Friday, May 18, 2012

Profe Emma

Do you like my drawings on the whiteboard behind them? This
was a game to quiz them on body parts!
Yesterday I was back in Pampa Aceituno. The Bolivian school system seems a bit strange– I still haven't quite figured it out. The right term for it may be laid back– or at least in the rural school of Pampa Aceituno. For example, yesterday when we arrived at 8:30, thirty minutes after school is supposed to start, the children were all milling around on the huge concrete slab that serves as a playground. There were no teachers to be seen. In fact, there were no teachers anywhere. Lise and I were the only "adults" (I don't like calling myself an adult) on sight. After playing with the kids for ten of fifteen minutes, a group of older students asked me if I would teach them English until their teacher arrived. So, that is what I did. When the teacher did walk into the classroom around 9:00 (I never found out why they were all late) she let me keep teaching English for the next hour. These kids know basically no English. I was teaching them phrases like, "Hello, what is your name?" And words like girl, boy, cat, dog. It was a high school flashback as I was using the teaching method of my foreign language teachers, meaning I was mainly using gestures but also making the kids get up and move around to act out the words. ¡Gracias, Señor Parrett!
One of the classrooms. As you can, it is very simple.
At first, it was very shocking that these students have such a limited knowledge of English, but when I think about it, it makes sense. All the countries surrounding Bolivia are Spanish speaking and most of the tourists that come to Bolivia are proficient in Spanish. There is almost no reason to learn English. Even outside the school system, no one speaks English to me. In tourist information booths, restaurants and even the airport it is all Spanish. This was a shock, coming from Southeast Asia where everybody and their mother was trying to learn English and was beyond eager to practice with any foreigner they met. Or saw. Really, I was often approached by strangers and would have ten or twenty minute long conversations. So to only be spoken to in Spanish, was (is?) a difficult transition. But it is good for me, because it means I am basically completely immersed in Spanish.  Southeast Asia flashback: over. Back to Bolivia and Pampa Aceituno: at 10:00 the kids have recess so my English class was dismissed. I went back to the library and helped do inventory and label books. But this didn't last for long since one of the students in an upper grade approached me and requested that I go teach the 7th graders' English. So, I got to play profe again. This time I taught body parts– again making the kids move around– I tried to make it as interactive and fun as possible. I hope that everyday I go to Pampa Aceituno I get to teach English because I really enjoyed it and felt so useful!

Oh, I never finished my explanation of why the Bolivian school system confuses me. I don't think
Students walking back home... hoping some sort of truck will
drive by so they can get a free ride instead of walking for an
hour plus.
there is really a zoning plan for the schools. There are kids that live in Sucre who go to Pampa Aceituno for school, even though there are plenty of public schools right in the city. I asked Lise why these children travel twenty-five minutes everyday to go to this small and isolated school way up in the mountains. She told me the reason is because Pampa Aceituno is cheaper. I still don't fully understand, but I guess that the schools in the city require students to have more supplies than rural schools, such as Pampa Aceituno, do. It is hard to believe that families have to send their children to a school much further away because they require less books and pencils. I don't know for sure, but it seems like the public schools in Sucre are more organized and may offer a better education than the rural schools do, but again: I have no idea if this is actually true. In Bolivia, public school's tuition may be free, but supplies aren't– and this can be the limiting factor to a child's education. It is a terrible realization but unfortunately, it is the truth; that is just how impoverished some families are.

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