Settling In, Maybe

3 09 2009

I don’t know whether I want to do this right now or not, but I did say I was going to post some more tonight.

I got out yesterday and wandered around for a couple of hours.  However, I didn’t feel free to get off of the streets that I knew led by the house.  I can’t get a map here.  I didn’t see another foreigner at all, and they tell me that is usual.  I found the farmer’s market, and wandered through there a little while.  That is something I have found fascinating since the first minute that Roberto in Bolivia led us past the front entrance and we peeked inside.  That’s where you see people in traditional dress … it’s where you see all the unique, authentic (not tourist-oriented) places where the native people buy the necessaries of life … it’s where you kinda want to hold your breath as you walk past the fresh-butchered meat (here they’re sitting shooing flies off of it) … it just leaves me feeling that I have reached the heart of the city, that and the plaza.  I think that this place really is much smaller than any Latin American place I have seen so far.  And I did not encounter one single … anything oriented towards outsiders.  At least there shouldn’t be too many shopping temptations!  Sharon does tell me that this is a great place to buy fabric, though.  And I’m kind of thinking about just doing my Christmas shopping in Guatemala!

(For future reference … the two “senior missionaries”(?) are Lee and Sharon.  Their son and daughter-in-law, James and Rachel, are pretty much in charge of the school, and Maria is the other single girl out here.)

Someone asked me by email if I’m teaching English or Spanish.  The school here accepts children between 6 and 8 years old, teaches them English, and also teaches all the other subjects primarily in English.  I am not “in charge” of anything, but I’m supposed to end up helping with this and that.  So far (two days) they’ve just pretty much had me observing.

Yesterday Rachel suggested I start going through the “Procedures Manual” of ACE teaching.  ACE is Accelerated Christian Education, and it is one of the most despicable educational programs invented in the last several decades.  But I didn’t mean to say so.  So, yeah, it’s a great program and everything.  In fact, the manual promises that if you will learn and apply the principles therein, you will inevitablysucceed in educating the youngsters!!! Wow!!!!  They’ve apparently even trademarked the name “Escuela del futuro” – “School of the future”!!!!!  So why isn’t everybody using it?? 

I have no intention of criticizing the teachers.  They’re very committed.  I believe they have a gift for education.  They’ve made it clear that they would like for me to consider filling a permanent need.  But they’ve also made it clear that they value their double accreditation – not just with the Association of Christian Schools Something-or-other, but with ACE.  And I just cannot consent to handcuff myself to something like this. 

I mean, they don’t have flexibility in their decisions if they want this inevitable success.  It appears that they have to cut their wrists and sign with their own blood that they will have personal desks for each student in the prescribed manner, and that students (instead of raising their hands) will raise the national flag for academic questions and the Christian flag for all other questions, or whichever way around it goes.  (I suppose I should just be glad that it says “national” rather than “American” flag.  And yes, I did add this parenthesis primarily for Manuel’s enjoyment.)  And it might be confusing to students if they learned “A is for apple” one year and “A is for antelope” the next.  So STICK TO THE BOOK!  (So why don’t we just go back to “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all”?)  Fine.  But without me, please.

Don’t get me wrong.  Two months of being a helper is fine.  I believe that they have at least considered  letting me work with students for whom success is not proving so inevitable.  I love tutoring, and if I don’t see that starting to happen, I might drop a comment that way to tilt the scale.  I know that some students are needing individualized help outside the classroom.  But just don’t dream of asking me to subscribe to the idea that someone back in 1977 came up with a math course that would suit every student with an IQ between 60 and 120 or so for the next … well, forever, I guess.  I did notice that copyright date on one of the PACEs, although some are more recent.  I would be disloyal, I know, within the first week.  So they’ll just have to keep it to themselves.  Besides, I haven’t even been to church here yet, and I still like Bolivia way better.

I guess I have got my little rant out, and I need to think about bed.  It’s only a quarter to nine, but I need to catch up a little.  I do want to reaffirm that I appreciate what the missionaries are doing.  They’re quite willing to do what it takes to teach.  James gets out in the middle of the floor every morning and leads the kindergarteners in a series of alphabet songs with the most ridiculous actions .. they play like apes, and ducks, and emus, and antelopes … but not apples.

P.S. x 2.  1. I will just apologize once and for all for any atrocious spelling/grammatical/homonymmistakes.  (Oh, brother … I just ran spell-check and found I spelled that “honomym.”)  I have to type this stuff in a small window, and I don’t always have or take the time to proofread much.  2. I exaggerated about the signing in blood part … the flags aren’t on the list of absolutely-necessary-for-accreditation part; it just sounded better.  (Like George Younce and Gerald Wolfe … That didn’t really happen; I made that up.)  😀  And they’re strongly recommended.

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6 responses

4 09 2009
Jerry Smartt

Querida Amata,
Me das mucha risa…jajajajajajaja. ¡Tienes un sentido de humor captante!Me gusta que empieces en el mercado/la plaza. Me encanta la crítica del sistema educativo. No tienes que sentirte avergonzada ni el deseo de pedir permiso ni perdón. Lo que estás viendo es una metodología anticuada que, francamente, no funciona muy bien. Pero, como dices, “ni modo.” Vas a ayudar a los que no aguantan ni sobreviven esta metodología. Y más que nada, vas a aprender mucho….muchísimo. Lo formidable de todo esto es que ya tienes en tu mente como debe de ser la enseñanza porque has tomado dos cursos de metodología, has participado en dos prácticas y has disfrutado de otra experiencia en otro país. Estás usando los 5 “C’s “: comunicación, cultura, conección, comparación y comunidad. ¡Qué suerte tienes tú de poder “vivir” la presencia o la ausencia de estas 5 ideas importantes…

Repito….me invitas a reírme con tus palabras… ☺ ☺ ☺

JSmartt

4 09 2009
AmyR

Si fuera Mark Twain te diria lo que pienso de verdad! 😉

4 09 2009
AmyR

I guess I should be more clear. I am alternately quite pleased and quite disappointed. I’m frustrated by the one-size-fits-all approach of the curriculum, but I’m very pleased with the way the teachers approach learning.

Even within the curriculum, they’ve incorporated a lot of new things I like … music, actions, decent phonics (I’m really no expert on that myself) … surely other things too, if I could think! But it’s the egotistical idea that they could create lesson plans for everyday from kindergarten to 12th grade which will “inevitably” produce success in every child, whether in Kansas, California, Guatemala, or South Africa.

The school here is thoroughly redeemed by two things: This is far better than the children’s other options, and the children are truly learning. There are so many children in the public schools here that half attend from 8 to 1, and half in the afternoon. (This school runs only from 8 to 1, in accord with that.) It is a madhouse, according to Sharon, who has visited one. The teachers, rather than having anything like textbooks for the children, so if the youngsters don’t take the initiative and copy all the material from the board, they can’t study it. And the children here are enjoying themselves, learning an astounding amount of English, and performing perhaps even better than US public school children; I don’t know.

I just know that I personally would be frustrated in a week if I had to voluntarily refrain from making changes to improve the learning experience; if I had to refuse to give the children the best education I could give them.

5 09 2009
AmyR

I got this comment by email, and I trust the author won’t mind if I post it here anonymously. I thought it was very much worth sharing with you all!

Dear Amy:
How interesting for you seeing the diversity of Latin America from the Mexico that people think of around here, to Bolivia, and now to Guatemala. You’re seeing that us Latinos do not all look alike, eat the tacos and enchiladas and hot sauce, dress alike and the countries are not all alike. The only same, same is the mercados, the plaza’s, and the Catedral always located at the center on one side the plaza.

7 10 2009
notsoace

I’m fascinated to see a Latin American take on ACE. I’m in the UK and I think it’s appalling. So bad, I’ve set up a blog specifically about it. So it’s encouraging to me that people in other countries feel the same.

9 10 2009
AmyR

Thanks for the comment! I should make it clear that I’m an American, only looking in from the outside at the Latin American usage.

And I have to admit that the school here is functioning far above the level of almost all the other available education here, public and private. I just hate to let good be the enemy of better.

(Oh, and sorry … I disagree with you on the Christianity thing in your last post. That’s all I had time to check out. But I’ll never use ACE, I hope!)

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