Sunday, September 6, 2009

School Days, School Days

Escuela Bilingue Honduras, my new workplace, is reportedly one of the best schools in Comayagua. It´s a private school, and most of the students and their families aren´t hurting for money. One of my students, son of the owner of an oil trucking fleet, is dropped off at school with bodyguards as they are often targets for kidnapping. All that being said, it surprises me that the facilities and the organization of the school aren´t better. My ¨fully equipped¨ science lab only has 7 pairs of safety goggles, a smattering of glassware, and not enough stools for some of the bigger classes. No chemical hood, no eyewash, no fire extinguisher. Iiiinteresting. A couple of classes still don´t have teachers. Even though I came a week after school started, I found out that no one was covering my class. My students simply had ¨study hall¨ during science for the first week.

One of my new friends here, a former teacher at EBH and a current volunteer at the local orphanage, tells me that some days she has to come pick her kids up from the public school after only a few hours because the teachers haven´t shown up, or they´re on strike, or they simply don´t care (this is kind of hard for me to believe--I feel like I need to see it for myself). This year, due to government protests, all the public schools opened two weeks late. Essentially, if people can afford a ¨reliable¨ education in private schools, they´ll take it.

All that aside, I do really like our school building. the hallways and common spaces are all open air and it feels so nice to get fresh air pretty much all the time. Many of the classrooms have AC, for when it gets hotter later in the day. There are little atriums and green spaces tucked in the stairwell, and there´s a big coconut palm just outside the main window. YAY!

Each grade is composed of one class of students, usually between 18 and 25 people. Unlike larger high schools in the US, where students change classrooms for each class, here the teachers switch in and out and the students stay in the same room all day. It makes sense, since the school is somewhat small, but I feel kind of sorry for the kids cooped up in the same room all the time, without that break between classes to stretch their legs. Even their lockers are in the room with them!

It also seems that, since there´s not a lot of equipment or materials available, students are *hurting* for hands-on activities. They seem to have been taught nothing but theory and some of them tell me they have never done a lab or any kind of fun activity in class. They are practically begging me for it! So far, I´ve taken two classes into the lab to do a really basic paper chromatography experiment, and with my 11th grade biology students, I found a really great hands-on simulation activity of natural selection. The students were ¨predators¨ with different ¨feeding apparati¨ (knives, forks, spoons) and had to eat different colored pom poms in different environments. We then tracked multiple generations of predators and prey (who survived and got to reproduce) to see if natural selection was at work over two different simulated environments. They had so much fun and I laughed SO HARD I had to stop and get control over myself a few times. You can read more about the activity here:

Don´t worry, we graphed all the results and will be discussing our interpretations on monday :)

Anyway, sometimes the subjects I´m teaching are a little stilted and dry, and I realize that there are many days when I will have to just lecture. I am, however, committed to finding as many hands-on activities as possible, and I´ve already been supplementing my class with some science videos. I have been spending money on materials (and submitted receipts for--I hope--reimbursement) and I plan on putting together lesson kits with all the materials inside, lesson plans, etc, so that future teachers and classes can use them. I REALLY hope that they will be used again and again to keep the kids interested and engaged.

The 11th grade boys, ecstatic that they got to play with cups, spoons, and pom poms, hahaha.


  1. Hey, I am teaching at EBH this year. I leave in 10 days!! I will be teaching 6th grade any tips for a new teacher?

  2. I was one of the original teachers there in 1991! Is Lupita de Gun still involved with the school? I am looking for a phone number for the school. I had such a wonderful experience there. Please say hi to any of the people who may still be there from the beginning!