Following along in the manual
This past week Aula Mágica wrapped up its annual teacher training program held high up in the mountains of Huehuetenango in anticipation for the upcoming school year. Lola (our program coordinator), Lucy (our teacher trainer), and myself (carrier of heavy things) were joined on Sunday, February 15th by a total of seven participants hailing from very different and distant locations eager to take in a week of fun and activity.
We were joined by our standout participant from last year’s session, Astrid from San Juan La Laguna located along the shores of Lake Atitlán, Melisa, whom while new to the program, comes from the tropical self-sufficient agricultural community of La Florida participating in its second straight year, in addition to five new participants–Raúl, Alicia, Mari, Nancy and Carolina- coming from different communities spread throughout the vast expanses of the municipality of Chiantla. While our training was intentionally held in as central of a location as possible, almost everybody had to partake in a long and tiring day of travel –walking, hiking and changing many buses- to join us for the training. With travel times ranging from 2-13 hours, there was absolutely no doubt about the group’s earnestness and commitment to the program.
Six of the seven invitees were entirely new to the program and largely without any experience as educators, making this training an entirely new beast from past iterations where the bulk of our facilitators were graduated teachers. The gradual shift from working with unemployed teachers to youth leaders from remote areas called for almost an entirely new and flexible training approach, a difficult challenge to which our staff responded to impeccably.
As to be expected, the group of 16-23 year olds' demeanor could initially be described as incredibly shy and hesitant to engage in certain activities or ask questions. However, thanks to our staff’s creativity and a necessity for team work, the ice was slowly but surely broken, allowing for a truly dynamic learning atmosphere to take place. With practical classroom techniques and routines discussed during the mornings on the first few days and engaging activities sprinkled in throughout the afternoons, the group found itself gelling in no time and grasping all of the new information faster than we ever anticipated.
Once classes adjourned, facilitators where asked to study their materials and work on crafts that would be needed for the following day –getting them accustomed to a routine of planning that is so important to any teacher’s success. Much to our pleasant surprise, a glance into one of the dorm rooms following classes would typically reveal a quiet group pouring over their activity manuals and reviewing their notes from that day. In the evenings teams and roles were assigned to everybody in the group to help cook or prepare a certain meal, making meal time an exercise in both laughter and comradery, bringing smiles and a sense of satisfaction to everybody. It goes without saying that nearly every waking minute was taken advantage of and utilized to have fun, learn and work together in some way or fashion.
Once familiar with basic classroom expectations and a solid pedagogical base, the group would spend their morning putting all of their new theories into practice working with a large group of wide-eyed preschoolers at a local school. Just a few minutes into the first class, the children had already fallen in love with all of the different components of the program, asking us each day if we would be coming back for classes tomorrow. While again timid at first around the kids, the demonstrated success of our activities and growing familiarity with program materials helped buoyed the confidence of our youth leaders leading to immense progress and a growing sense of comfort with each passing day.
For our final night together as a group we headed into town to celebrate the successful culmination of the training, where we shared laughs and pizza before each participant was honored with a diploma cementing their status as the next generation of rural educational facilitators. Before heading our separate ways the final morning, each member of our graduating class expressed feeling prepared and most importantly, proud, to represent Aula Mágica and impart a new era of learning in their communities. We ourselves couldn’t be more proud to call them part of our organization’s family and feel certain that each and every one will thrive as they embark on their journey as leaders of positive and lasting change.
Melisa and Carolina studying hard
The group rehearsing their farm animal sounds
Having fun learning how to use their radios
Lola, Lucy and the new team