Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Guatemalan Private School Experience

I am into my second and final week of my Guatemalan teaching experience.  This year I am teaching at a private school.  Like the public schools in this area of Guatemala, the school day is only about four hours long.  In order to maximize the school building to its fullest potential, primera or grades K-6 meet in the morning and basico, or grades 7-9 meet in the afternoon.  I was told that students beyond ninth grade take courses at career academies or go straight into the workforce.  Students that desire a military career can take an exam for entry into a military academy.

Since the school day is short, so are the class periods.  The English classes meet for approximately thirty-five minutes.  Primera students study English two days a week and basico students study English three days a week.  There is no dedicated textbook for the younger students, so I have been teaching topics such as colors and parts of the body.  The students at my assigned school use Santillana's Friends series beginning in third grade.  On some days I teach up to eight different classes.

Like private schools in the United States, students at this school are responsible for the cost of tuition, books and uniforms.  These expenses add up to about $300 per year, a bargain by our standards, but out of reach for many average Guatemalans.  This Evangelical school has partnered with several churches in the United States in order to provide scholarships to those who would not otherwise be able to attend, as the public schools only go up to the sixth grade.

All in all, I am enjoying my experience.  Since I kept in contact with teachers that I met last year and have a better feel of the town, I have had the opportunity to enjoy many social outings with my Guatemalan counterparts.  These conversations have been rich and I have thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to increase my awareness of various educational systems.  My adventure down here will continue for another week or so.  In the meantime, continue enjoying your well-deserved break.

My Schedule
A Classroom

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Seventeen Year Old Sidekick

One thing about teaching in a small town in Guatemala is that I stick out like a sore thumb.  I met many teachers that literally stopped me on the street last year and this experience has repeated itself once again this year.  Last year I met one teacher in particular who spends part of the year living and working approximately twenty minutes from my house.  We met up last winter and he called me right before I left with good news and bad news.  The good news was that he arranged for me to be assigned to his school.  The bad news was that he had to return to the United States for a few months and cannot join me.  He assured me that he left in classes in good hands and that his daughter agreed to take over his classes.

Well it turns out that his daughter is seventeen years old.  She lived in the United States for thirteen years and had she stayed, she would have recently graduated from high school.  I worked with young teachers last year, but that was at an elementary school.  In this case, I am witnessing a teacher be an authority figure to individuals that are only a year younger than she is.  This individual only took over the classes last week and is a little lost as to how to plan a lesson.  She does not seem to mind the age difference, nor do the students.

While I am only here for a short time, my goal is to leave her with a few solid teaching strategies to add to her tool belt.  So far, I have covered the concepts of modeling and having students work in groups.  As I learn more about the expectations and operations of this particular school, I look forward to contributing more strategies.  I also look forward to sharing more updates with you all, so do stay tuned.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Estoy Aqui

I have safely arrived in Guatemala.  I will be here for two weeks to tour, teach in a local school and practice my Spanish skills.  I will begin my official teaching assignment tomorrow.

Since my group's first weekend here was unstructured, I decided to get a head start on teaching.  When I visited this town last summer, I made some connections with the locals and acquired many new Facebook followers.  Through social media, I learned that English classes for adults were recently established and volunteered my skills there.  I met over thirty individuals who signed up for the classes, the majority of those being fellow educators.  They were a delightful group to work with and I look forward to going back next week.

This year's teaching assignment is at a private school.  I am eager to find out how it compares to the public school that I taught at last summer.  As I make these observations, I will be sure to share them with you all.  In the meantime, enjoy your summer.  In a few short weeks, it's back to the trenches.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Is Arne Duncan Losing His Star Power?

While educators may be on a well-deserved summer break, politics in our nation's capital continues as usual.  I came across this article about Arne Duncan's dwindling influence in The Washington Post. While I will not hold my breath about realistic and common sense education policy coming back in the near future, this does give me hope.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Those of you living in one of the thirty two states (plus the District of Columbia) that are members of the WIDA Consortium may have heard that the test is moving online in 2016. WIDA recently released online sample items.  They cover all four domains and all grade bands.  It probably won't be my first day of school activity, but perusing through the questions definitely motivated me to make scheduling student practice time a priority this upcoming school year.  You can check them out on the WIDA blog.