Friday, August 5, 2011

Monday, August 1st

Library Move – We went to the current library and took a look at the space, books, and furniture that we would be moving into the new space. Next we walked to the new space and discussed ideas for arranging it all. Then the move began! Before lunch we moved everything except for two book cases with glass doors on the front. The fairly intense rain did not make the process any easier, but we are quickly learning that “lluvia” is just a part of everyday life here. We did have to be careful about not letting books get wet because if one starts to mold, then they all get it and have to be thrown out. Apparently book mold spreads here like the common cold in a kindergarten class in the U.S.!

Photo: Old library...

Photos: New library (amazing view of valley hills out those windows - very rare to have a view here!)... 

Photo: Moving a bookshelf...

Melissa drew the base design for a welcome mural in the entry hallway – it’s going to look amazing! Also I suggested a sort of bleachers for the story corner so that they will be able to fit more kids in a smaller space and they will all still be able to see the book being read aloud and said that if it was within reason and they wanted it, that I would pay for it. I think they liked it.

Visit to San Gaspar Basico (aka Middle School) – After lunch we broke into two groups and each went to visit a different middle school. My group (Susanna, Carol Ann, Jake, Katie, and Aracely the librarian) went the private school, San Gaspar. First the “director” told us about the history of the school and how he just started it up a few years ago and how before that there really was no school available for kids that age. He told us that that what set his school apart was that he and his teachers believe in and teach critical thinking skills, and not just rote memory of information. He sounded very passionate about wanting to make a difference for the youth of Chajul.

We went to a classroom, but didn’t get to see any teaching. They were reviewing for exams, and there wasn’t really a lesson going on. So, we sat at the front of the orderly dirt-floored classroom, with students in desks around the perimeter, introduced ourselves, and took questions from the kids. The rain poured down as we answered questions such as: What is the language difference between Boston and New York? Is everyone in the USS rich? Does each state have its own laws? Is it illegal to be homosexual in the US? Interesting questions, but we didn’t learn a ton about how they learn. After class was over however, we talked with a different teacher at length about curriculum and teaching methods. We got the most interesting responses form two other teachers there though when asked, “What made you decide to teach?” One said two reasons – 1) to make a difference for children in Chajul and 2) to earn better money than if he didn’t teach. The other, a quiet man with an interestingly quiet and calm yet intense way of speaking, told his life story in an explanation about his passion for making things better for kids here than it was for him. Because he grew up not knowing Spanish, school was very difficult for him. Back then the teachers were from other areas and did not know Ixil, so everything was taught in Spanish, making it difficult to fully understand explanations of new concepts. He wants the future kids of Chajul to have better chances for getting an education, more choices about what to do with their lives, and better opportunities to not live in poverty, but to remain residents of Chajul.

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