Two weeks visiting Villa Maria Academy and lessons learned from its fabulous teachers. Santiago, Chile.Read More
In Chile, private schools have all the attention. Parents try to place their kids into a private school. Private schools can implement various activities as they see fit. Private schools have funds. Teachers seek to work in private schools since they have higher salaries. Private schools employ higher quality teachers.
Public schools in Chile are a complete opposite. They struggle. They are poor. They serve the underserved. They lack funds. They tend to have lower quality teachers.
During my time in Chile, I have visited a total of 10 schools (for now). As with anything in life, there are always things that are great, and things that need work. And then came Escuela Epu Klei in a small village of Lican Ray.
What fascinated me about Escuela Epu Klei in Lican Ray was the following:
the classrooms were beautiful and very creatively decorated,
teachers cared about their students,
teachers took pride in what they do,
teachers went above and beyond to create learning environment conducive to learning,
the school was clean and organized,
student work was everywhere,
both teachers and administration were extremely welcoming.
Right away I jumped to a conclusion -->
'This is a private school.'
Much to my surprise, it was a PUBLIC school and I was floored. In Chile, private schools have funds to invest in their students, staff, and initiatives. Parents pay tuition, and schools use these monies for learning, assessing, and other things. Private schools look, and feel PRIVATE.
In public schools the situation is different: they often struggle trying to find money for supplies, materials, and so on.
Escuela Epu Klei in Lican Ray was a small school that simply managed with the funds it had and was doing a great job.
Creativity, professional effort, and motivation of its teachers was evident.
The United States spends more money per pupil than any other country (except Luxembourg) yet there are schools that still lack in both teacher and student performance, look dirty, and lack creativity.
Chile has private schools that can do anything they want with the resources they have-yet they also fall short.
In fact, I have visited private schools in Chile located in wealthy areas and have not seen what I have seen in the little Escuela Epu Klei. Moreover, some private schools were a complete opposite - they collected tuition yet looked and felt PUBLIC.
Money is not everything
Escuela Epu Klei showed me that with mutual effort, strong leadership, and teacher effort and creativity, any school can be transformed into a place where teachers love to work and students love to learn.
This past week I visited five rural schools located in the Araucanía and Los Lagos regions of Chile. I tagged along with Andrea and Gloria, representatives from Leyendo en Red, an collaborative initiative from Fundación Había una Vez and Fundación Luksic. Specifically, Leyendo en Red entails establishing a --very beautiful--school library, maintaining it, training the teachers, promoting reading both in and outside of the classroom, and incorporating books into daily lives of students and their parents. Additionally, Leyendo en Red also helps with “Biblioteca del Aula”- a classroom library. Each classroom in those 8 rural school has a biblioteca del aula.
Here are the 8 schools that are involved with Leyendo en Red:
Escuela Padre Berger de Melefquén
Escuela Rural de Huellahue
Escuela Rural la Rinconada de Choshuenco
Escuelas Tierra Esperanza de Neltume
Escuela Rural de Pullinque
Liceo San Agustín y Escuela Epu Klei de Lican Ray
Escuela Padre Enrique Romer de Coñaripe
Escuela Rayén Lafquén, de la comuna de Villarrica.
I tagged along with Andrea (representative from Fundación Había una Vez) and Gloria (representative from Fundación Luksic). Both ladies were very kind to allow me to join them, patiently answered questions I had, and even invited me to join round table discussions and ask questions of the school staff and students.
I loved this initiative to promote reading. The school libraries were gorgeous. The teachers and staff motivated and wanting to do better for the benefit of their students. The students were funny and curious about books but also me and where I came from.
Biblioteca del aula
Classroom library is a spot in the class that has books that students and a teacher collaborated on selecting together. It contains both fiction and non-fiction books, oftentimes carrying books that are connected to the curriculum of that classroom: history, reading, social studies, math, etc.
La Araucanía region is full of volcanoes, lakes, and forests. Los Lagos region is full of same thing. The beauty of nature, even when it was raining. Some names of the towns: Choshuenco, Lican Ray, Coñaripe, Panguipulli, Calafquén, etc.
The Mapuche nation
Temuco, the Araucanía, and the Ríos regions of Chile are the heartland of Mapuche nation. In mapudungun, a Mapuche language, Mapu means earth, and che means people. Mapuche nation self identify as "People of the Earth". I have heard and read a little about the Mapuche nation but never actually met any. On this trip, I had a chance to not only personally meet Mapuche people but also learn about their culture, traditions, cosmology, literature, and their struggles and aspirations.
Each school library and many classrooms I visited had posters, art, and bulletin boards with Mapuche symbols, writing, and traditions.
After that visit I became enamored and intrigued about the Mapuche culture. In fact, I envisioned the whole thematic unit (maybe for Honors Level Class) based entirely on the Mapuche culture. Unfortunately, that would require living in the Mapuche region for some time yet I am based in Santiago.
Below are some pictures of Mapuche students and teachers.
I feel grateful that I had this wonderful opportunity to visit schools in La Araucanía region since that added yet another, a completely different, perspective to my study. Thank you, Andrea and Gloria, for taking me with you and making this visit a success! And, of course, thank you to Leyendo en Red for allowing me to tag along on this journey.
Yesterday was the second time I connected to my students via Google Hangout to tell them about Chile. It was priceless. Although my project is still in progress, students at WAMS already are enjoying the benefits: the benefits of cultural exchange.
I spent the whole day presenting and taking questions about Chile: its food, lifestyle, landscape, people, and activities. Thanks to Matt, Anna, Catarina, and Deirdre, 7th grade students at WAMS had the opportunity to participate in this virtual exchange.
When I was preparing for this exchange, I was thinking "what can I show them; what can I talk about?..." And then it hit me: I can show them anything! Anything, and I mean anything can work: any articles of food, weather, books, magazines, any stories I have, too - all this is like GOLD. Anything from Chile is extremely valuable since it represents Chilean culture and everyday life. Simple things like hallulla bread, avocado, a children's book, or the view from my balcony are authentic ideas that can be used to extend and nurture world language study.
I miss my students so much. I miss teaching so much. I miss my colleagues so much. That is why I was so happy to be able to connect with them not once, but TWO times. And for that, I'm grateful.
During my stay in Chile, in addition to visiting schools, I was lucky to sit down and talk shop with innovative and gifted educators. Some teach in K12, some-in higher education; some teach Spanish and literature to native speakers, and some-to students that learn Spanish as a foreign language.
Below is some invaluable advice that was generously shared with me. In turn, I am sharing it with my fellow world language teachers. Enjoy!
#1. Santiago en 100 palabras.
Santiago en 100 palabras is an annual writing contest held in Santiago that requires participants to describe their Santiago experience (be it good, bad, ugly, or funny) in 100 words.
Here are some winners from previous years:
In essence, participants' task is to write a short narrative about Santiago but not to exceed 100 words. Now that is a challenge!
How can we use this in our world language classes?
How about this... We can ask students to write a short narrative about their school, their community, their favorite book, their family, or even their life. In 100 words.
"My School in 100 Words" // "My Life in 100 Words" // "My home town in 100 Words" // "My friends in 100 words"
Then we can have a panel of judges in the school (our colleagues can serve as judges) to choose 1,2, and 3 places, plus honorable mentions.
With more advanced students, this strategy can be used to add culture to the curriculum -perhaps these passages can be read, unpacked, and critiqued?
Poems are a beautiful way to supplement world language instruction. A teacher can find poems of various content, difficulty, and length. For instance, below is the 'Little Star' by Gabriela Mistral. Although it is difficult (even for me as a teacher), with careful planning it can be used with middle school students.
#3. Recados de Gabriela Mistral
First of all, what are 'recados'? I couldn't find any official definition but after reading a couple, I could determine that a 'recado' is a small story that is recited with instrumental music in the background. Gabriela Mistral wrote a lot of recados, mainly about her childhood, nature, family, and life in general. Below is "El Valle de Elqui" - a beautiful recado dedicated to the Valley of Elqui - a place where Gabriela spent her childhood.
Is it appropriate for Spanish language learners?
I would use it with more advanced students, maybe in Language and Culture classes, AP classes, or Honors classes since the language she uses is quite complex.
From the times when I was learning both English and Spanish, I loved idiomatic expressions. What could be better that a sentence that, at first glance, makes no sense, but carries a hidden meaning. Think of the ones we have in English:
Why not introduce two-three idioms in each thematic unit?
For example, we have a 'Mi casa es su casa' unit in 7th grade. Perhaps we can find some idiomatic expressions that have to do with family and 'work' them during the unit as a cultural supplement.
When we cover emotions in 'I am unique' thematic unit in 6th grade, perhaps we can add this one:
An anecdote is a short story, recounting an event usually of intriguing nature, with a lesson or punchline at the end. For instance, below is a story about an apple tree and its' friend.