Rug-rats, cry-babies and smiles to melt your heart

Trip Start May 18, 2007
Trip End Jul 28, 2007

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Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Monday. Always a bad day in school. It is hard to find out what goes on at home with the kids on a normal day, but during a weekend? Impossible. So the kids show up on Monday, some look happy, others look tired, others still are in a bad mood and will not do anything. It can be difficult to motivate them, and to get them to try to do anything. Sometimes we have to revert to getting our Peruvian colleague involved - which generally means she yells at them until they look sufficiently terrorized... Sad, but it generally gets them going soon thereafter.

We also observed, on Monday, that until 11am, the children were either restless, or apathetic, and had no patience, and no ability to concentrate. At 11am, we distributed the bread and milk (see entry from a couple of weeks ago), and the fruit, and lo and behold, after recess, the children could concentrate and get some work done. It certainly brought home the fact that many of these kids do not get to eat much, if anything, before they come to school, and several certainly do not get enough water or liquids to drink during the day. It is easy to get angry or annoyed when the kids do not listen, and especially when they say, "íNo puedo!" ("I can"t do it") simply because they do not want to try. But - when we remind ourselves that they are probably hungry, may not have slept much, probably have not washed all weekend or if so, only with cold water, it is a little easier to forgive their inability to focus and study.

My biggest concern so far stems from the discovery that my third grade kids all have great difficulties reading. They can read Spanish phonetically quite well, which leads them to believe they can read. But ask them what they have just read, and the silence in response is deafening... I suspect one of my kids of having a rather severe learning disability associated with the fact that she has a speech impediment. Not obvious at first, but it is now fairly evident. Unfortunately, no one here (me included) is equipped to help her with that problem. She is getting by, and will keep going up a grade every year, but in all truthfulness, she cannot pronounce words right, and cannot spell correctly. She is not deaf, and yet, she does not seem to hear the difference between various sounds such as l, r, n, and d. Hard to admit that there is nothing much I can do for her, even though she is very bright, but she definitely will need extra help to become fully literate.

So with only 6 days of teaching left before I leave Arequipa (Friday next week is a holiday), I have to concede that there is only so much I can do as far as actual imparting of knowledge. However, and as exasperating as they can sometimes be, I love these kids, and with a hug, a pat on the back, and even with just a smile, I hope I can convey that to them.
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