Monday, August 8, 2011

Thursday, August 4th

Composting with an agronomist – We hiked down the trail that went past Josefina’s house and kept walking on the road to. It was about a 30-40 minute walk to Vizichu Elementary School that has its own garden. Today, we went there with a local agronomist who taught the kids and us how to make compost for the garden. We and a bunch of the boys carried a 100 pound bag of wheat husks over next to the garden, and then dug up dirt from behind the school. After breaking up a pile of coal and a bag of manure with shovels and sticks, we mixed it all together. The ingredients were: dirt, wheat husks, coal, ash, melted molasses, and yeast mixed with water. Then we covered it up with black plastic. Marcelino (the agronomist) said that this is a recipe from Japan.
After the compost was all mixed up, we sang songs and played futbol with the kids. Then the principal and another teacher brought a big pot of atol (a sort of hot milk made from corn) and all the kids got a cup of it and they gave us all some adn we all just hung out and drank atol before heading home for the day. After we left, one little boy followed us for about half a mile and several others joined him as well.

Workshop planning time – Each group of three went into a different room and planned for the teacher workshop tomorrow. My group: Carol Ann, Susanna, and I were assigned to share some strategies for teaching reading, writing, and vocabulary.

Teacher “intercambio” – We met with a panel of teachers and directors from IMEBCO, IDSI, San Gaspar, and one other “primeria” in the Chajul area. Six people showed up for this, which is admirable because they were not paid to be there. The discussion started out slowly, but started to pick up after a couple questions & answers. We asked them how long middle school has existed here, and they said since 1994. We also asked when the national curriculum mandate began and how that has affected the schools. They said that the curriculum requires so many different subjects be taught that there is no way to do a good job with any of it. They also said that it changes every time an election happens and new people are in charge. The way they hold schools accountable is by coming to the school and interviewing kids about the classes they’re taking and what they’re learning. They asked questions about how we approach bilingual education, how indigenous people are treated, how much teachers get paid… It was a rich discussion where we all agreed that even though we have very different resources, we face many of the same challenges like motivating students to learn, teaching everything the government expects us to teach, figuring out how to respect students’ cultures while teaching them the base language of the country.

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