“¿4×10?” “¡14!” A Thought Is a Precious Thing–Never Waste It.

Here we are, almost all in bed at 9:56 p.m. on a Friday night.  Now that’s the way it should be.

Successfully finished the first full week (with both básico and magisterio) without much of a hitch.  It was stressful, of course, but not any more stressful than any given week at Woodberry–at least once we got the chalkboards working!  I’m still convinced that to be a teacher, one must have a brain and psyche bathed in a strong buffer solution: when the kids are angelic, don’t get too euphoric; when they’re demonic, don’t get too tenebrific.  It’s tempting to come back after an electric class and bask in the glory of young, developing minds.  But then again, it’s even more tempting to come back and wallow in the mire of an unsavory day.  Those are the days when you really ask yourself, Do these kids know how to think?  And why is it that they can’t remember anything?  Ever?  Neither extreme is particularly accurate: as usual, balance is needed.

Although, I really do wonder: Is it the particular type of education here in Guatemala that keeps the kids from being able to remember anything without looking at their notebooks?  Provided I’m able to keep them from cheating on their Metric Units quiz on Monday, I’ll be interested to see if they can reel off the prefixes from memory (giga-, mega-, kilo-, etc.)…because during class when I ask any question, anything from a simple addition question to a complicated scientific notation question, the first thing I get–from everyone, regardless of whom I called on–is a wave of absurd answers:

“Bueno, señores: ¿6×8?”
“¡150,000!” [those are my favorites]

One of my goals for this year is to impress upon them that guessing in math and science never works!  For some reason they seem to believe that if they yell out enough answers, they’ll eventually hit on the right one.  Ha.  And even worse, that seems to be the classroom culture, and as a result, none of the students listen to each other!  If I choose a student to answer the question and look at him for the entire time that his classmates are bellowing out absurdities, he’ll either give me the right answer after actually thinking for 20 seconds, or he’ll tell me he doesn’t know (“Saber, profe…”), even if some lucky (thoughtful?) classmates happened to scream out the correct answer 5 or 6 times.  Now that, my friends, is strange.

I suppose I’ll find out Monday if the classic European/South American education system (strict right/wrong, ample memorization, etc.), which appears to be in effect around here, really helps them memorize.  If it turns out that they’re great memorizers–but, unfortunately, not great deep-understanders–I’ll surely be able to make the best of it.  But if they bomb the quiz, then I’ll have to figure something else out.  Language problems?  Presentation problems?  Motivation problems?  Problems with listening, understanding, watching, and writing all at the same time?  The last one was even a problem with the guys at Woodberry, and I think is an issue with all kids entering “intense school.”  We’ll see.

Aside from the usual annoying curiosities of school (especially the beginning thereof), things are excellent.  We’re hitting our stride in the Foundation with the folks living here–Natalia from Bennington, here for 3 more weeks; Katherine from Michigan, here until Easter; Angela from Ohio/Japan/France/Martinique, here forever; Fernando from N.C./Argentina, here forever; and Jessica from the wondrous metro area of Penn Yan, here forever.  We’re starting to figure out the cooking (with awesome fresh ingredients from the way-early, post-Chuj Thursday and Sunday markets), we’re going for runs up the mountain (there is NO AIR up here!  My lungs nearly imploded last time after jogging up about 37 vertical feet), we’re going to bed at 9:30 like real people… 

We’ve even made a couple of non-gringo friends: Iván, an awesome Cuban doctor (who, unfortunately, left today for a new mission post elsewhere in Huehuetenango–the coolness of his replacement shall soon be determined), and his friend Jorge, another doctor from Huehue.  Friendships are also in the works within the school: we had our first faculty/staff party over here at the Foundation last night, complete with all of the teachers, the directors, the secretary, and other involved folks.  Much bean-matter, grilled onion, grilled beef (Argentine style–Vamos, che…¡fue Riquelme!), and of course ample cuxa (pronounced KOO-shah), the local sugar-cane liquor, were enjoyed.  3 beers?  20 quetzales ($2.50)  2L of cuxa?  20Q.  The choice is clear.  And fragrant.


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