Monday, June 27, 2011

School Visit

So we took our first trip to a Pervian public school on Thursday. The idea was that we'd be in groups of 2-3 and observe how classes are taught and managed, compare it to the US public school system,  and then maybe play a few "ice breaker" type games.

As you can see, the school is has a great vista (view), and believe it or not, the elementary school has an even better view. However, among politics and the weather, complaining about the public school system seems to be pretty common. Take your pick of any problem you can think of, but the ones most mentioned seem to be over-crowding, poor home environments, unmotivated teachers, or underpaid teachers.

Now this being the first school I've observed, there were a few things that stood out to me. First, all the kids wear uniforms. Second, the walls are pretty much bare. No colorful displays or bright colors, just bland, chipping paint. Thrid, the director (principal) was nowhere in sight, even though 15 gringos just charged into the school (apparently it had been planned for a few weeks, but they were still surprised). Four, the lack of enthusiasm form the teacher, and the excitement from the kids.

We arrived at the school and were sent into different classrooms as groups of 3-4 to observe. As we waited for the teacher to show up, we killed time introducing ourselves, and playing a few ice breakers. Then after about 30 minutes, the teeacher still hadn't appeared. Apparently, he had seen us in the classroom, and assumed that he could leave. Our trainer, had to get him to stop sending phone texts, to join the class. When he did, he just sat at his desk and didn't try to teach. So then again our trainner had to explain that we were to observe him teach, so we could ask a few questions later. He explained that the class was about to end, but got up and had the kids copy notes off the board (for no more than 3 minutes) before the bell rang (Needless to say, this is a good example of a bad teacher, but isn't representative of all teachers. Other volunteers reported observing very good teachers, making the most of what little they had).

After his class was over, we sat down to talk to him for a few minutes, untill he got bored and gave us strong non-verbal signals that he was done. Basically he shared that: the kids are hard to teach because they come from difficult homes, the teachers a mandated to teach certain things and have to have their lesson plans reviewed daily by the director, the teachers have to pay for any materials they use in their classroom, and that kids that don't get the lessons are generally have a low intellect therefore are only given half the assignment.

The kids on the other hand were a real treat. At first, the boys were rowdy and the girls were shy. However, within a few minutes, they were very attentive and followed our lead very well. We played a game where they needed to tell us two truths and one lie (with other trying to guess the lie), and a team building game where they needed to work as a team to untie themselves from "the human knot". After these games we went into a little exchange where they shared about their culture and schooling, while asking us about the USA and ourselves. They seemed real interested in me knowning how to ski, but they  where more interested in break dancing. 

Here I am in the class. Notice the uniforms and them minimal amount of materials in the classroom. These kids were between 12 and 14 years old, and it seemed like a far cry from what I've been use to seeing in the US public schools. 

This is the only art work I saw on the wall. Interestingly enough, it was addressing the issue of global warming.