Yesterday I went back to visit Santa Maria. The students were working on problems with accelerated motion, and I enjoyed chatting with them and lending a hand. In case I don't make it back before I leave, I also gave the teacher his parting gift: an I heart NY t-shirt. He was really excited about the shirt and said that it's true, he loves NY! The kids thought this was hilarious since he hasn't been there, and we all got a kick out of it. They'd already received the little trinkets I brought to hand out, and were happy to see their teacher get something too.
|Guillermo showing off his new shirt|
We also took a group shot together. The girls were really enthusiastic, as nearly all of the students here have been when I've visited their classes.
|Up close and personal. Not the best shot ever, but at least we're smiling!|
First of all, every day when a teacher arrives in the classroom they have to fill out the logbook for the class. There is a section for each subject, and the teacher flips to their section and then fills in the day's date and the topic of the class. They have to state whether it is lecture or practicum (I would have so much trouble trying to decide how to code my classes!), and then sign the entry. The idea is that an administrator can check over the logbook to make sure that the teacher covered all of the topics that she was supposed to teach. I am not sure how often this happens, maybe it's like the curriculum mapping that I've done in the past- I don't think that the work I did has ever been used.
There is a difference in the level of equipment that the students have with them in the classroom. I haven't seen any graphing calculators, and many students scramble to borrow calculators from friends before the test starts. However, on the flip side, the students are generally more prepared in terms of having writing utensils, erasers, whiteout, scissors, and glue than their American counterparts, who have been known to show up without even something to write with.
In most schools the physics classes meet twice a week, for about 80 minutes each time. There is some flexibility to this, sometimes it's an 80 minute period and two 40 minute periods. At one school the class only meets once per week. It is rare for a class to have a separate lab period. In the classrooms there is basically no lab equipment, the students have to move to a separate laboratory to do experiments. When computers are needed, students usually bring theirs in from home. Same with cameras... I helped one class use their cell phones to take videos that we used for 2-D analysis of motion with good success, but this took a week's worth of advance planning to pull off.
Classrooms typically have a chalkboard, though a few have whiteboards. It is possible to use a LCD projector, but they have to be reserved ahead of time. It's something we take for granted in the US, but I just had a conversation about using a projector with a class and learned that the deciding factor wasn't the projector, but the screen. The only option is to project the image onto the green chalkboard, and that was rejected. So we're going to use the computer lab instead. This will be my first visit to the computer lab, so I'm excited to see what it's like.
I observed a test being given today. I usually try not to visit on test days because I would rather observe teaching, but we were working through an intermediary and I didn't know it was going to happen. This was an interesting experience. The teacher didn't have any tests to give the students. He asked them to get out sheets of paper, and then dictated the questions to them. This took a good chunk of time, but seemed normal for the students. I suppose it saves on preparation time and copies, but I am not sure that it's the best use of class time. During the test, the students were asking lots of questions. At first the questions were about the problem descriptions, but then they drifted into the realm of "how do I do this problem?" Eventually the teacher announced that no more questions would be answered. I probably would have said that only questions about the descriptions would be answered rather than issue such a blanket statement, but that's just me. It was an eye-opening experience for sure.
|In front of a primary school in San Luis. Neat mural!|
I've also started recognizing students on the street. It's nice to feel like I finally know more than a handful of people here. I am so ready to see my family again, but at the same time I feel like I'm hitting my stride here. It's hard to feel torn in two directions, but hopefully the teachers will continue what I've started after I leave.