Yesterday I began working in the elementary school of Pet. There are 19 teachers and a LOT of students. Each grade has 3 sections of about 30 kids per classroom. I met with the school director in the morning and he told me the classes I would teach in and then he sent me out there. I did my lesson 4 times to 3 classes of 3rd graders and one class of 4th graders. The kids paid great attention while I was speaking but the trouble came when it was time for questions. The Peace Corps teaches us to use the Experiential Learning Cycles which requires the active participation of the students. Unfortunately, here in Guatemala children are taught to sit quietly, copy notes and not participate in any way. Because of the years of this type of teachers the kids are too embarrassed to speak in class. It is especially noticeable with the girls. I asked a very general questions and one girl muttered what I thought was the right answer so I asked her to repeat it for the class to hear and she just shut down and put her hands over her face and would not even look at me. Women here are taught to be so submissive it kills me. I want to just tell all these girls they are smart and they should be proud and they are just as good as the boys. However, society is a much stronger influence than my tiny little voice and so many of these girls will never feel proud to be a woman.
Today I was supposed to return to the school to give health talks in 5 more classes. I arrived and found the director and he told me, “oh today they actually have exams so maybe you can come back next week.” So typical. I really wasn’t that disappointed though because I have plenty of time here to do health talks. I did stay and chat with the director for about an hour. He turns out to be a very forward thinking, down to earth man. He talked all about the corruption in the government here and how it affects the education system (negatively, obviously). He talked about how sad it is that Guatemala is slowly losing its culture. He has worked at the school in Pet for 17 years and he described the changes he has seen within the town and with the school itself. I feel very luckily to be in this site. So many other volunteers live in big town where most of the population is ladino (not indigenous) and there is not the striking culture difference. As many challenges as this site has already given me and will continue to give me I am thankful to be here. I am learning all about this culture by really living with the people. This is very truly Guatemala is all of its beauty.