The other volunteers and I just returned from the capital city of Tegucigalpa (Teguc for short) for 3 days of professional development and training. The weekend was full of such learning and growth, and we are excited to bring all that we’ve learned back to our own classrooms. We were given the awesome opportunity to observe elementary school classes and attend incredibly informative workshops at a US-accredited bilingual school about 45 minutes outside of the capital city — a school that represents everything that our school is trying to become.
I found myself unexpectedly filled with envy as I walked around their beautiful, serene, clean campus filled with well-behaved, well-groomed, well-fed children in their organized, resource-enriched, dirt-free classrooms… equipped with actual windows, tile floors and ceiling fans. In my classroom, 3 times a day a 6-inch pile of dirt is swept off the concrete floor, half of my room gets drenched in water anytime it rains, and I can hardly hear myself think let alone teach half of the time because our classes have open windows that face other classrooms. I found myself asking over and over again in my head “What makes such a big difference between our schools?”
The obvious answer is, quite frankly, money. While this school also boasts a certain amount of scholarship students, socio-economically their average student cannot even compare to our average student. Their school is located on the campus of one of the most renowned agricultural universities in all of Central America, providing them resources that we can only dream. They had tennis courts, an actual cafeteria (our students mostly eat sitting on their floor of our hallway), a lake, a pool, music teachers and special education specialists. Many of our teachers were saying it was nicer than any schools they had ever seen, even in the United States. The third grade teacher was complaining that her class had too many students (19!) and all of the elementary schools have a full-time assistant in their classrooms! I can only imagine what I could do with another adult body in the room.
A vast majority of their children also come from supportive and educated parents who are extremely involved in their education and who possess the means to encourage and challenge their children academically. Not to say that those families don’t exist in Cofradia, because they certainly do, but our students face many challenges. Every single one of my students has a family member living in the States, about a third of them have one parent living there, and a decent handful of them have both parents living there and are being raised by some family member or another. In place of having college professors as parents, many of my children’s parents are illiterate—no help on schoolwork there. Also, their children go home to a safe environment where they actually sleep at night and are fed in the morning, at lunch, and at night. A lot of my kids don’t eat breakfast and many of them don’t each lunch. I suppose I would have a hard time focusing in school too.
At the end of the day, I just have to remind myself why I am teaching in Cofradia instead of an upper-class US-accredited school like theirs. I am volunteering here to reach a population that otherwise would not have access to quality education. How many people can say when they go to work in the morning that they are truly making a difference in other people’s lives? I am teaching these children a language that by merely being able to speak it significantly increases their employability and life options. I did not want to teach the upper class of Honduras for a reason. I recently have been struggling with feeling like I am not reaching as low as a socio-economic group at my school that I would like to. I think I forgot what real wealth looked like. It was a great reality check for me.
And so, I have left the beautiful, gated walls of the school in Teguc, where we enjoyed flavored coffee at an actual coffee shop and where we were able to take hot showers (!!!!). I am back in my bed here, killing the ants that are already crawling up my arms, listening to the roosters crow constantly outside my window, breathing in the smell of one of the constantly-burning trash fires, and thinking about all the new things we learned this weekend that we can bring back to a school that is ours. Man, its good to be back home :)