- The foresight and guidance of God; a manifestation of divine direction
- The capital city of Rhode Island that this Minnesota-girl is proud to call a second home
- The name of an amazing college which has taught me so much (Go Friars!)
- The name of a school in Tucumán, Argentina which has opened my mind and my heart to a completely different side of education
We have had the incredible opportunity to experience Dominican education by teaching mostly at the Santa Rosa schools and at Santa Catalina: all of which are very good schools that place extra emphasis on their English curriculum. Because we have taught almost every day in these schools, I had become accustomed to this type of top-quality education. I was quick to assume that education must be fairly similar in many other schools in Tucumán. This assumption was quickly proven false when we received the opportunity to teach in Los Posits, a poor neighborhood within the city. I had no idea what to expect from this new school; we weren’t even told the name of the school before we arrived.
We walked into our first class and we were greeted by surprised stares and hushed whispers from our students. Just like at Santa Rosa and Santa Catalina, the students thought we were famous because we speak like “movie stars.” At any school we go to, the younger students ask us how many famous people we know: my answer is disappointingly always 0.
We began with a very basic English lesson because we were told that the students have had very little English instruction. However, before we even finished introducing the topic, the teacher approached us: we were cautioned that some students (10-11 years old) could barely write their own names in Spanish…which absolutely shocked me. Here I was, expecting to teach a full lesson like I usually do at Santa Rosa, and then realizing that I would need to start from almost complete square one with my students. I knew that there would at least be a different style of education at this school, but I was completely unprepared for how wide the educational gap would be between the top-tier private schools and the public schools in the poorer neighborhoods. This was a HUGE reality check for me as I realized how oblivious I was to educational disparities here in Argentina (but quite often these disparities can be just as prominent in the US).
The first lesson began well, but soon a very chaotic classroom environment erupted: it was clear that the students controlled the classroom and not the teachers. Some students began to yell, others refused to speak at all, and although we tried to teach this lesson in several different ways, I could’t help but feel like a failure when the students didn’t want to listen or participate. A teacher mentioned that this was normal because some students, especially those that attend school in the afternoon, are sent to school sometimes for the sole reason of staying safe. The neighborhood they live in can be very violent, so school isn’t always treated as an educational opportunity, but rather an escape from a dangerous situation.
After learning this, I realized how completely ignorant I was of the students’ situations, and I had no idea how to adjust my lesson in order to better teach them. As I began to lose almost all hope in our lesson plans and in the teaching skills I thought I had developed over the past weeks, the teacher mentioned the name of the school: Divina Providencia, Divine Providence.
These two words eliminated all self-doubt as I realized that this similarity was more than just a coincidence, but rather, providence. I was reminded that there was a purpose for my visit, even if I couldn’t yet determine that purpose. I was able to end the day with an open mind, and after class, two students handed me a note which read:
This simple act touched me because although they couldn’t understand much English, they were able to work together to tell me how much they had enjoyed the day. Although I had thought I was failing them, they thought differently. They gave me a quick hug and then rushed off to recess after we reassured them that we would be back the next week.
A week later, we were able to return to teach more lessons, and the difference was incredible: we were much more productive and the students wanted to listen to us. With a new mindset, I enjoyed my time so much more than before. I am so grateful for the new perspectives I learned from this opportunity and for the students who taught me so much in such a short time. We were crushed that we couldn’t return to say our goodbyes, but these students and this school will never be forgotten because of this providential connection made possible by not one, but two schools named Providence.
Chao for now,