In the Andes – Round 2

Last week I went on my last field visit. Yup, my internship is rounding up and you would think at this point I would be a pro at planning my trips. Because this time I was planning on working with parents to validate the adult workshops I had designed and staying in the communities, I needed to plan the trip much in advance to accomodate to parents’ busy schedules. I must admit, I did not. With some valid reasons for the tardiness and others not so much, I felt extremely guilty for the situation. Guilty because I was being the stereotype that we so often talked about in our master’s program; the foreigner imposing a schedule, an agenda, without considering the population. The only thing I could do at that point was to offer deeply felt apology and offer my most genuine flexibility. Luckily, the Cusco team was very open to include me in their work schedule to complete my activities, though I was not quite sure what the agenda would look like.

Off I went on the first flight to Cusco, a city in the Andes at an altitude of 11,000ft. I took my sorochi pill, a pill for altitude sickness, right before my flight. I knew I would go straight to the community with an even higher altitude with no time to acclimate. The acompañantes (staff that provides regional technical assistance for the project) were already at the community. I was guided to the bus station, given further directions to get to the community and sent off. It was quite an adventure! 4 hours, 1 bus and a taxi later I made it to the community of Hachacalla. The Hachacalla school is a multigrade school with about 60 students from preschool to 6th grade. I was welcome by the team and by the lovely surprise of having the principal  be one of the participants I met at the Colloquium a month back. The team chose for me to visit this school  because it comes very close to what the ideal EIB school is like. Additionally, the team has worked with the community consistently for almost two years, so it made an excellent place for observation of their community engagement strategy.

View of Hachacalla from school

View of Hachacalla from school

As soon as I arrived we got right into business. The parents were scheduled to meet in less than an hour after my arrival for a previously scheduled meeting. We did a quick review of the workshop and decided the acompañantes would implement it in Quechua and I would serve as guidance. The workshop went well; we had to cut it short as the meeting was running over 4 hours. All the families were troopers and seemed engaged throughout the workshop. It was great to have the opportunity to do a test run to one of the sessions because it made me realized of some assumptions I was making when designing it and of other things that needed to be modified or at least noted for future implementers. I learned so much from the parents that night (of course, after it had been translated for me haha); I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

Workshop takeaways - yup, it's in the shape of a llama ;)

Workshop takeaways – yup, it’s in the shape of a llama😉

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Some of the moms and children at the meeting

The next day was a busy one. I continued taking notes and casually talking to the teachers and children, observing some activities and finally supporting in the implementation of the children’s workshop. With a similar experience as the night before, it was great to see first hand how a session would look like implemented by the teacher and how much more details needed to be included to make the session clear for someone who is new to the workshops.

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Dad teaching children about Primera Siembra

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Children’s workshop

I parted Hachacalla with a clearer understanding of what EIB is trying to achieve. It’s not only about educating children in their language and with a relevant cultural context. EIB is to empower a population who for too many years has been belittled, who has been divested from their land, their traditions, their beliefs, and whose wisdom has been oppressed. EIB is not trying to bring back the past, but build a future for the next generations of the pueblos originarios who are proud and thriving being themselves. It is also, as one of the parents in the workshop put it, an education where all students learn about each other’s culture and language as everyone is part of this country. Only with time and people demanding their rights to an inclusive education will EIB reach its potential for all peruvians everywhere.

There was much more to the trip, but I think I have overdone the length of this blog. Instead I’ll let pictures describe the rest of my trip. Until next time!

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Doesn’t it look fake? Apu Ausangate

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Morning from Ocongate!

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Tough being a judge

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Made it to Machu Picchu!

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Not a too shabby selfie without a selfie stick

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Guess that animal?

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Women making a living with pictures – appreciative of letting me be part of their day

Congresos, Coloquios y Simposios

This past week and a half has been a marathon of events. There were three events held at the same university back to back, where my organization had different levels of involvement.

First, there was the International Early Childhood Education Conference where the early chilhood specialist at my organization helped with the coordination. This meant knowing about the event in advance and having free access! Unfortunately, I was only able to attend a few sessions because I had other work responsibilities. However, it was neat to hear a presenter from Cunamasa national program that is the equivalent to Early Head Start in the United States. I say it was neat because I worked in Early Head Start when I was studying in undergrad; I could relate to everything that the presenter was saying. What I liked most though, was that even though they used the Early Head Start model, Peru has made modifications to better fit its characteristics. For example, in the US, the home visitors are paid employees who tend to have a degree in the social sciences, but in Peru because the locations where the program is offered are some of the most remote communities, it is challenging to find candidates who meet those characteristics. Instead, Cunamas offers volunteer home visitors from the community who speak the local language, training and regular support from a professional. It reminded me of yet another rich discussion from my master’s degree, about the benefits and challenges of borrowing successful ideas from other countries and making them fit to in the new context. From the little I saw, it seems like Cunamas has done that.

The second event was the Intercultural Bilingual Education Colloquium. It was a close event, targeted to exchange challenges and successes in the IBE field from around Latin America, but primarily in Peru. My organization co-sponsored it, therefore we had a lot more say in the organization of the event, as well as more responsibilities in the preparation and execution of it. My role during the event was that of “un detrás de cámaras” (behind the scenes), running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying coordinate logistical details, like making sure the registration table is set up, all workshop materials are in the classrooms, presenter’s PPTs are in the flash drive and so on. The days were extremely long and exhausting, but it was all worth it. Most participants were IBE teachers coming from rural areas eager to learn from others and proud to share their experiences; they are not often given spaces like this. I remember when a Colombian teacher presented his experience, the Peruvian and Bolivian teachers were nodding their heads in agreement, as if their own experiences were being validated through his presentation. It just shows as diverse as the Latin American region can be, the challenges can be similar and there is always room to learn from each other.

 IBE Colloquium presenters

IBE Colloquium presenters

That's me in the background!

That’s me in the background!

By the end of the week I was drained and overwhelmed; there was still one more event and I was very behind with my deliverables. I made the executive decision to miss the Bilingualism and Bilingual Education in Latin America Symposium to catch up with work, and in all honestly saving myself from the 2 hour commute to get to the university where the events were being held. I did end up attending a couple of sessions on Friday afternoon to have a meeting with some of the organization’s regional coordinators who were attending the different events.It worked out perfectly because I was able to listen to GSE’s very own Dr. Hornberger and PhD candidate Frances Kvietok. 

In general it was a week of lovely moments, including outside of work. I celebrated my 27th birthday in Peru, surrounded by my new friends. We had dinner, followed by a Peruvian creole show. Plus one of my amazing friends invited me to go rock climbing as a gift for my birthday.

Though, I was particuarly touched by my dear friend and fellow IEDPer’s surprise gift/note sent from Guatemala with a representative from the organization she’s interning with who was attending the Colloquium. Can’t stop saying it, IEDP love! It was the cherry on top to a wonderful week.

Peru, Brazil, Italy, and Mexico/US unite

Peru, Brazil, Italy, and Mexico/US unite

Birthday girl!

Birthday girl!

Hiking to the top

Bright and early for a hike🙂

On my way down after successfully reaching the top

On my way down after successfully reaching the top

The little things

I’ve mostly been writing about the big events or the notable activities that I’m experiencing, but I have not shared the little things that make up my every day routine. These little things are the moments, now that I think about it, I will probably miss the most once this experience ends.

So here we go, insights to the Andrea’s daily life in Lima:

  • Staying in bed an extra 15 minutes after waking up because my bed is so warm compared to the environment’s temperature. Yes, Lima’s winter is actually chilly. Thank you Cassandra for the clothing advice!
  • Walking by the dog park in front of my office. There’s sooo many cute dogs; older dogs, puppies, large dogs, small dogs all playing together. I want to run over there and hug them all. I wisely restrain.
  • My boss commenting almost daily “Y quién está aqui? Andrea” (And who is here? Andrea). She likes to point out my punctuality. However, I have some advantages compared to the rest of my co-workers: I live 15 minutes away walking distance (some of them live up to 2 hours away by public transportation) and I don’t have children I have to help get ready to take to school. So, it’s more of the amusement of the regular comment than the credit that I like.
  • Asking my co-workers who sit next to me random questions about words in Spanish or whether they think an activity would be relevant with our stakeholders. It also works the other way around when I’m asked to translate something or help figure something out on the computer. If only they knew how terrible I am with technology; I’m sure they’re slowly figuring it out.
  • Being known as the icebreaker girl because of all the icebreakers and dynamic activities I’m fond of using for the parent and children’s workshops.
  • My walk back home past the same dog park. This is usually the time and spot I start guessing/dreaming/craving about what was cooked for dinner. Yup, I’m also lucky that dinner is already made by the time I get home.
  • Half day fridays! Especially when I walk out the office and see Lucha, our adopted office cat, sunbathing or should I say cloudbathing, either on a car’s hood or trunk or on the front steps.
  • And of course, what I’ve come to call Domingos familiares (Family Sundays) when I have lunch with my host family. This is a time when we catch up since we don’t see each other much during the week. Plus, I get to try the deliciousness J (host brother) prepares. Mmm mmm good!

And because these are the little things I don’t consciously think about taking pictures to recall for the future, I only leave you with Lucha, the  office cat.

TOO CUTE!

TOO CUTE!

In the Amazon

I’m extremely lucky to have the opportunity to see the diverse geography Peru has to offer through my internship. This past week I was able to visit Ucayali, a region in the Peruvian amazon bordering Brazil. For 4 days I was able to say goodbye to Lima “panza de burro” and say hello to sunny (AND humid…very humid) Pucallpa.

Ucayali river in Pucallpa - used more public transport and commerce

Ucayali river in Pucallpa – used for public transport and commerce

Renovated plaza in the center of Pucallpa

Renovated plaza in the center of Pucallpa

My excitement for this visit differed from my first field visit to Ayacuchoin that my responsibilities and the purpose of my internship are getting more defined. On my first visit I attended a lot of meetings and was trying to understand the regional context, as well as the line of work my organization does in terms of participation. On this visit, my supervisor wanted me to focus more on working with the schools to collect information that will later feed onto the community engagement strategy I’m working on. So on this visit, I interviewed parents, students and school staff on their perceptions on community and family engagement; specifically what are each stakeholder’s expectations and understanding on their own participation and that of others. 

EIB school of Benajema

EIB school of Benajema

The interview process was very fun. From developing the questions, to revising them with the local staff to make sure they would be relevant and translate well (the community was a bilingual community), and of course actually interviewing the stakeholders. The transcribing of the interviews, not so much. I’m astounded at how many words people can say in a minute! Also, it was my first time working with a translator. In the past, I’ve always been the one translating in English/Spanish, I even held jobs as a translator. This time, I was on the other seat where I had to trust that what I and the interviewee said were being translated accurately.

And of course, this trip gave me a second chance to re-design and offer the workshop for children. I took my lessons learned: choosing a topic that was more in line with what elementary children would understand, contacting the coordinators in advance, meeting with them a day before the workshop to coordinate logistics and review the activities to make sure they would be relevant to the children’s context (context just keeps coming up, doesn’t it?). Aside from an activity still not quite fitting with the children’s background, I would say the workshop went quite well. The regional team and I even had a chance to sit down and talk about what worked and what didn’t work. For example, definitely including teachers in the future so they can be the ones implementing the workshops in the long run.

The idea of ‘there is always room for improvement’ has without a doubt been reinforced through this experience. I’m glad I had the chance to give it another try, since now another deliverable  is to develop a workshop for children and for parents on different topics that promote participation. I need all the ‘learnings’ I can get to make a helpful and usable workshop guide.

Children's workshop

Children’s workshop

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This time I was not able to do much sightseeing after work hours, but I did do a lot of eating…as usual, and some of that eating took place in a random, yet bound to happen because it really is a small world place. Pucallpa happens to be my friend’s boyfriend’s hometown, who happens to be the classmate whose family I’m living with. I was told by my host family to visit my friend’s boyfriend’s family restaurant located in the centro (city center) once they heard I was going to Pucallpa (confused yet?). I told myself I would, and on my 3rd day when I was returning from working in the community, I saw from the corner of my eye the word “Odisa”. I had not written down the name, but I remembered it was an uncommon name for me. I hesitantly went in to inquire about a possible relationship; the first person I saw was an older man sitting by the cashier register. As soon as I saw him, I knew it was my friend’s boyfriend’s dad because the son is his spitting image. I immediately approached him and told him who I was. He was so welcoming and you could tell he was happy and proud to hear I knew his son. I saw him again a couple of times after that (my hotel was actually only half a block away) where we exchanged happy wishes and that I would most certainly tell my friend and his son the pleasure it was meeting him. I wanted to share this story not only because it was a lovely encounter, but because it shows how large the IEDP net is. I feel that no matter where we go, we will always find something or someone that connects us, that’s how powerful our group is.

IEDP love!

IEDP love! 

Where has time gone?

It has been over a month since I arrived in Peru. I can’t believe how fast time goes by, and how fast you can fall in love with a country, its people AND its food! Let me take a sentence from this blog post to give credit to the amazing food I’ve tried in Peru: locro de zapalloceviche, causapapa a la huancaina, and chonta among other delicious dishes. As my good IEDP friend Felix would say “oink, oink”.

Anyways, these past few weeks that I have been MIA from the blog post scene I’ve been sitting behind a computer working on one of my deliverables, my literature review on family and community engagment.IMG_0307Even though I have had experience with family and community engagement before, it has always been in a practical, working directly with parents type of work. However, I had never looked into the research that supports or refutes aspects of this field, therefore it has been a very engaging research experience. Some interesting findings include:

  • There are different types and levels of parent participation described in different models, but parent participation with the school can generally be described as that where parents only receive information with no active participation, a more active participation where parents visit classrooms and are more engaged with the school setting, and then when parents are horizontally working with the school staff in decision-making (Salimbeni, 2011; Flecha & Larena, 2008; Vogel cited by Bravo & Rosado, 2013). Often times though in Latin America, the more common type of parent participation is that of cleaning, maintenance and financial support (Blanco, 2004).
  • Participation models are also affected by perceptions where teachers feel parents are uninterested in their children’s education, and parents think teachers have not had proper academic training and do not adequately guide them in their role in the school (Balarin & Cueto, 2008; Saavedra & Suarez cited by López, 2009).
  • Parent involvement can increase student achievement in their GPA regardless of ethnicity (Fan & Chen, 2001; Jeynes 2003). There is a higher correlation between parents’ aspirations and expectations for their children to their involvement (Fan & Chen, 2001; Englund et al., 2004).

There is much more to this topic, and I’m sure I fell short on the research. I realized though parent and community involvement is a complex subject that often issues diverse results as it is a topic like many other social and multidsectoral subjects that should be worked on based on context.

And as it has become a tradition in my blog structure, I would like to share some outside of work experiences. I let too much time go by to share in detail but here is a list of some activities:

  • Watched the Copa America Peru vs Chile soccer match with a group of foreigners surrounded by Peruvians at a peruvian brewery (quite an exciting match I may add).
  • Visited the Peru site of the organization that sparked my interest in international education development back when I was a volunteer in their Dominican Republic site.
  • Attended a random engineering conference on world heritage buildings that ended up being sponsored by UNESCO on their line of work on culture.
  • Supported an event for youth leadership sponsored by my organization for their last two events (so much fun and a HUGE SHOUT OUT to Lima’s youth because they’re very proactive and creative people).
    NPH Peru

    NPH Peru

    UNESCO sponsored engineer event at the teatro municipal

    UNESCO sponsored engineer event at the teatro municipal

    fellow facilitator at youth event

    Fellow facilitators at youth event

    amazing recycled creations by Lima youth

    Amazing recycled creations by Lima youth

In the Andes

This week I went on my first field visit to the Andean region of Ayacucho. When I think of field visits, I immediately think of visiting the beneficiaries in their communities, which we did. But given that my organization is also focused on policy, we spent at least half of our time in meetings with local actors that hold a role in the implementation of EIB. Our meetings with them dealt with learning how each actor is working on assuring that the 4 main criteria of the policy are being met (1. teachers who speak the native tongue and know the culture, 2. an EIB pedagogical curriculum is being used, 3. teaching materials are available in the native tongue, and 4. the EIB process is participatory). We then focused the meeting on learning how EIB is being participatory, primarily including the community, the parents and the children.

The topic of participation is a challenging one. Each actor, including the direct beneficiaries, mentioned the importance of community and family engagement. However, my impression was that it was not a priority. It is not a priority because there are other factors that they seem to think will issue larger results. For example, professional development for teachers. It is interesting to see this first hand, because we often talked about professional development back in school as a way to increase learning outcomes. It is not a solve-all solution or an easy one to come by, yet it is given such heavy weight. So then our meetings and workshops for the rest of the week took a turn towards focusing on why participation in the education policy process is so important and what each actor can contribute to this in a bottom-up way.

Heading to Ayacucho in the crack of dawn

Heading to Ayacucho in the crack of dawn

Now going into details and for those who read my previous blog post, I’ll update you on my specific task – the children’s workshop. I had elaborated this thought out workshop using the UBD template we learned back in school. I planned it out thinking we would be working with about 20 slightly older children for about an hour. And oh boy, was this not the case. We ended up having a group of about 50 children of varied ages and a time frame of 30-45 minutes. I was only able to use a couple of the things I had planned out, and my co-worker and I had to readjust the topic based on a previous activity the parents had with the school staff. This moment reminded me of the importance of being flexible. Not everything will worked out as planned, and readjusting is not a bad thing. However, I also learned that next time I can have better communication in order to balance out the planned out components and the possibility of the unexpected :).

School visited for workshop

School visited for workshop

All in all this field visit was very enriching. I was able to better understand the intricacies and challenges of policy development and implementation, and how everyone’s own agenda plays a role in the process. Also, after hearing and reading so much on the topic of EIB, now I see what this looks like at ground level and have a clearer idea of the gaps the policy is trying to address.

And like always, I leave you with pictures of what I experience outside of work. After all, I am working on a project on interculturality and what better way to practice this than sharing some aspects of the Peruvian culture.

Ayacucho crafts

Ayacucho crafts

Ayacucho market...the bread is amazing!

Ayacucho market…the bread is amazing!

Getting started

As I failed to describe what I’m sure most of you are wondering…what is Andrea exactly doing??? I’ll describe this first. The agency I’m interning with, collaborates with the government on a national policy on Intercultural Bilingual Education (IBE) for the native populations of Peru. They support at policy level to continue pursuing quality of education in the different mother tongues and an education that is culturally inclusive. At ground level, they serve as technical support (management, pedagogy, family and community engagement, and thematic – gender and ECD) to schools who offer IBE.

This week I sat down with my immediate supervisor who is responsible for the area of family and community engagement in the education department to clarify deliverables, create deadlines, and schedule field visits (this was the most exciting one for me, not going to lie). During my internship I will be doing a literature review on successful family and community engagement strategies at national and international level from where I can derive recommendations to readjust the current strategies. I’ll also be adjusting the recommendations to be context relevant through field visits.

My first field visit is actually scheduled for next week; I’ll travel to a region in the Andes.Therefore, most of my work this week has been focused on this visit. One of the activities for the trip is a workshop with children and parents. My supervisor is very open to new ideas, so I suggested using a curriculum tool I learned in one of my courses this spring (ED 673), to design the workshop. I’m very excited to try it out and learn what works well and what needs tweaking, because as we learned in school, it’s all an iterative process.

And because not all is work, work, work, below are some pictures of my weekend outing. I visited the center of Lima, but didn’t make it very far. I got sidetracked at Parque la Exposición. There was an adidas event with grafitti art, skateboarders and break dancers. It was too amusing to miss. Plus the art museum was right inside the park, so I took advantage of it and stopped by. I even got to see a free juggling/clown show inside the museum!

Note: This is not an advertisment/endorsement for Adidas. The event just happened to be this massive

Anyone could line up and decorate with spray paint cans

Anyone could line up and decorate with spray paint cans…provided by adidas!

Painting done by a graffitti artist at parque La Exposición

Painting done by a graffitti artist at parque La Exposición

A beautiful building right outside the metropolitano bus station in the centro

A beautiful building right outside the metropolitano bus station in the Lima centro

Giant adidas shoes at parque La Exposición

Giant adidas shoes at parque La Exposición