Photo: Boy with notebook, Ccotatóclla
Written Thursday, July 22
What impact can our small project have at the school? In a ten-day period, class has been cancelled for the kindergarten 3 days so that the kindergarten teacher could attend two trainings and a festival. The 3rd-4th grade teacher has been out sick seven days, with no sub to be found, so Martin and I each spent a day teaching her class. The 1st-2nd grade teacher took two days off (for training and festival.) The director, who teaches the 5th-6th grade class, was only out one day (for the festival) but frankly her instruction left the most to be desired; she tends to write potentially helpful things on the board with no explanation or integration; the kids’ homework makes no sense and gets nothing but a rubber stamp.
This high level of instability leads to choppy instruction, and our project was already going to be very short-term even if we had had ten complete days to realize it with the help of fully engaged teachers.
Still, we have piloted our first hands-on, Quechua language curriculum kit, and I think we have accomplished a couple of important things for teachers and kids.
The most important thing is, I persuaded the youngest teacher to leave the teacher’s compound and have supper with the family that is hosting me. The teacher and my comadre chatted in Quechua for hours about everything from school to personal life. Afterwards she told me she realized that making connections with the townsfolk could really transform her work. Too often, teachers who come in from the outside stick to themselves and see the parents as adversaries. The most successful native language instructor in the area has shown that when teachers cultivate alliances with community members, everyone benefits.
We took the youngest teacher out walking in the mountains and shared many meals together. I videotaped a model class with Martin leading activities, and then videotaped the youngest teacher so she could critique her own work, which she watched with great interest.
The second most important thing is, we spent four intensive days in two of the classrooms, engaging kids in outdoor experiences which they then wrote and read about in Quechua, in a variety of modes (lists of things found, words to describe the feeling and smell of the things when hidden from sight; numbers, dimensions and dates, stories made up by groups and individuals on the spot.) One day was simply spent listening to kids read aloud from their journals and from books in their native language. I showed the kids a video of kids from the next town over reading aloud from books (where native language education is thriving) wearing their traditional clothing as they do for the three days per week when instruction is in Quechua. The kids in Ccotatóclla were dying to show that they, too, can read in Quechua, and they were dying to get their hands on books in their native language, which they borrowed, read cover-to-cover and returned. Martin and I brought along a dozen books for them, but more importantly we told the youngest teacher how she can get more from the Ministry of Education.
Tomorrow is the closing celebration of our project and we have invited children to come with their parents, dressed in traditional clothing, to read from their journals and books and celebrate our project together, and to be photographed and videotaped.