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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Promoting Equity and Social Justice in Ecuador

My Placement School, Colegio Menor, was like a utopia. It contained abundant and effective resources, well-trained and caring staff, the most gorgeous campus I have ever seen, and a philosophy built for success. It is modeled after school systems in the United States, which made me wonder why many our school systems are failing and this school system is flourishing. I know much of this answer comes down to money. These students are among the richest students in Ecuador, so their money is funding this wonderful education they are receiving as well as the additional educational and developmental resources they receive outside of the school. The parent involvement at this school is also incredible.

Colegio Menor

What I find interesting is that many people point their fingers at English Language Learners as one of the reasons our school systems are struggling. People say there are too many of them to service correctly and that they are bringing down our test scores. After watching the English Language Learners in this school flourish, I think that our excuse is completely invalid. I have seen these students flourish and yes they have abundant resources, but what I have seen be the most effective tool in this success is simply the teacher. She plans carefully, she adjusts to her students needs, she individualizes instruction, and above all, she cares. As I watched her teacher effective lessons that I loved, I realized that I could easily adapt these lessons to a school lacking resources for English Language Learners. Our problem does not lie in ELLs, it lies in our failure to be creative and knowledgable while serving them. Here in Ecuador, bilingualism is looked at as such a tool and is so valued. In the United States, we have lost sight of this and instead view it as a detriment in our school systems. Back in the United States, I want to work with English Language Learners, implementing these types of lessons and being creative. I don't want to blame lack of success on these students, because I know that they can learn when they are serviced correctly.

The Public School
 35 students fit into this one classroom

While being in Ecuador, I also completed a volunteer placement at a public school. This school was a whole different world than the private school, lacking resources, teacher support, and an effective curriculum. What I learned in this school is what I have been discussing above. With these students, I was creative and worked through the obstacles that we faced. I did my best to treat them as if they were students at the private school in Colegio Menor. No I was not able to give them an education equal to that of the education received at Colegio Menor, but with creativity, hard work, and patience, I was able to make improvements in the quality of this classroom and give the classroom a more positive environment. Through my experience here in Ecuador, I have restored my faith in the fact that a teacher can make a difference. Whether this difference is big or small, it still exists. We may be placed in failing schools, lacking resources and support, but being creative, being reflective, being relentless, and using the skills we have learned along the way, teachers can make all the difference in the quality of education a student receives and in their outlook on education that they will carry with them throughout their educational journey.

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