In November, the administration of CEMOC came to Eric and I with some news. The students of the incoming class of 7th graders were not at all academically prepared for their first year here. In fact, not a single one had passed their diagnostics entrance exam. As a result, CEMOC skillfully called together all the parents of these new students, told them the news, and gave them the exams to review with their child. Afterwards, Miky hosted a townhall meeting of sorts where she asked the parents, “What should we do?” Immediately came the expected answer from one of the fathers in the front row, “We must have classes beforehand to prepare them!”
So then, for two weeks, Eric and I taught English to thirty-five seventh graders. My, it was a challenge. We had students ranging from ages 11 to 15 all in the same grade. Some children had been exposed to English before, but others had never heard it spoken. We worked on the alphabet, numbers, and basic vocabulary to get everyone on the same page. We told the students that on the last day everyone was going to give a small presentation:
“My name is... I’m years old... My favorite color is... ” You get the idea.
You would’ve thought we’d asked them to swim to England! Some of them were honestly terrified. Which is understandable considering in Primary school they may have never presented anything in front of peers before.
The day finally came for the presentation, and to tell the truth I was a little nervous that no one would present. The first student went up front and recited his little bit perfectly! I was so proud. But then came student number two, Hector. He sunk down as low as he could in his seat and refused to stand up, much less go to the blackboard. He buried his head in his scarf and shook his head repeatedly. Eric and I were of course encouraging him to try, but my heart almost exploded when his classmates began to chant, “You can do it! You can do it, Hector!” After much persistence, he finally mumbled through it.
Fortunately, all the other students completed their presentations. Afterwards, we asked Hector if he would want to try again, since everyone else had done it. He amazingly said yes, marched right up to the front of the room and completely rocked it! It was a wonderful moment of educational triumph.
On another front, we trial ran our first batch of homemade lotion! Using the beeswax we purchased from the honey co-op in Huehuetenango and other natural ingredients, it’s entirely organic. We’ve had nothing but rave reviews! Our hope is to build up a lotions and chapstick business to help support the work of Monte Cristo in the future.
If the last few weeks tell me anything, 2014 is going to be filled with educating and enterprising. I can’t wait to get started!