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Kiddos singing a song we taught them.

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Monday June 24 - Wednesday June 26

-Taught 3 classes today. 6th grade morning and afternoon and 4th grade morning. They did well with our lesson on “I like” and enjoyed finishing their posters and presenting them to us. We have a new volunteer from Wyoming who will be taking over the classes we are teaching so we showed her the ropes of the school as well.
-Between morning and afternoon classes we went to visit our coordinator’s university. We toured what seemed to be the main building and sat in on a class for a little bit. Then we talked with his ex-supervisor about what a schedule looks like for someone attending that university. He told us that to finish a “career” it usually takes 10 cycles which is 5 years. We were interested in seeing classes and cycles for a person who wants to become a teacher, but the coordinator said he only had access to his field of work. However, we learned that university schooling in ES is much cheaper than in the US: $60-200 per month, at this particular university, but this is still very unattainable for a lot of people here, since that’s a normal monthly salary for some people.
-After our afternoon classes we went to an orphanage. This orphanage used to be part if the Travel to Teach project but a few years ago they stopped working there after they got them started in creating sustainable food sources for themselves. Travel to Teach helped fund a rabbit project where the nuns and children of this particular orphanage raise rabbits for food. Since then, they have also added pigs and sheep to their animal raising and also grow all of their own fruits and vegetables. They rely on the government for very little when it comes to food thanks to Travel to Teach which helped start this project. They also cultivate organic coffee which they sell to help bring in money. The orphans are expected to go to school, do homework, and also help with the cultivating and raising/slaughtering of the animals.
-We generally teach 1 class on Tues but we went to the school early today to go with our principal to visit one of the high schools. To our surprise, when we arrived, the school was not in session. They were celebrating teachers’ day. (The official date for teacher’s day is June 22 but it seems to be a whole month of parties here. The teachers are very appreciated and they receive many cool prizes and parties) So to our dismay, we were asked to stay for the party and come back the following day to observe the high school and speak with the principal.
-After our 8th grade class, we took a taxi out to Boqueron to visit a mountain school. This was a very neat experience. The school was set up in a way that is very similar to ours, but we couldn’t help but notice how big the classes were. We found out that on average the classes have 40 students and 1 teacher. The only 3rd grade section has 57 students and 1 teacher. We also noticed that the kids seemed to be more reserved, respectful, and quiet. We found out that this is just the way of the mountain people. In this school they have morning and afternoon sessions like we do at Margarita Duran, with over 800 students in each session. We were shown a kindergarten room with 45 4, 5, and 6 year olds. CRAZY! But they were all so polite and sitting quietly with 1 teacher. It was amazing. We also got the chance to speak with 5 boys who love to learn English. These boys (1 8th grader and the rest 9th) had received scholarships to go to a private school in the morning to learn English and computers and then attend the mountain school in the afternoon. It was fun getting to know them.
-This is our long day as we teach all morning and afternoon. We finished up most of our “I like” projects and evaluations and taught them “You are my Sunshine.” The girls enjoyed learning the new song.
-Between morning and afternoon classes we went to the high school to visit again. This was a better meeting. We toured the building which was very big (about 3 blocks long and most of it had 2 levels) and got to step in on an English class for a little bit. We were informed that this English program was available thanks to some private funding. This program will allow 150 students to take 900 hours of English in 3 years. Here is some other info we learned:
-this is the only public/free high school in Santa Tecla. Most students are from small areas around ST and most students from the city attend private or semi-private institutes.
-There are 3 sessions: 825 students in the morning, 750 in the afternoon, 200 at night
-Students pick a specialty and a degree they will earn. There are 3 types of degrees: 1)general = 2 years of studying to prepare for the university; 2)commercial= accounting or secretarial concentration. The average high school experience includes 3 years of studying with the last year being mainly practicing your trade. Students may attend university after but may also get a job right away; 3)mechanics = 3 years with the last year mainly focusing on projects and 24 hours of vocational practice. These students may also attend university if so desired.
-There are 35 teachers per section morning and afternoon and fewer at night. They try to place teachers in their specialty but that may not always happen.
-All students take an exam called PAES and must receive an average of a 6 or higher on this exam, as well as in their class grades to graduate. If they don’t, they cannot graduate. There are also aptitude tests given to enter university.
-The school is set up like most US schools with 4 quarters and 10 weeks per quarter. If kids do not receive 6 or higher in their classes they have to retake in summer school. Since the school is so crowded, if the kids do not pass summer school they are kicked out and must search for another school to attend.
-The law of attendance is you must have 85% or higher. If you miss more than 15% of your days you have to repeat a grade (with limited space this means attend a different school)
-Each year 400-500 students graduate and 50-60% of them attend university.

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Tuesday, June 18-Thursday, June 20

We returned to school after 4 days away, and today we only had one class — 8th grade conversations. This class went better then last week. We walked through the names of different types of clothing, and then had the girls describe what the models in magazine were wearing. Just like in any class, there is quite the variety of skill levels in these classes. Some of the kids picked up the gist of the exercise right away, while others definitely struggled.

This is our busy day. We are supposed to have 6 classes, but today we only had five. The reason for this is the 7th grade room was being painted (even though we didn’t have school on Friday and you’d think they could have done it then?). They also fumigated the entire school while the kids were still there, they just kept the doors open to air it out…something that probably wouldn’t happen at home.
Classes went well, though. We worked on “I like” and had the kids make posters. They enjoyed it and we enjoyed them so much!

Today there were no classes to be taught because there was a celebration for “Dia del Maestro” or teacher’s day. We started the morning with a big breakfast with all of the teachers while the 9th grade students taught classes for the lower level students. After breakfast, we had a break and then the students did some presentations for us, mostly dancing and presenting us and all of the teachers with gifts. Many of the 9th grade students prayed or said nice words to the teaches, mostly thanking them for all of their hard work and telling them how they had all become like part of their families. We went home around 11 but returned to the school at 1 for a celebration with the afternoon group which was similar to our morning celebration. Even though we have only been here for a few weeks, we felt like we were irreplaceable and so appreciated. It was a very cool experience.