Five Alberta teachers who traded suburban classrooms for pickup truck commutes up hillsides to rural Guatemala schools have returned from two weeks of sharing space, sharing ideas, and sharing teaching strategies. Each visiting teacher worked alongside a local teacher (or two!) in the primary school of Canoas Altas, a farming community in the municipality of San Andres Sematebaj, and in the Xecaguic School, a rural school outside the town of Chicaman.
The primary schools, under-resourced in tangible materials, were found to be abundant in open-minded teachers interested in learning new ways of engaging children through interactive games, encouraging critical thinking through story, and managing classrooms to cater to students of various levels. Support was also provided to teachers seeking to maximize the utility of the digital library technology recently installed by Change for Children in partnership with project partner, Mundo Posible.
In turn, the Canadian teachers were enriched by witnessing the challenges of teaching in an isolated resource-scarce environment (innovating and adapting to do more with less) and participating in culturally-relevant lesson plans. A class nature walk (with not a single student complaint!), that combined learning about the many mushroom varieties with collecting those most suited for use in the following day’s soup, was one unique lesson for kindergarten students.
And, just like at home, the Canadian teachers worked overtime, making time for conversational English sessions with junior high students and volunteering along a marathon route to hand out water (in the pouring rain, no less!) to students participating despite the downpour in a regional event running up and down slippery mountain roads.
Israel, from project partner Mundo Posible and in-country host, observed that the open hearts between the teachers facilitated a fruitful exchange. And we couldn’t agree more.
When the last students left for home at the end of the last day, the Canadian and Guatemalan teachers spent time together in the relative calm of a colleague-only environment and shared both their motivations to teach and their greatest challenges.
The reflections were a reminder that what we have in common often transcends the at-times more visible things that differentiate our experiences. The group was universally motivated by the pleasure and satisfaction of seeing children learn and succeed. Fostering and witnessing the ‘light-bulb’ moments when a student catches on to a concept or masters a skill was revealed to motivate teachers from all walks. All in a day’s work.
And, this is the gift of teachers, isn’t it? Not only holding the power to open up a child’s world by showing them what they are capable of, but also possessing the drive to do it all again tomorrow. As long as there are students, it seems, there are those who are born to teach.
We can’t change the world, but we can change the world for one child.
— Israel, Mundo Posible, Project Partner