So I haven’t posted in a month and a half. People have been bugging me about it and I have to admit I feel a little guilty about it….but only a little because things at work are CRAZY!
I teach at a private school in Quito which has an amazing reputation and equally amazing children. First, let me acknowledge that I am teaching the most homogenous group of kids that I have EVER taught during my 19 years. They all come from upper middle class families. They all are light skinned Ecuadorians. They all have supportive, two-parent households and do not have to work a part time job to get by. You get the idea.
Despite its many differences from my school’s demographics in Boston, the school has really made me think about what happens in the US in terms of education from the teachers’ point of view as well as the students’ point of view. These kids love to learn. Theyquestion everything. They demand excellence from their teachers. They investigate things on their own if the teacher has not covered it in class. These kids are amazing students. And the teachers? They love to teach. They demand excellence from their students. They cover the hardest topics and use the most complicated notation to explain things. They don’t put things in terms they think will be easier for the kids to understand. Instead, they demand that the kids work to understand what is happening. It’s really awesome to see.
But what is most interesting is that this school, like most schools here in Ecuador, subscribes to the ‘sage on the stage’ instead of the ‘guide on the side’ methodology. Now I have always leaned toward ‘sage on the stage’ because that is how I was taught. But here in Ecuador, the teachers are hardcore believers in this. Teach for 20 minutes, practice in almost silence for twenty minutes. This is how most classes go. I’m trying really hard to learn to teach like this so I fit in and my department head is happy with me. I want to say that this method is crazy, stifles the students, and makes learning harder but that is not the case here at this school. The kids are incredibly happy and well rounded. They make connections across the curriculum. I am teaching college level math to juniors and they are succeeding.
Oh! And homework is not big thing here. Most of the learning happens in the classroom unless a kid is learning something on his or her own for fun. Ecuadorians do not believe in hours and hours of homework. If they knew how much homework our students are assigned they would fall over in shock. In fact, if there are three other homework assignments given to a class, they cannot get another assignment! And homework assignments are not long!
So what is the big difference? What is the key to Ecuadorian success? I have only been here for a month and a half but I recognized it immediately. These kids RETAIN WHAT THEY LEARN. All of it. Yup. You read that correctly. If they learn something, they remember it later on. The school does not reteach ideas EVER. That would be crazy and inefficient, right? Why would you teach something twice? I am determined to figure out what the school is doing to help the kids retain what they learn and I have a few ideas. First, Ecuador’s ‘summer vacation’ is only a month long. They are in school for much longer than we are so their brains are not shutting down for sooooo long. Second, this is a K-12 school. The teachers work together and know everything that goes on in every grade that comes before them. And third, the ‘less is more’ theory really is important here. They do not shove a million math concepts into each year’s curriculum. Kids study only a few ideas for a whole year and leave really knowing and understanding the ideas. It’s awesome.
More to come on what is going on in my life but I had to write a little about my job since it is taking up 95% of my time. Hopefully, I will get accustomed to working here because I’m ALWAYS grading or planning. I need to start having some fun! Actually, next weekend is a holiday and Esteban and I are going to Mompiche. Can’t wait!