Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Feb 8, 2011

Greetings from Jeanne

Tom has been sending some terrific thoughts about our life here, so I wanted to add a few things about my time in the school and the activities I have been participating in there.  I have had the amazing opportunity to witness teachers in the escuela primaria (elementary school) teach mathematics.  I sit, observe, type thoughts into my ipad, and learn.  For the past two days, the upper grade levels have been learning the Mayan number system and a version of decimals that is new to me, so am eager to continue my observations to sort through the logic behind the method. The teacher of grades 4-6 is presenting this six times daily, twice with each grade, and I observe her three times each day. We are on a recognition, acceptance level, and I hope to get my Spanish up to speed enough to speak to her about her teaching methods and conceptual development. The other grade level teachers are equally open and willing to have me in their classrooms and I am learning many things about how teaching and learning mathematics occurs here.  With 5.5 more months to go, I hope to be quite adept at this. Although the school day is divided between English and Spanish speaking for every child, mathematicas is only taught in Spanish, the native language of most.  It is a challenge at times, but my dictation/interpretation skills are improving vastly as a result.

Yesterday, one of the directors of the school, Suzy, took me with her and 23 seniors from the h.s. to a small village southwest of the school, Jocotenango. There the students engaged with 60 very old, infirmed folks at a nursing home that operates on donations, kindness, and volunteers.  The residents, many of whom have been deserted there by family members, were very sweet and appreciative of the kindness and energy the students brought to them.  I attempted to speak to the ladies and gentlemen, but it was apparent that my Spanish is still woefully inadequate for engaging with citizens who have only spoken Spanish their entire lives. They still appreciated the personal contact, in spite of the lack of language fluency.  This is one of the community service projects that the school sponsors for all upper level students at the school, which is private, and provides instruction for fairly wealthy students, but also provides quite a few scholarships for children in lesser circumstances.  It is a valuable experience for the students to engage and share themselves with shut in folks.

Another great thing has been happening: I am speaking Spanish; hailing taxis, ordering food, with my tutor for three hours every other day, at the school, and have even begun to see things here in Spanish only.  It is so amazing, since up until this week, I have shied from speaking, so it feels pretty good, in fact great.  I can only hope that this will continue to develop.  We had a slight problem with technology and my Rosetta Stone practice disks ceased to work, which is unfortunate, as this is what was boosting my confidence to try.  Oh well, the real world has set in and I am forced, happily, to give it a go.

This weekend is the Festival Paiz for three weeks in Antigua. Tom has been working fastidiously to acquire tickets, and achieved success today  Yeah!! We have tickets for Tiempo Libre (one of our favorites, check it out) this weekend, and tomorrow he is going to give it another go, hopefully scoring tickets for the national ballet of Guatemala.  The setting is an outdoor theatre that used to be a cathedral, but now only the facade serves as the backdrop for the stage which looks up a slight hill to the stands where we will sit under the stars for the performance. Should be real cool. 

We have begun our parallel day lives, me at school and Tom walking around Antigua discovering new things, but are enjoying our evenings of birds, mountains, and flowers, flowers, flowers. It is truly paradise here.  Off for now.  jt


  1. I'm fascinated to read about what you learn about elementary math. Kind of makes me want to go back and take your PDS class...

    Ashley Rinehart-Doner

  2. Dr. Tunks,
    Your zest for life and education are such an inspiration for me! I hope you all have an amazing time. Can't wait to read more.

  3. Wow, this is amazing! I also can't wait to read more! I'm so happy for you two.