Well, today (July 3rd) was our 3rd dia de practica. We decided that since we had interviewed the community, the municipality and the directors of the schools, the next logical step would be to do a focus group with the students at the school. We chose a 6th grade class from a public school and a private school. So today we went to the public school first at 8am. We got there to find out that instead of our requested 9-12 students we would have about 18-20 students. This was not terribly bad, we just didn’t know if we would be able to control the whole group.
For the most part Jesus and I decided that the best method would be to pretend that we had not done any research and simply have a conversation with the children and see where it lead. If you remember our topic is “Basura” (trash). We have been investing why Gurambaré is completely covered with litter and trash. This includes contaminated streams and parks that are full of litter. We have been wondering if the people even see the trash, and if they do, why don’t they clean it up? We used visual prop called “The Arbol del Problem” (The tree of problems), which was basically white construction paper with a tree drawn on it, with the roots at the bottom and a big, full, green tree at the top. The tree was more symbolic than anything else. The goal was to question the students about the causes (roots) of litter and trash in the community, and then discuss the effects (the budding green part of the tree) that the trash can have on the community.
To begin with, we passed out paper and had the children make themselves nametags so that we could call on the children if they didn’t want to speak up. From the start the children we very active and were eager to interact with 2 Brazilians (yes, the initially thought we were from Brazil). To make a long story short, we find out that most of the children’s parents burn their trash each night, instead of paying for the local trash service which takes away the trash.
This school had children that were very active and eager to participate.
At 10am we arrived at the private school with high hopes. When we arrived with checked in with the director and waited for the 6th grade teacher to come down and get us. (so far so good, the public school just allowed us to walk into the school, past hundred of kids, and appeared to not have any means of security to keep the children safe.) The teacher soon arrived and took us to her classroom. On the way to the class we noticed that all of the children had uniforms on (not uncommon at any school) and the school was much better kept. The teacher lead us to her classroom but allowed us to enter first, while she waited outside. Upon entering all of the children stood in unison a practically remained “at attention” until we told them to be seated. Ten seconds later the teacher came in, and again they stood immediately an in unison. With this kind of welcome I was impressed with the children and of course had high hopes about the outcome of the class.
Sadly, I can sum up the whole class period in one word “mudos” (mutes). Jesus and I worked that class, promised dance lesson, promised candy, told jokes, had the kids make a circle, had the kids stand and shake their hands and I even had to break dance in order to show them how loose and relaxed we wanted them to be…….all of this and nothing. The students barely spoke and didn’t want to answer or participate at all. Don’t get me wrong, none of the children were falling asleep or even slouched in their chairs, they just simply did not want to answer any questions.
Upon talking to our trainer, he indicated that many of the private schools may have more resources, but they also have more rigid teachers. In other words he was describing the fact that many of the students in the private schools are more accustomed to taking orders from the “authority” figures, but rarely are the asked to respond to anything or contemplate their thoughts, but instead simply obey.
So in conclusion, the dia de practica went very well. We learned that some of the classes just won’t go as planned and not always will we have what it takes to make the children talk and speak up. All-in-All a productive day. See picture below.