Sunday, 6 June 2010
Queseria is the name of the village nearby where many migrant worker families live in the summer, while it's the season for harvesting sugar cane. For the first three weeks of my stay, I'm working each morning at the school in Queseria. School goes from 9:00 am to noon, and that includes breakfast, lunch, and recess. The kids only spend about an hour and forty five minutes a day doing schoolwork. Two kindergarten classes are housed in small but well-furnished classrooms which are a recent development for the school, a gift from a national non-profit. Most of the kindergarteners are children of year-round residents; a third "advanced" class consists of children aged seven to fourteen. My first thought when I arrived in Queseria was “but what if it rains?” The advanced class uses a cluster of desks beneath an orange tree in the schoolyard. When I was introduced to Tita, who runs the school, Beto pointed to the desks and said “when Tita started here, they didn't even have those.”
Despite the fact that the advanced class teacher (whom we call "Maestro") tends to have a different mix of students every day, he strives for continuity in his lessons. All the students use a second-grade workbook, regardless of age. The youngest students are often lost, and the oldest ones are often bored, which contributes to a generally high level of classroom pandemonium. The school seems to rely heavily on teaching materials from the state government. One day a representative brought every child a copy of the international declaration of human rights, another day someone showed up with a bag of toothbrushes, a third day with “What to do when” pamphlets instructing families on how to prepare for volcano eruptions, floods, and forest fires.
Maestro tends to structure class around these materials. Mexico is also conducting a census, and for two days we all worked our way through a “census for kids” workbook with lots of mazes and connect-the-dots games, as well as some gently-chiding cartoon dogs stressing how important it is that everybody be counted in the census. One dog explains that it's important to count the houses as well as the people in Mexico, and to find out which houses have running water and electricity. This led to a discussion about who does and does not have electricity (as far as I can tell, it seems common here to live without running water). Mariflor announced that she does not have any lights in her house, and that she was completely done with the entire census workbook already.
On the way back from school, I asked if Mariflor usually finished things earlier than anyone else. This was how I discovered that rather than being particularly precocious, she is fourteen, literally twice the age of some of her classmates. I asked Maestro if it might be helpful if I worked individually with Mariflor. So starting tomorrow, that's my new role.
Posted by Rose at 20:15