Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Monday, January 5, 2009

My first day at Holy Cross

Monday morning, and the six o'clock alarm rang.  I was first in the shower, then out to find Kim up and making coffee.  (What a great roommate!)  We had a quick breakfast of toast and oatmeal and then headed out for the walk to Holy Cross School.  Fortunately, it is a nice and pleasantly breezy walk up the beach, so it did not get hot until we got to the toll bridge between San Pedro and San Mateo, where the school is located.  

Everyone was delighted to see Kim, and many hugs were exchanged, and I was warmly welcomed due to being with Kim.  (See, WHO you know is important. :)  I met the principal, assistant principal, director, and office bookkeeper right off.  As it was the first day of the term after the Christmas break, it was very busy in the office, so I just observed.  (I felt like an intern all over again, but it was kind of nice.)  When Grace got there (the principal) Kim and I went with her for opening ceremonies with the older grades.  We were introduced, and then everyone did the Belize national anthem, the Apostle's Creed (which at least we knew) and the Lord's Prayer.  Since Holy Cross is an Anglican school, they start each day this way.  I noted how the children were watching Kim and me to see what we were doing (as we were at the head of the class).  We vowed to learn the Belize national anthem by the end of the week.

I don't know what others think about that, but I think to respect the country in which you are, you should know their customs and what is important to them, and that when I sing their national anthem, it is out of respect for their culture, their experience, and frankly, I found much in it to which to relate.

After opening ceremonies, I was sent to Mr. Vernon's orientation.  There are 3 education professors and their graduate students from Christopher Newport in Virginia here for the next two weeks as well.  The graduate teachers are managing the classrooms in the afternoon while the professors are conducting workshops for the classroom teachers.  The only requirement to teach here is to have a high school diploma, so teachers are not necessarily prepared for the classroom.

This is the beginning of the library, and they are currently organizing the many donated books.  Where there are duplicate books, they are sending them home with the children so that each home has at least ONE book.  Can you imagine?  We throw books away, or don't take the opportunity to check out free books at our library, and here, the goal is to put at least one book in each child's home.
We headed out side to the immediate community of San Mateo, where most of the children live.  (First, I was passing out my giant bottle of 45 SPF sunscreen as most of the grad students are young, and already sunburned, and with no protective clothing and here we were walking out in the tropical sun again.  Thanks, Mom, you taught me well as a fair-skinned, red-haired Scottish woman.)

So, here is the "bridge" that the children walk over to get to school.  San Mateo is built on the edge of the lagoon, and is mostly water.  The "trash" is to help fill in the water and mud so there is some stability to the area.  
There is a central area of built up sand and rocks for a pathway, and is the only "road" into the community.  Planks form the bridges from the road to the houses--many of which have no electricity, plumbing, etc.

Note the electrical cable strung across the water, and dipping into the water.  I surmise that the person who built my house in Mississippi and put electrical wire in water might have had a hand in this.
Mr. Vernon leading the tour through San Mateo.

Odis, this one is for you. :)  The area is Roman Catholic, Anglican, and what I would call independent or evangelical Christian, such as Living Word where Kim and I went yesterday.  This is the first Church of Christ I have seen (not that it is the only one, just the first I have seen) and appears to be a fairly new building.  It is in San Mateo, the community in which Kim and I are working.
Our tour is ending, and yet another plank bridge to walk over as we head back to the school.

Here, I am standing on the bridge, looking down into the water--the "sewer system" for this community.
Once the tour and orientation was finished, I met with the early childhood instructor, who lives on the island, though her main office is in Belize City on the mainland.  She works with the children with disabilities and took me to the classroom with her to see a child who was having some difficulty.  To protect the identity of the children here, I will be very vague in my discussions, and use no identifying information about the child.  She was able to calm the situation, and the child actually asked my name, and I told her.  She is one of the children that the school wants me to work with during my time here.

After that, we had lunch.  A young man from Chicago is here as his business organization does different benevolent work and right now, he was able to visit Holy Cross. He ate lunch at our table and was quite nice to talk with.  Lunch was spaghetti and salad, with FLAN!  I was so happy with the flan--first dessert I have had and it was awesome.  The kitchen (Ms. Rosalie) does an awesome job feeding over 500 children a day.  The volunteers pay for our meal (5 Belize $ which is like $2.50).  Since the school operates entirely on donations and volunteer work (the teachers' salaries are paid by the government, but nothing else), it is important.

Ms. Laura, the assistant principal asked me to work with three boys who are needing to catch up to grade level on reading.  (Dr. Higgins from Hardin-Simmons, thank you for all the help you gave me when I was doing the Riverside program in Mississippi--I used it today!)  I enjoyed it very much, and made my notes for the teachers as to what I observed.  I will be in classrooms in the mornings, observing and evaluating and looking to identify what problems there may be, and Kim will get to deal with those as she continues on.  In the afternoons, I will be working with these three boys each day.

You know, I like to think that I am a good teacher, good with understanding what kids need, and good at giving positive reinforcement.  It was great today to have the opportunity to do that, to think that if a child learned to read--and even more, learned to LOVE reading, how many doors it would open.  It gave me a renewed respect for reading teachers, and a deep appreciation for Diana Higgins--my long time friend and colleague from back in Texas--for all the help she has given me over the years.  I know 2 weeks is not long, but I will simply do what I can do in that time.

Kim and I were walking home and went through the community this time instead of down the beach.  It was quite different (reminds me so much of South Africa).  We turned around a block and one of here friends was there and in his club cart and offered us a ride.  It was most interesting to visit with him and hear him talk about his community.  One of the young men who works for him came up, and he and I exchanged my limited Spanish and he would ask me what things meant in English.  It made for an interesting end of the day--especially when I told him I was "su abuela" and he asked if I knew what that meant.  I said, "Yes, it means I am old enough not to be just your mother but your grandmother!  You are like mi nino."

1 comment:

Gigi said...

Sounds like quite the adventure and I know you will be making an impact on the students and teachers at Holy Cross, just as they will be impacting you.