Monday, July 21, 2014

An Update From Guatemala

I am now beginning my second (and last) week of my Guatemalan experience.  Here are some of the most recent highlights:
1. It turns out that the elementary school I am teaching at is one of the two public schools in town (there are several private schools).  The school draws a portion of its population from an extremely impoverished area of town.  My visit overlapped with a church group who has made a multi-year concerted effort to address some of the needs of this population.  The good news is that I learned through the church group that efforts to move those students to a brand-new school were vetoed by parents who are happy with the quality of education that their children are receiving.  I agree based on the fact that first graders are able to fluently add and subtract multi digit numbers alone.

2. Since the elementary school lets out at 12:30, I volunteered my services to several of the local secondary schools.  All of these schools are private and cost between $25 and $40 a month.  Each class is only about 35 minutes as students take up to ten classes a day.  I had the privilege of sitting in on a communications class and was amazed that the students were able to deliver oral presentations (on famous Guatemalan figures, I think) sans notes or PowerPoint.

3. One of the local teachers that helped coordinate the trip teaches a class on Saturdays to the most promising students across the state of Chiquimula.  He asked the group to come in and help the students  practice their speaking skills.  Again I was impressed by the students, especially those who travel three hours each way to get there every Saturday ( the roads are in poor condition and it' s a very mountainous area, making travel difficult and time consuming).  Students that are selected for the program are on full scholarship, including transportation.  This program is part of the many efforts being made by churches, private foundations and the government to improve the quality of education in Guatemala.

4. Here's an interesting observation: students in public school do not wear uniforms, but teachers do (they wear a different color polo shirt each day of the week).  In private schools, teachers and students wear uniforms.

5. I had the opportunity to visit the Mayan Ruins in Copan, Honduras over the weekend.  I posted some pictures below.

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