Class 101

Thirty-four kids. Some are vaguely attentive, most are blatantly not. They are taking some species of a test today, although the environment couldn’t be less conducive towards an exam. The kids speak freely; they turn around in their chairs to consult their neighbors. Some simply don’t bother with the test but instead draw, daydream or gossip about the two gringas in the classroom. The doors are wide open as are the windows, and a boisterous volleyball game resonates from the patio.

Five minutes pass and most students haven’t written a single word on their worksheets. I watch Katy and she is struggling. It seems apparent that she doesn’t know the conversion from meters to centimeters, nor the steps of the scientific process, and a large part of me feels tremendously guilty. The test constitutes information that Katy has never showed me before, and I’m struck by the realization and fact that if the girls choose not to tell us what they study in school, we remain ignorant and useless.

The test itself is both drole and worrisome. The teacher wants to feel as if his students have retained some information, so he repeats clues, gives solutions, illustrates ideas, and still the students don’t seem to capture that he’s gifting the answers. They simply stare at him blankly.

As the end of the exam nears, all the student’s sheets remain blank and they look at each other quizzically pleading for a response. We have our work cut out for us. Not just for Katy, although I am understandably most concerned about her, but for all these students.

Once the test comes to an end, the teacher reviews the information in a self-interested manner. He announces that if one student can respond correctly to a question on the dry erase board, then he will give credit to all the students. The concept of the individual and of comprehension seem utterly obsolete in this classroom, and I can’t shake the notion that 90% of the class will never comprehend the information simply because one of their classmates did.

Of course not all classes follow this prototype. Some must be better, and others worse. But what becomes clear is that we need a methodology for rightly knowing what the girls are studying inside of school hours. Currently I’m working towards building a strong rapport with the school director in hopes that this liaison will help both to track our students and to build a more dynamic program in the future. A small step towards one of the many long term and daunting goals of this novel process.

ps… and completely unrelated: I apologize for the lack of photos currently on our blog. After our “photo shoot” with the girls, my camera mysteriously broke. Unfortunately, I have to travel to the big city (Cusco) to get it fixed, and at this moment I simply can’t be bothered. I’ll try harder.