Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Día de los Niños/Día de los Maestros

Here in Honduras, we just celebrated el Día de los Niños on September 10th. Essentially, this days is a national holiday (not one where people get off work, but national all the same) honoring children. In some ways it seemed to be an excuse for a lot of shops to have sales on everything from piñatas to pizza, but there were radio ads from the government celebrating the youth of Honduras and it truly was a day for kids just to be kids.

Our school celebrated with an assembly/variety show put on by the teachers to entertain the kids, including funny skits, song, and dance numbers. I sang a song in Spanish :) It was so much fun and the kids really liked it because it was a purely non-educational assembly and the goal was for them to have fun and for the teachers to show them some love. After the assembly, the primary school grades stayed behind in their classrooms and had a party with games and piñatas. The older grades, however, did something a little different.

I was assigned to 8th grade for the day (who aren´t my students but who are a fun group just the same), and like all the other secondary grades, we were assigned a local public elementary school in the area. As one of the richest private schools in the city, this was considered a really fun way of giving back to the greater Comayagua community, and parents and students pooled resources and put on a party for the students of their adopted school, including games, lunch, cake and piñatas. For kids who probably don´t get too many parties, this was something really special.

The school we adopted, Escuela José Trinidad Cabañas, was essentially a one-room schoolhouse with a big porch on the outskirts of town. There were only two teachers assigned to some 100+ students, with one teacher taking on 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades, and the other with 2nd, 4th and 6th. Some classes were held on the porch, others inside, but all had to have rotating lesson stations to give each grade level appropriate material. WOW. I was at once impressed with and sympathetic towards those two teachers there! It was definitely in stark contrast to the facilities and the organizational structure at EBH (my school), and while I sometimes lament the lack of resources at my school, I have no idea how I would handle the situation if I were working at a similar public school in Honduras.

Realizing there would not be enough space at the school, we moved our festivities to a field owned by one of the locals. It was fun seeing the Honduran versions of simple childhood games (things like red light green light and simon says, only with different names and instructions). Once the too-cool-to-really-participate 8th graders ran out of game ideas and went to prepare lunch for the kids, I taught the kids sharks and minnows (my poor translation--tiburones y peces). Since it involved more running than the other games, I think they liked it the best.

It was interesting to compare the public/private systems and also get a glimpse at a more rural school. I think it´s a really good idea for the EBH kids to get out and see how the other half lives, especially since the teachers here are always complaining that the kids are spoiled. In fact, my 10th grade student´s younger brother (both from one of the richest families in town) was in the 8th grade group, along with the family bodyguards... which still really weirds me out. I hope activities like this inspire more service-oriented activities in students personal lives and future professional lives.

To keep things fair, September 17th is el Día de los Maestros, or Teachers´Day. To celebrate, my 11th grade students called in all their teachers to thank them and handed out very neatly presented goodie bags full of little candies and treats. Soooo cute! They´re my favorite class anyway, but this really sealed the deal. Apparently, it´s normal for teachers to get little presents from students on that day, but since the 17th is during our independence day vacation this year, I´m not sure if students will do anything big. Personally, I´m touched by the whole thing, and I like the fact that the two holidays are only a week apart so we can all reciprocate and feel the love. While there is a Teacher´s Day back home, I don´t think there is such a thing as an official children´s day in the United States (correct me if I´m wrong), but it seems like a really nice way to affirm the value of children and of having a good childhood.

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