Maestra para el dia! What fun to be invited to be the “teacher for the day” in the preschool in Santa Ana! When the teachers asked me to come back and teach the next day, my mind immediately began to think about what strategies I wanted to share that they might be able to implement immediately. I knew I had only a brief time to share a tidbit of the kind of teaching I use in my classroom. The previous day I had shown the teachers pictures and movies of my students in my classroom in Toledo. They had a million questions and chatted excitedly about what they saw. We discussed hands-on materials, the absence of desks, the size of the children, the flooring material, the musical instruments, the classroom bookshelf, and much more! There was so much to share I didn’t know where to start!
The next day I returned to the preschool with my “materials.” I decided to demo “shared reading” and an inquiry method of teaching math. I was armed with a book SewHope had at the clinic and a pile of junk I had picked up outside on the road for my materials. I started with some music in English and Spanish—they love music and spend a good portion of their day singing and dancing! It’s a great way for young children to learn.
Then I demonstrated how I read aloud to my children and get them to learn about the text and begin to recognize words. After the story we did a movement activity and then I did a mini-math lesson—a game we call “Guess My Sort.” Outside along the road I had gathered some leaves, some dried up seedpods, an old straw, some bottle caps, some stones, and a few assorted metal, plastic, and natural items. I decided to make the first sort “easy” to give them the idea. I put all the items that were blue in one pile and all the other items in another. Then I asked them to figure out what was the same about the one pile. They made lots and lots of guesses, but they were stumped! So were the teachers! So I gave them a hint: think about the color! They were still stumped! Now I’m stumped about why they are stumped. The items in the blue pile were definitely blue to me. When I suggested that these items were blue, they said, “No, they are not.” They said these are “azul” but this one here is “cerulean”. Cerulean????? Peter then explained to me that Guatemalans see those as two different colors. So we all had a good laugh!
The next sort we quickly agreed on—natural objects versus not natural, but then when I tried to do round objects versus other shapes. “Food,” they declared! “Food?” I asked? Then I learned that one of my round objects (the seedpod) was actually something that the children eat! So their first responses had to do with food—we eat the seedpods and drink water (the group had bottle caps in it, too)—works for me!
I remember learning about cultural bias in testing in college and wondering how much of the test could really be cultural bias, but here I was experiencing it first hand. We have so much to learn from each other and the school setting is the perfect venue.
After my mini-lessons, we ended up spending another hour sharing songs and dances together—sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish, and sometimes in both when I got mixed up!
I am looking forward to continuing our friendship with these dedicated and enthusiastic teachers. I already have a project in mind for this spring that will bring our two cultures together and learning from each other. While we were in Guatemala Peter and Ken installed the hardware for the internet in the preschool at Santa Ana so these exchanges will hopefully be possible very soon. On the way out of school that day every single child in theschool came over and kissed me “good bye”. In that moment I felt such an outpouring of God’s love! Clearly it’s in God’s name that we continue to work in the Peten.
Leigh Ann Meinecke teaches four-year-olds at Maumee Valley Country Day School in Maumee, Ohio. Leigh Ann has come on previous trips to Guatemala with SewHope and is the leader of the Education Committee of SewHope.
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012