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Learning in Guatemala Blog

Learning in Guatemala Blog

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La ultimo de en La Pedrera

Posted by austinyogamama on August 7, 2008 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (5981)
Hoy fue lo ultimo dia aqui en La Pedrera.  En la ma�ana despues de las clases salimos por autobus a la Antigua for la noche.  Entonces en Sabado vamos a visitar la familia de Wendy Wever en la ciudad de Guatemala.  Regresamos por avion en Domingo.  El dia llegaremos, yo tengo una reunion de la board of directors of Austin Discovery School.  Espero que esta reu�ion estara una buena tiempo por los miembros.  En lo proximo a�o yo quiero a regresa a Casa Xelaju con la gente de la escuela de Austin Discovery School y miembros del cohort '07.

Fifth day at La Pedrera

Posted by austinyogamama on August 6, 2008 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (9128)
Today I worked with Elsa and Carina on addtion and subtraction.  I also met a new student, Florita.

Florita is 9 and in primero grado.  She has 5 brothers and 5 sisters.

La Famila de Flory
Christina 44
Jorge 45
Susana, 10
Leti, 15
Miguel, 14
To�o, 21
Angel, 21
Victor, 23
Sol, ?
Christi, 4
Estella, 3
and she forgot the name of one of her sisters

With Elsa, I worked on addition of single and double digit numbers.
With Carina, I worked on addition and subtraction of double through 7 digit numbers.
Wtih Flory, I worked on addition and subtraction of 4 through 7 digit numbers.

It is incredible to me that these kids will ask me for more and more problems to solve and try to do it faster each time.  I taught Elsa how to use manipulatives to add and subtract numbers that were too big for her to do on her fingers.  It worked like magic.  It was as if they had never heard of an abacus before.  She was so excited to use crayons to solve the 50 problems that I made for her to solve.

I really hope that I can get the university to back up a formal teaching and learning experience here.

My fourth day at La Pedrera and this is what I think...

Posted by austinyogamama on August 5, 2008 at 7:49 PM Comments comments (142)
This is my thought.  This has always been my thought really, but it got derailed during my masters project. Possibly now I might be in a better position to make it all happen. 

Texas State University, as an institution that graduates a substantial number of the teachers in the state of Texas, has a responsibility to have program content that is relavant to the population of Texas.  This being said, Texas has an enormous need for bilingual teachers, teachers who are culturally competent and able to communicate in an authentic way that reaches the parents.  I do not need to point out that the population of students who have the highest attrition rate in the south.  These students and families have special needs that can be met by the school, but only with support from the University level to the local school district to the parents in the neighborhood schools.

Casa Xelaju in Quetzaltenango Guatemala and Kukulcan in Cuernavaca Mexico could be utilized as sister schools to provide in depth trainnig for those teachers who wish to work in these nieghborhood schools, but who lack the opportunity for specialized training at the University level.  We currently have the ability (and in my opinion the respinsibility) to move forward with formalizing a bilingual7bicultural program for masters degree and doctoral seeking students in the college of education.  Dr. John Beck agreed with this sentiment and I would like to pursue this with the current Dean of the College Dr. Herrera.

Texas State currently has a well documented and publisahed action research program under the leadership of Dr. Davis.  There is no reason why the University could not sponsor a program that allowed for these students to work during 3 summers with the students in Guatemala and Mexico for 4 to 6 weeks each time (for a total of 100 to 150 contact hours) and earn course credit for it.  I would LOVE (in fact it is the reason for my return to the University) to head up this program with the help of Dr. Waite and possibly Dr. Brooks and the sanction of Dr. Herrera.  I would like to develop this program and present it to the accrediting agency for inclusion in the College degree offerings starting in 2012.

El Tercero Dia Finalmente

Posted by austinyogamama on August 4, 2008 at 8:48 PM Comments comments (29)
Las Familias de Los Estudiantes

La familia de Chelsi
Chelsi (10 anos), Wilson (14 anos), y Heidy (15 anos).

La famila de Estrellita
Estrellita (9 anos), Paula (14 anos), Henry (12 anos) y Adelaida (8 anos).

La familia de David
David (10 anos), Jose (9 anos), Wilson (7 anos) y Abran (10 meses).

New students that I met today:
Adelaida, 8 years old, in primero grado, has 3 siblings (read bilingual story books with her and her sister and played an opposites flash card game where she would read the word in Spanish and I would say it in English and then she would repeat the word.)
Jose, 13 years old, in segundo grado, has 3 siblings (worked on English homework from his classes at school)
Jorge Luis, 8 years old, in segundo grado, has 4 siblings (worked on multiplication 1 through 12 and taught him the trick of mutiplication by nines)
Also I worked with Estrellita again (who is sister to Adelaida, we read bilingual story books with her and her sister and played an opposites flash card game where she would read the word in Spanish and I would say it in English and then she would repeat the word).
Chelsi, 10 years old, in cuarto grado, has two siblings (we played an opposites flash card game where she would read the word in Spanish and I would say it in English and then she would repeat the word.

El Fin de Semana

Posted by austinyogamama on August 4, 2008 at 7:59 PM Comments comments (0)
On Friday after classes my mom and daughter and I went to Lago Atitlan.  The trip is usually only 90 minutes through the mountains, but due to the current construction and the horrible weather it took us 2 and a half hours.  The whole time I thought that I was going to die.  Now, I have done this trip 3 times, but never in the rain with the clouds so low that you have no more visibility than 2 feet infront of your face.  Also, the drivers know the roads so they feel comfortable driving at 60 miles an hour down switchbacks with no guard rails.  Jon, Cheryl Stewart and Elizabeth were our minibus companions from Decatur-Atlanta Georgia.  I tried the whole drive to concentrate on talking with them about the educational systems in TExass, Georgia and Quetzaltenango, but I have to say that it was very difficult to focus.  When we finally arrived I drank 3 beers really fast to calm my nerves and it did not turn out so well for me.

Pues, el ultimo fin de semana yo viste Panahachel para encuentra mis amigas de Antigua.  Durante el viaje me siento muy occupada porque la carraterra estaba muy peligrosa.  Estaba lluviendo y los nubes estaba muy obscuro.  Esa noche, cuando llegabamos al hotel porque you estaba muy nerviosa, yo tome 3 cervesas.  Despues mis amogas y yo no divertimos en un restaurante se llama Circus Bar.  Entonces bailamos en un club, pero yo no recuerdo se llama esa club porquew yo estaba una poca borachada.  En la manana mis ammigos estaba buenas, pero yo no.  Me enferme para cuatro horas mas.  Finalmente, despues de almuerzo yo puede mantener mi salud y no vomitar, yo dicidi visitar las tiendas con mi hija y mama. Durante el dia me cuide con mucho agua y sopa de mi restaurante favorita.  En lo proximo dia cuando mis amigos y yo nos vistimos finalmente yo no estaba enferma. 
La tomar cervesa para reparar sus nerviosos.

Join the Peasant Resistance in Guatemala

Posted by austinyogamama on July 31, 2008 at 5:24 PM Comments comments (215)
the flyer says.  I will be attending the meeting tonight if the rain lets up.  My teacher has warned me against attending this meeting, but I am going anyway.  I am not committing to marching down the central part of town, yet.  I just want to know what the situation is from the mouths of the people themselves.  Below is the rest of the flyer...

The Guatemala Solidarity Project is looking for people to join our work in solidarity with various organizad peasant groups in the country.  We are organizing the following upcoming delegations, as well as other oppotunities.

August 5 to 15, 2008: Organized Resistance versus Imperial Repression
Join us as we walk in solidarity with the Committee for Peasant Unity (CUC) and other grassroots organizations working for social justice and peace in Guatemala.  We will visit numerous villages and organizations and examine how they have organized in the face of US backed repression, including soldiers trained by the School of the Americas, and recently passed Central American Free Trade Agreement, and mega-projects funded by the World Bank.  We will look to build long-tern solidarity with those we meet and explore ideas such as organizing to close the SOA, fundraising and pressuring the Guatemalan government to respect the land rights of peasant communities.

October 7-17, 2008: Americas Social Forum
From October 7 to 12 thousands of activists from throughout the Western Hemisphere will gather in Guatemala for the 3rd Social Forum of the Americas.  Join us in Guatemala City for the Social Forum events and them travel with us to the mountains of Quiche where we will meet with members of the Majawil Q��ij, an organization working for full rights and participation for Maya women.  Then we will stay in Nabaj and visit the community June 30 to learn about their struggle for survival and land.

January 2009: Land Rights versus Development
During this delegation we will visit various communities which are struggling to defend thier righs to their lands.  First we will visit Committee for Peasant Unity member Micxhbilrixpu, which has already been forcefully evicted by police and other state forces numerous times in recent years.  Then we will travel to the village of Xalala and learn about the struggle of thousands of farmers in the area to defend thier lands from the construction of a mega-hydroelectric dam supported by the Inter-American Development Bank.

For more information:
Or contact: [email protected] or Pablo at 5776-9239

Informal info sessions in Xela will be held at Cafe Blue Angel, 7 calle, 15-79 zona 1

La Pedrera Third Day

Posted by austinyogamama on July 31, 2008 at 5:16 PM Comments comments (31)
We are rained out today.  Especially sucky as today was going to be una partido de futbol between the students of Casa Xelaju and the kids at La Pedrera.  There is a small river where the road to La Pedrera used to be.  I am in a special place, because I have a choice to brave the storm.  Some of the kids live at the top of this mountain and must climb it regardless. I feel like a weenie, but the project manager would prefer it if we remained down here in the city today.

Second Day at La Pedrera

Posted by austinyogamama on July 30, 2008 at 8:33 PM Comments comments (302)

Today I worked with the following kids:

Elsa, 6 years old, in Parvulos (like Kindergarten) has 3 siblings.

Carina, 10 years old, in First grade, has 5 siblings.

Susana, 8 years old, in First grade, has 11 siblings.

Evelin 8 years old, in First grade, has 0 siblings.

Wilson, 7 years old, in First grade, has 3 siblings.

Jose, 10 years old, in Second grade, has 3 siblings.

Chelsea, 10 years old, in Fourth grade, has 3 siblings.

Estrellita, 9 years old, in Third grade, has 4 siblings.

Merli, 13 years old, in Sixth grade, has 8 siblings.

Jose Luis, 8 years old, in Second grade, has 5 siblings.

David, 10 years old, in Third grade, has 3 siblings.

This kids come to La Pedrera after school, climbing a huge mountain, up switch backs. Some come with home work, some without.  All want to practice thier subjects.  I help all of them with division and addition for two hours and then we eat arroz con leche made by Teresa.  for some this is the second and last meal of the day.  This is a special day because, Allison (an education student in her last year) is leaving tomorrow.  She has been here for 10 weeks helping the kids learn computer science among other things.  All of the kids have made thank you cards for her.  They each take turns standing up and giving thanks and appreciations to her.  She is in tears and I am about to be. 

As Allison and I decended the mountain back to Casa Xelaju, I told her that I did not want to burst her bubble, but that was probably going to be the best expereince of her teaching career.  By this I mean, the kids in the states do NOT come to aftercare programs asking for extra work.  It is like pulling teeth to get them to finish their homework.  Sometimes it tis like pulling teeth to get them to participate in afterschool classes that are not event academic in nature.  These kids are hungry for knowledge and like to show off to each other just what they can do, mathematically other oitherwise.  Most kids just want to get back to thier Nintendos and microwave pizza pockets.  They could care less about passing thier classes or excelling in thier studies.

The children of La Pedrera have probably tainted Allison for a US class room.  I know that they did for me years ago.  I went in to the classroom expecting to see eager faces hungry for knowledge.  I thought that I would be working with parents who were interested in thier children�s education.  I thought that I would be working wiht people who were dedicated to social change though education.  What I found were disinterested children or stressed out children.  I found antagonistic parents and parents who felt that the education of e�thier children was entirely my responsibility.  I found burt out and jaded teachers and administrators who were just going through the motions, because that is what they have always done.  It is true that there are still some teachers who really care about what they are doing, but now thier emphasis is on getting the kids to "grade level" and increasing test scores, not on raising consciousness or self esteem.

i am so thankful for La Pedrera.

My first day at La Pedrera

Posted by austinyogamama on July 29, 2008 at 7:53 PM Comments comments (2)
Today was my first day to work with the children and director of La Pedrera. The children wanted me to help them with long division and multiplication.  I agreed to give them practice problems if they would work with me on English/Spanish "intercambio".  It is amazing.  This program is technically an after school program (more details to come).  Most of the children here were dedicated to working on home work that was self prescribed!!! Only a couple were goofing off.  The children of ages ranging from 4 to 19.  Today we had 17 kids.  sometimes there are more than 40.  The entire program is run by one woman named Teresa De Leon in a 12X12 two room (a second story addition was added last year to accommodate the donated computers).

I will provide pictures in the coming days of the children and space along with other details.

Getting acclimated

Posted by austinyogamama on July 29, 2008 at 7:39 PM Comments comments (2)
I have been in Guatemala for 5 days now. We first arrived at the Aurora airport on Friday afternoon and were wisked away by Wendy Wever to Antigua. Wendy is a nationally certified bilingual teacher who worked in both New Orleans and Austin for several years. She is now working in Antigua Guatemala assisting ex-pats assimilate and find volunteer work in the community. She was the educator who took me around the country in 2004 to see the various cultures and regions while I was working on my masters.  If you are interested in living in Antigua, Wendy is the go-to person.  There are multiple job opportunities here for ex-pats of all countries.  There is even an English language weekly publication called La Cuadra which is published by a bar called Cafe No Se.  Wendy is a contributing author.

I am accompanied by my daughter, Kaya and my step mother Wendy. This is the first time Wendy has traveled to Guatemala and the second time Kaya has been here. Kaya helped me to film my masters program thesis project in 2002 at La Pedrera.  They are both studying Spanish at Casa Xelaju and weaving with the Mayan women�s colective of La Trampa while I work with the director and the children of La Pedrera.

After spending the weekend in Antigua with Wendy Wever getting acclimated to the culture and climate, we have successfully completed our second day at the school in Xela and I have completed the first day at La Pedrera.  We took a mini bus from Antigua to Xela that wrapped around the mountain and Lago Atitlan passed Panajachel.  This "65 mile trip" took over 4 hours.  We were welcomed by our house mother Sonia Lopez and fed tamales (made of rice and oil and wrapped in plantain leaves rather than corn and lard wrapped in corn husks like the ones that Texans are used to) and put to sleep.

Monday morning we received our orientacion and then got settled in our new home for the next two weeks.  Tuesday (today) we attended classes and our volunteer work.

We will be attending a demonstration and social justice event for women and the indiginous population on Thursday night. We will keep you posted.