Guatemala Education Project

A Canadian perspective

Hello!

 

We wanted to better introduce ourselves. We are students from The University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for the Study of Education. We arrived in Guatemala five weeks ago to complete our Bachelors of Education with an Internship at Melody School. Unfortunately our time here has run out, and we have to return to Canada.

 

Our hope was to help and support Melody School in any way they needed. Specifically we helped with the development of their English program, honing of their physical education program and with literacy.

 

We also wanted to support the Chaqlaxel Program in any way that we could. We felt that having a website as a billboard and communication tool would be a lasting way to help the program expand.

 

Our hope is that you will be as excited as we are and that this website is useful, informative and supportive of this phenomenal program.

 

Welcome and Thank you!

 

Observations about Melody School

By Kelsey McIver, University of Toronto (OISE) Intern

 

Melody School is an exception to every stereotype of the Guatemalan education system. I arrived in Chimaltenango with vivid pictures of wild children playing in mud and never learning to read and write, let alone do math. My first day at Melody absolutely blew me away.

 

The children and staff are incredibly warm and welcoming. They were so excited to talk to me, to show off and to bring me around the school. It didn´t matter that I didn´t speak their language. They are so kind and so willing to share their love and experiences. The students, although ranging in age from 2 to 6, all spend time playing together and helping one another. Melody has already begun to develop leadership skills in students as young as 3.

 

The youngest class (including the very youngest at 2 years old) are already learning how to use pencils, markers, crayons, scissors and glue to create works of art and to begin the writing process. They are more capable on the computer than I could have ever imagined. They sing songs, do dramatic performances and are learning English and Kaqchikel.

 

The middle class (the four year olds) are already beginning to read and write. All of the students are involved in special presentations that require public speaking, singing and dancing – sometimes in another language! The students absolutely shine with excitement and pride when they are performing. The support and love from the teachers is palpable during every moment of the day.

 

The oldest class constantly surprised me. They would be the youngest students in a Canadian school and yet, they are so incredibly capable and mature. They are counted on to be leaders in the school, they have started learning about multiplication and many can read and write fluently. They were wonderful ambassadors for me in a new country and school.

 

The teachers are enthusiastic and progressive in their approaches. They teach in very active and inclusive ways – ensuring that every student gets the attention and support that they need. They are tireless in their dedication to their language programs and willing to spend extra time before and after school to ensure that they are delivering the best program they possibly can. They work with extreme patience and kindness and always have ready smiles for every child. Their discipline is consistent and fair. They are firm about roughness and often look for alternative ways to teach lessons about respect and kindness.

 

The program at Melody extends beyond typical education curriculums. They also ensure that sponsored students receive daily nutritious meals as well as any specialty health care they may need. Teachers and student teachers spend time every morning on one-on-one tutoring for every child. They also focus on mutual respect of others, the school and the environment. They teach these young minds about the importance of trees and the environment in the hopes that the lessons will permeate throughout the community via these future leaders. They enforce personal hygiene through constant hand washing and brushing of their teeth.

 

26 of the 65 students are children whose education is paid for by sponsors in Canada. These children astounded me on a daily basis. They come from the poorest of families and yet they are just as charming, kind and enthusiastic as any other child. They come to school on time, they are gracious and funny, they try hard and have incredible potential. They are so happy and wonderfully loving. It is impossible not to fall in love with them seconds after meeting them. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend some time with these students, they have changed my perspective and my life.

 

 

Observations about Melody School

By Kristina Collett, University of Toronto (OISE) Intern

 

• I decided to come to help teach at a school in Guatemala because I had been told that it had a really poor education system. There were many families that could not afford to send their kids to school, and those that could, did not get a quality education like we expect in Canada. Upon arriving in Guatemala and seeing Melody School, and meeting the students and teachers, I was incredibly surprised by the standards that the school upholds. The teachers are enthusiastic, patient and passionate about giving the kids a great experience, and the kids are incredibly sweet and irresistibly charming. The school itself is built to look like a castle, and based in the middle of a poor part of Guatemala, rightly so. The families that pay for their childrens´ educations are getting a positive environment of learning and growing. The famillies of children that cannot afford to pay for education and are sponsored by anonymous donors in other countries get an great opportunity. They get a quality education, they learn about proper hygiene and diet, they get to be kids, and play, laugh and learn. They sing songs, they eat healthy meals, they are clothed and clean. They escape a childhood of heavy burden and responsibility and get to be kids; carefree. Melody is not just a school, but a place of happiness, freedom, and laughter.

 

 

 

Observations about Melody School

By Edward Grilo, University of Toronto (OISE) Intern

 

I am very proud and feel privileged to have been a part of the community at Melody School. As a student teacher with intermediate and senior qualifications (Grades 7 – 12), this has been an opportunity to broaden my understanding and abilities as an educator in working with significantly younger aged children. In this new and challenging opportunity, I have felt very supported and welcomed at the school. I think that this is one of Melody´s greatest attributes – that of supporting and celebrating the uniqueness and contributions of its members.

 

Like myself, the students are certainly provided with exceptional support. While this support comes in the form of academic and emotional support within the school, the children also receive medical, financial, and personal support, of which for many would not otherwise be available. Just one part that makes the environment so unique is the shared belief that with just a little guidance the children and their community have unlimited potential to accomplish great things. It is from this lived sentiment that the staff get their inspiration and with it serve the students with incredible dedication.

 

At the beginning of each day students participate in school wide songs and games. During this time, student teachers and volunteers work individually with students aged five and six, to work on their reading skills. This was one of the most rewarding experiences for me as it gave me the chance to get to know the students individually and see directly the impact of my help.

This was especially true with one student named Brandon. In my time with him he has learned to use 7 more letters when reading sentences. What is much more important, is the impact of the positive attention that myself and the other interns were able to give to him. His true nature of being a little gentleman has emerged as he readily helps others, plays games with his friends and works to keep the school grounds tidy. It is common to see Brandon sweeping the school steps or picking up little Lesvia after she has fallen down.

 

Each day the students prepare for a cultural concert presentation. There are five productions each year and we were lucky to see the Mother´s Day presentation. It is in these presentations that children get to show off all that they have accomplished. Students develop and demonstrate self confidence and pride in their work.

 

Along with taking classes in environmental and social studies, literacy in three languages as well as physical education, the children are blessed with an education that brings about the development of their whole person. In conjunction with preparation for assessment and exams from such a young age, it is my belief that Melody School is preparing its students with the foundation for facing the challenges and opportunities that await them in their adult lives.