Lunch at Dulce's was a bit different this past Monday. This is because we didn't have anyone from the school come with us on our visit. I liked this because Dulce's son, Manuel, joined us for lunch. I really got to practice my Spanish since he doesn't know any English. I would ask him different questions and he would usually when he responded he was speaking very quickly. Most of the time I was able to understand what he was saying but there were times that I had to ask him to repeat what he said. He would then break down what he said into simpler sentences that I could understand. It was such a great experience. What I found to be funny is that Manuel didn't like the food that his mom made. He didn't want any papas fritas or pollo. He only took arroz con frijoles but he hardly ate any of it because he said he doesn't like arroz very much. We were eating such a traditional meal so I wonder what he actually likes to eat. If he eats with us again I'll have to ask him. At one point we started talking about music and he told me that he likes Justin Beiber's music. I told him that I liked his music too so he went and got his blackberry and played "Baby" by Justin Beiber. I thought that was nice. It's funny how certain artists are so well known in different countries especially since their songs are in English. It was nice though because we were able to find a connection. Dulce is usually busy doing her children's hair and getting them ready for school so I am happy that her son joined us today. I hope that he does again in the future.
We also got the chance to check out the public school. The school doesn't exactly give off a welcoming vibe due to the barbed wire that is found all around the school. It looks more like a jail. We got to meet with the principal and ask him any questions that we had. I found this meeting to be very informative and interesting. One thing that I found interesting is that before the government implemented a new law stating that teachers need to have training in order to be certified all one needed to do in order to be a teacher in the public school is have their high school diploma. I can't imagine this. How would one even know where to begin in regards to teaching. How would these teachers understands the curriculum or even the content that they are teaching? It baffles me because it leads to teachers teaching content that they are not even educated in. Just because you graduated high school does not mean you can readily teach what you learned to others. Hiring teachers in this manner is doing such a disservice to the students. I was quite glad to hear that due to the knew law all the teachers in the building have to get trained so they could be certified to teach.
We received a lot of information from the principal but I don't believe all of it was accurate. I think he wanted to portray his school in a very positive light so it seemed as though he was exaggerating in regard to some statistics. For example, he stated that 90% of female students are graduating. This is a very high percentage and many girls drop out of school early to help at home. Thus, I don't believe this statistic to be true.
I did get the chance to sit in a classroom and observe. I observed in a first grade classroom. There were enough desk for all the students but some of the desks looked way too big for the students. There also seemed to be a lack of materials. I didn't see any of the traditional things that one sees in a first grade classroom such as children's books. The classroom was pretty empty except for the students' desks, the teacher's desk and a cabinet where the teacher stores her materials. The room had two chalkboards and all the posters on the wall were work that the teacher had completed with the students on chart paper. The room really didn't resemble a classroom that one would see in the United States. The room basically had the bare minimum items in it in order to make it a "functional" classroom.
The school was also quite loud. The students in my class were very attentive to the teacher. This was impressive because there was so much noise coming from the surrounding classrooms. There was also music blaring from one of the surrounding houses. Both of these factors can make it hard to concentrate. The students in my room were good until the teacher left the room. Then they got a bit rambunctious; especially the boys. The boys were hitting each other with their pencils, climbing on top of their chairs, kept getting out of their chair, and were walking around the room instead of completing their work. I think a lot of this is due to the lack of movement they have during the day. However, it is unfortunate that they were not able to stay on task when the teacher was out of the room. The girls were very well behaved and one girl in particular kept showing her work to another Buffalo State student in the room looking for her approval. I thought this was very sweet.
We also were able to visit the DR foundation for girls which is an after school program for girls. It is aimed at helping them stay in school and to stay out of trouble in their community. I think that this is such a great program. It seems similar to the programs that we have in Buffalo and I truly believe that they help keep children on the right path. I also believe that having a positive role model in one's life can make all of the difference. Not only are the girls who attend this foundation provided with excellent role models but they are also reminded of the woman who made a difference in the Dominican Republic. This is done by having murals on the wall of these woman and naming the different rooms (such as the art room, music room, theater room etc.) after these powerful women. It really does seem like this foundation is making a difference. They have had several girls graduate the program and continue on with their education to become involved in a highly respected profession. They also do not let the girls stay in the program if they become pregnant which is helping to decrees the number of pregnancy. This organization has so much to offer and I feel as though it will help many girls find their niche or interests outside of the traditional roles of a Dominican woman. I was thrilled to visit this foundation because it is organizations like this that truly make a difference and positively impact children's' lives.