Friday, February 12, 2010

Busting Our Butts in Bogota

A month ago we promised that all, with the start of our volunteering, would no longer be fun and games in Bogota. Admittedly, we had lived it up up to that point—partaking in the Colombian all-night party, i.e. rumba, albeit a version that ended at 12:30 instead of 6:30am; being tourists; getting whipped in tennis (it was my first time on a clay court!); enjoying microbrews at the Bogota Beer Company; and, generally, letting ourselves be spoiled by Juliana and Diego and their two maids. Though we have found time for a bit of fun and a few games (of futbol) since, the past few weeks have corroborated our claim. But, if it hasn’t been all leisure, what have we been up to?

Among the two of us, Joe has had less on his plate, except at lunch, so we’ll start with him. He…okay, I’m switching to “I”; the third person feels funny. My primary responsibility has been to take over various teachers’ classes, presenting lessons on environmental topics. I spent most of the time discussing climate change—what it is, what it’s caused by, and what are some things we can do to limit our “carbon footprint”. Interestingly, I’ve had the opportunity to have this discussion with a wide range of age groups. In the end, though I felt like an actor in front of them, I enjoyed the third-graders most. The oldest girls were fun, too, but for a different reason, and the middle school-aged girls were, well, interesting. And, yes, I meant to put “girls” back there. Santa Pachas is an all-girls school, pre-kindergarten through high school. When it comes to single-sex education, I concede, I was biased to begin with, having gone to the all-male Wabash College. I am now further convinced that single-sex education can be a great thing, and perhaps an even better thing in primary and secondary schooling.

In addition to the teaching, I led discussions of environmental topics within a conservation club on Fridays, and I worked with the woman in charge of professional development at CASFA, the younger, less successful version of our main workplace, Santa Pachas. A better introduction to this school, reminiscent of my former teaching grounds in Chicago, is in order.

CASFA serves a different class of student than Santa Pachas, and I mean class in the socioeconomic sense. Located farther up the mountain, part of the poorer, northward urban sprawl of Bogota, CASFA’s loud, painfully urban environs provide quite the contrast to the lush, tranquil campus of Santa Pachas. And it’s not just a difference of setting; the resources of the average CASFA student pale in comparison to the relatively affluent Pacha chica. Sadly, as is too often the case, the quality of the instruction within the two schools is, at least for the moment, directly correlated with the financial resources of the institution and its clientele. (Pachas does nobly provide financial support to its younger sibling, CASFA, to help curb the gap.)

Juleen and I spent our Thursday’s at CASFA, struggling with the disparity. Those Thursdays provided a few headaches, and they provided substance for the recommendations I ultimately gave to the school´s professional development coordinator. Impressively, she received all of my ideas graciously and encouraged me to provide more.

That´s what I have been up to. While not leisurely, it’s been great (most days) to have something to do and to feel productive again. It had been a while.

And Juleen has been even busier than I. Her story and relevant pictures are on their way. Right, come back soon.

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