after the first and second and third time I did let it go, but when you´re around it everyday you feel the need to correct them because if you don´t clearly there´s no one esle around who will tell them the real deal. It´s the same with the kids´cleanliness. If I were to go around everyday and not tell the kids they were dirty, they would never recognize that they´re dirty, and thus would never clean themselves. So obviously the kids didn´t really understand me, and obviously in Guatemala art still means copying other pictures, but I tried - that´s all you can really do in the Peace Corps. So the Ministry has the very good intention of trying to initiate artistic expression in the kids via a healthy competition, but what happens? The teachers use class time to rehearse, and the kids only learn their lines. You also may be thinking, why can´t the teachers stay after school and rehearse with the children. Well, for one the teachers have no desire to stay after 12:30ish and would rather die before they miss their scheduled ride home, heaven forbid they have to wait for the next bus. Basically idea of putting in extra time to get the job done is a foreign concept. On a side note, I was asked to be the jurado calificador or judge for one of these contests. I judged teatro y cancion with two other judges, and the teachers (not the kids) were such sore loosers! The other judges made a joke earlier that they hoped the crowd wouldn´t lynch them for the judging results, I laughed, but after I realized that while the comment was an exaggeration he had reason to fear being hated. So anyway 3rd week of May gone. Finally I come upon the final week in May and hope to be somewhat productive and end the month on a strong note, but of course the Estadisticas! Estadisticas or statistics is a bunch of computerizred paperwork regardign the students that attend their school that each school has to fill out perfectly or else redo it. Talk about bureacratically inefficient paperwork! The teachers get so stressed out from the pressure of having to do it perfectly, that they literally can´t do anything else and end up canceling classes. Again you may ask, can´t the teachers do the work on the weekends or after school? No way! So May was a rough month in terms of productivity, but June isn´t looking any better. Already this week there´s no school tomorrow, Thursday and Friday because of some big teachers meeting. The following week the teachers have two trips planned just for their teacher activities and a convivio where they all get together and eat. So a 2-day week next week, and the following week the teachers have a week of for teachers week since it´s the middle of the school year. Then June´s over! Luckily in May I had some projects that kept me busy, one being giving two information workshops on HIV/AIDS and Trash Management to some high school kids, which went very well. Yesterday I gave a workshop to all my teachers on making lesson plans for the health lessons they have to give, how to be effective as a team, how to set goals and create agendas to achieve them, and how to uphold strong management and discipline in the classroom. The taller went from 8:00 to 3:30, and you bet the teachers were freaking out, but all in all it went very well and I feel that the teachers truly listen to and respect my opinions and suggestions. We´ll see if the ponerlo en practica (put it in practice). Next week I´ll also be participating in the GLOW camp again, and will be giving a workshop to adolescent girls about the importance of education and life-planning I guess you could say. We´ll see how that goes!