Thursday, June 16, 2011

Teaching Teachers - Better Path to Kids?

  One of the highlights of my (hey, Ginny Savage here) week is our Teacher’s English program. Launched in February, the program consists of weekly classes with the teachers in the Primaria Cooperativa.
  We employ two strategies for attaining sustainable English programs in the two primary schools, but take different approaches to the nature of the instruction. In the Primaria Central, we provide English classes for all students in 3rd-6th grades during the normal school schedule. We lesson plan with the teachers and work alongside them within the classroom to instruct the students. Conversely, in the Primaria Cooperativa, we separate our English instruction from the typical school schedule.  Hudson and Dana teach a class afterschool that targets 20 of the most motivated students from 4rd to 6th grade. Likewise, Karen and I lead a weekly class for the interested teachers at the school, in which we offer more formal English instruction and assistance on lesson plans and activities for the teachers’ English classes.

I have found it to be so gratifying and productive to work with teachers who can comprehend and internalize the material at such a fast pace. The Teacher’s class is intensive; we cover large amounts of information in a small amount of time. In the span of only 14 hours, we have covered: the present tense, comparative sentences, articles, descriptive adjectives, and vocabulary about weather, foods, the calendar, and farm animals. The teachers have excelled in the material and grasped the information with surprising ease.  
  Our biggest challenges in practicing sustainable development has been finding ways to kindle community members’ investment in our programs. The Teacher’s English course in the Primaria Cooperativa has been successful because the program’s participants are invested in its success. As responsible adults and leaders, the teachers understand the benefits that the knowledge of English could have on their own lives and students. They attend the class because they want to be there; they genuinely want to learn English or else they would not make the effort to come. We have already witnessed our lesson plan suggestions executed in their normal classes, and it fills my heart with joy to hear teachers asking for additional resources, information, or conversation practice.  At the end of the past class, I even found myself applauding the teachers for their efforts and enthusiasm.

  Considering the current success of Teacher’s English, I sometimes question why we do not focus more of our programs on the community leaders, the adults who can more fully grasp the benefits of those initiatives, instead of on the kids who frequently lack the investment. A complex issue, the “kids v. adults” debate seems nearly impossible to conclude.  Thus far, we focus many of our programs on children in the primary schools because it is what the community asked for.
  This reminds me of the common links amongst us all. Whether they live in an affluent suburb or cottage masked by the surrounding cornfields, whether they wear Polo (bought firsthand, not through a paca) or a huipil, whether they speak English or Kaqchikel, parents dream the best for their children, and MPIG will continue to support those dreams.

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