Saturday, June 4, 2011

The End!

The Final Departure!
(Clockwise from Top Left): Jen P., Jen O., Hanna W., Greg S., Alice R, Maya L., Emily C., and Lisa B.

It's hard to believe that not too long ago, we were embedded in the world of Honduras and all things El Rosario. The Antioch teachers worked hard and accomplished so many things and I, for one, am extremely grateful. It is certain that those lovely, hardworking teachers that we left behind in Honduras are also very grateful, and are excited to teach new things in their classrooms. They have gathered new tools, expanded their knowledge of the development of their students, and have their very own box of brand new books! We have also learned a great deal from them, and my hope is that we will continue to discover all the many ways that we have been touched by this experience for years to come.

The Spontaneous Dance Party in the Rain!

A brand new committee was formed on this trip. Raulito, Lupe and Marilin energetically greeted us and bid us adios everyday, every hour, every minute that we had to pass by their home- whether we were in the truck or on foot. We have officially named them The Welcoming Committee And we will miss them very much.

ADIOS, Hasta Prontisimo!

Winding Down!

Thursday, 26 de Mayo
As I write, it’s raining! The thunder is booming, and a light rain is blanketing El Rosario. This is a blessing, as it has been a dry start to the rainy season, and the farmers are ready to plant their crops. We’d just returned from a sweltering hot lunch celebration at the Centro when the rain started to fall, so we had ourselves a spontaneous dance party in the front yard! Now we are on the porch, looking at photos from the past two weeks, laughing and reliving all of the amazing moments we’ve experienced here. Images of such beautiful faces smiling back at us, delighted to be sharing their classrooms, games, songs and laughter.

Today, Team Monster (me, Jen P and Maya) went to El Rosario Kinder. Yuliana had introduced the Kingdom of Silence to her class yesterday, which is a PIALI technique we learned at the workshop in San Pedro Sula. She’d also made a glorious crown to wear while being the Queen of the Kingdom of Silence! I got to be Queen while I read Where the Wild Things Are to the kids. They loved it. 

We then had them color a scene from the book that Maya and Jen had traced onto paper and copied. That was great fun. After that, we played Simon Says (Simon dice), London Bridges, Duck Duck Goose, Ring Around the Rosy, and sang a few songs. While we were in the Kinder, the older kids were crowding around and had to be shooed away a few times when it became too much of a circus.

Team Ladybug (Emily, Ana, and Gregorio) went to Tecuan, where they were surprised to find that Digna’s class was closed today, so they spent the morning with the Tecuan Kinder. They read the Lady Bug story, practicing numbers with their fingers while reading the story. They also counted animals in the book, and sang the Sesame Street numbers song.

We reunited at the Centro for a big lunch with all the teachers. After heaping plates of arroz con pollo y tortillas, we played Keep It Up with a balloon, which was a huge hit (gracias a Ana!). Emily then led us in blindfolded shoulder taps, which is a way to show appreciation to one another anonymously. I then described the lesson plan notebooks and book inventory folders that will live in each Traveling Library box. The teachers will have all of our activities and lessons from the past two weeks in the folders, and can write their own lesson plans in the notebooks to share with one another. Maya led us in a rainstorm circle, starting us out with rubbing our hands together, then snapping, then light clapping, then harder clapping, leading up to hard clapping and feet stomping, and back down again. We consider this the good omen that brought the rain this afternoon!
To close, we gifted a book to each teacher, and then we all gathered outside on the Centro steps to take a group photo. All too quickly, it was time to say goodbye and wish everyone well. It was a sad moment for us Antioch teachers.

As we prepare to leave El Rosario tomorrow, the intoxicating smell of coffee wafts from the bunk house. Nelson delivered our coffee orders (in total we ordered around 50 POUNDS of coffee) and our sizable stashes of beans are gracing our bunk beds. The rain still falls gently but steadily, and we’re all just drinking it in. The sounds of village life in El Rosario- the roosters, pigs, cows, birds, children, and faint music- mixed with the smells of fresh rain, kitchen wood fires, smoke from burning fields, animals and sticky Gringo teachers, are combining to make an unforgettable final afternoon in our host community. Add to that the sweet flavor of homemade tabletas just delivered from Albarosa, our neighbor and Health Committee member, y es una despedida muy dulce. 

More Classroom Teaching and The Traveling Library

Wednesday, May 25th 

After some lovely pancakes, it was a bumpy ride out to Los Planes for Team Ladybug, and we waved goodbye to Team Monster.

Team Ladybug, Hannah, Greg and I, approached the school to several shy, yet interested students emerging from the front gates.  We asked a few students their names, and we received some barely whispered names alongside giant smiles and wide eyes.

We went into Lilian’s classroom, which was beautifully decorated with many hand-made posters: butterfly shaped job charts, topographical maps of Honduras, the parts of plants and mushrooms, and a sign about being proud of education.  She welcomed us in to lead our lesson to the primary students.

Taking a deep breath, we started to read our story, The Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle.  Slowly but surely, the students joined in the reading and hand motions and our student volunteer got the hang of the clock eventually.  We read to the Kindergarten class also.  One thing was affirmative: almost everyone loved to make the ladybug flying motion and to play “Pase la Pelota!”

We also got to observe a little bit of Lilian’s teaching.  She taught the younger students how to put syllables together for words using small interactive syllable cards. 
“It’s a problem because they’re very shy, and don’t like to talk very much in front of the class.  They might whisper to one another, but are timid speaking in front of groups.” 

“Also, they have to write all of their subjects in one small notebook, using one small pencil,” she continued.  “I would love it if they each had a notebook for subject.”  We helped students write their vowel lesson down, but my student was more interested in exploring my digital watch.  As soon as I would start writing with a student, six more students would crowd around watching carefully.

Snacktime came, and a community member brought hot, sweet, milk with a soft cornmeal mix in it.  They insisted on having us share the snack, and we shared a cup.  Yum!

Afterwards, Hannah bust out the clock, and got the crowd a little more comfortable responding.  We enjoyed another hora de recreo (recess hour), playing Frisbee, Simon Says, London Bridges Falling Down, and the crowning glory: the Hokey Pokey.  We felt a rush of emotion going from timid silence to dancing the Hokey Pokey! 

When we waved goodbye from the truck, the students burst through the gates and came running full steam after the truck, and our hearts almost collectively exploded with the cuteness of the scene!!  Adorable.

Team Monster also had a successful day in La Reinada, reading Where the Wild Things Are, and working with the Kinder.  The students were excited to answer and, despite an ant-covered playground, had an incredible day!  Lots of hugs ensued at their departure.

Then the afternoon workshop arrived!  Our goal, to create the traveling library was met with flying colors.  Literally.  After hearing a little bit about standardized testing and the education system in Honduras from Maura and Luz, the organization of the books began!  We sorted books into boxes, inventoried, color-coded, and decided on a rotation system.  Easier said than done!  After months of work and planning, it was really cool to see the system in action.  I can’t wait to find out next year how it’s working out. 

As we left the workshop, a dark cloud followed us out, but no rain yet!  We’ll see tomorrow.  

Coral Falso Classroom- Finally! Antioch Hits the Classrooms...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I spent my morning today in a wonderful school located in the picturesque mountain village of Coral Falso.  Here the teacher, Beatrice, works with students ranging from 1st grade up through 6th grade, all in one classroom.  We (Alicia, Jennifer and me) arrived via pickup truck and walked up to the little pink school nestled into the hillside.  The view and breeze alone were worth the trip up the mountain!  Beatrice greeted us with a big smile and hugs; we had bonded earlier in the week at our workshop in San PedroJ As we walked up the hillside, faces poked out of windows and through doorways, glowing with excitement for our visit.

Beatrice escorted us into the classroom and set out chairs for us directly in front of all the students.  The students sat in pairs at desks, making three long rows in the classroom.  Each of the rows consisted of different grade levels, which I later learned is how Beatrice structures teaching a multiage classroom.  I sat closest to the 1st graders, who would stare at me with wide eyes and shy away from questions.  Although most of the students were very shy at first, they gradually warmed up to us and gave us handshakes and hugs at the end of the school day.  Throughout the morning, we sang songs, read stories, participated in activities and played games.  During their midmorning break, we seized the opportunity to play some hand-clapping games and “Sharks and Minnows.”  I even got out on the soccer field to kick around the palota (ball).   Break may be my favorite time at the schools because then I really get a chance to interact and connect with the students through play, a common language for any child.

We also had the wonderful opportunity to observe Beatrice teaching.  She, like most teachers in Honduras, follows a very specific government mandated curriculum.  With a class of ~40 students in grades 1-6, it’s hard to imagine how she does it all.  A common technique I’ve seen here (and in Beatrice’s classroom) is teaching one grade while the other grades do independent work.  After teaching a lesson and assigning work, the teacher then moves onto another grade for a lesson.  This is repeated for all the grade levels.  When we asked how she can even manage to keep up with the curriculum, Beatrice talked about having to balance quantity and quality, as well as holding class until 2:00 pm, rather than just until 12:00pm.  I cannot even begin to imagine being in her shoes, with limited resources, multiple grade levels and a significant amount of students.  I have so much respect for Beatrice and others like her, a feeling and an awareness that I will take with me when I teach in my own classroom in the U.S. next year.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

 Honduran teachers participate in a group-writing activity where each person writes one portion of a story.

Antioch teachers doing their own group writing!

 Teachers participate in an activity where they become the pages of a story.

Dramatic readings!

Saturday, May 21
Workshop with PAILI

Stay tuned….The teachers are at this moment in a conference with PIALI in Honduras. It is a non-profit Honduran organization that promotes literacy in the classrooms through books, storytelling, puppetry, and art. We are six Antioch teachers and nine Honduras teachers together at the Banana Inn for what is hopefully the first of many conferences to come for this group of Honduran teachers.
We will return to the village this afternoon, far from blogs and any internet, for our final week of classroom adventures and teacher workshops. We will post again next Friday! Have a great week! Thanks for supporting us- sending you all lots of sunshine from Honduras.
Hasta Prontisimo!

The adventure continues...back to San Pedro

Greg in the truck, rolling out to San Pedro

Teachers from outer villages ready to head out Friday Morning!

Arrival to Libreria Coello in San Pedro where the teachers chose books to include in the community library and the traveling library. 

Friday May 20th
by Greg

It took us gringos a little bit to get started as the bus leaving El Rosario to La Lima was waiting for us with all of the Honduran teachers inside.  But nobody worried as a small “church group” style bus and a rented flatbed truck set sail for San Pedro Sula/ El Rosario down the rutty dusty road with plenty of time to spare. 

I spent a half hour in the bus, knowing full well that Honduran drivers were much more aggressive (to say the least) than American drivers.  I was not disappointed.  The hired driver of the bus would take mountain road corners at max speed, spending most of his time in the oncoming traffic lane, veering back just before hitting a car coming right at us.  Towns would set up roadblocks made of chord and caution signs stretched all the way across the road.  He would incessantly blow right through them at full speed.  It scared the crap out of us Americans in front.  Needless to say, I switched from the Honduran driven bus to the American driven truck.  I heard later that he was just in a hurry to get back to Yoro for another job.  Even Hondurans are selfish, sometimes.

We get to the Banana Inn, a quaint and nice hotel for being in such a boisterous community as La Lima.  The owners are very accommodating to everyone and the place is very well maintained.  The teachers are exhausted, but part of this trip went on the stipulation that we visit this bookstore to procure more material for the traveling library.  So everyone meets Emily, one of the American teachers who has been there from the night before, we have a quick sit down in the lobby, and we are off to the bookstore in the truck and a different bus.  This driver, I was told, was much better.

The teachers seemed excited to be at this store.  The owner was, too.  ACTS spent a lot of money.  It seemed nice that most of the materials in the store were geared towards teaching, pedagogy, and school subjects.  They did have some other sections that were much smaller but very good.  So as opposed to most American bookstores who’s focus mainly on the best sellers and mainstream books, the bestseller shelf in this store was about the size of an armoire. 

We get back to the Banana Inn and we have 45 minutes to relax before the health skit, which Trevor and Alison, the medics, have prepared for the Honduran teachers.  We wait… no Trevor and Alison.  We hop in the pool (no Hondurans went in the pool.  This doesn’t surprise me)… no Trevor and Alison.  Hurry up and wait.  That is the battle cry of Latin America.  They finally arrive when the dinner is ready.  Just in time.

We have a nice dinner and put on the skit.  Earlier in the week, the teachers expressed interest in learning about general first aid, so it was great that we had the doctor, the nurse, and most of the teachers present to exchange such information.  Since the skit was for the Hondurans, the gringos did all of the acting.  Most of the cast had some goofy way that they got burned, cut, or bitten by bugs and Lisa, who played the medic, had a goofy way of properly taking care of the situation.  Everyone had fun.  The real treat was that all of the schools received first aid kits as well as thorough instructions for care (in Spanish, of course).

It’s Saturday morning, here at the Banana Inn.  The new day brings new adventures.  Up next, a fabulous, daylong literature workshop followed by a good journey back to the hills of El Rosario.

Day Three... WOW!

 One of the local insects that joins us on our shower curtain

The front porch of the bunk house where we sleep, eat and hold meetings everyday. Antioch teachers are taking a moment to journal about the trip before heading out to schools in outer villages.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
by Alice

Day Three…Wow. So much happens every day that it’s hard to believe only three days have passed. It rained fast and furious overnight, bringing a cool freshness to the morning air. Smoke and haze have hung thick since our arrival, so this morning’s touch of fresh air was welcome. We start every day with the best coffee I’ve ever had (lo siento, Costa Rica), grown locally by our friend, Nelson. We slammed our coffee and hit the trail, capitalizing on the coolness of the morning to get some exercise. Team Run led the way down the dirt road that winds through el Rosario’s crop fields, with Team Walk ambling along behind them, taking pictures and discussing the landscape. It was a beautiful way to start the day and rev up for a hearty breakfast. This morning we had pancakes, fruit, yogurt and granola.

Today the bunk house was the site of two important meetings, where a lot of brainstorming took place. The Antioch teachers planned the rest of our time here, detailing what we will do with the Honduran students and teachers. This included planning the afternoon teacher workshops, the skit to introduce the Traveling Library, and the lesson plans that we will teach in the classrooms. Simultaneously, a community meeting was underway at the dining table to discuss education in El Rosario. This meeting included members of the Committee for Health and Development, The Committee for Vigilance and Transparency, Lisa from ACTS, Charlie and Rob from the Board of The Children’s Initiative (TCI), and our fearless interpreter, Patty, also with ACTS. I sat in on this meeting to learn how El Rosario is approaching community development, particularly how they are planning education in this rugged, remote region. For two hours, the community discussed how to further incorporate programming at the Learning Center, and how to potentially provide secondary education to the region in the near future. We just lost power and the computer battery is on reserve, so I’m out!