“What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” -Brené Brown
This morning (Friday—yes, we’re still playing catch-up), we traveled to El Porvenir to present our first workshop to teachers in one of the local national (public) schools. For the past two-and-a-half weeks, another student and I have been conducting observations in 12 national schools throughout El Porvenir and Trujillo Alto. The purpose of these observations was to note how students behave in the classroom setting, how teachers respond to student behaviors, and overall student/student and student/teacher interactions. Seeing as the specific program the other student and I are working with is geared towards preventing students from getting involved in the legal system, the overall goal is to help the teachers develop and foster a more supportive learning environment for these students.
Keeping in mind that many of these students do not have strong familial support, have limited resources at home, have parents who have to work around the clock to provide for the family (and are therefore left with limited parental supervision), have parents who want them to start working after primary school because an immediate income is more important than continued education, have parents who are involved in gangs/in jail, and/or are involved in gangs themselves, there are many outside factors that come into play that prove difficult for teachers to make an overall difference in the lives of these students.
As we interacted with the teachers throughout the workshop, we discussed various individual, social, familial, school-wide, and communal risk factors that many of these students face including teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, joining gangs, and dropping out of school. Seeing as these were primary concerns addressed during the observations we conducted, we were then able to hear about the experiences these teachers have had with their students in each of the aforementioned categories. We discussed supportive factors too though, because as difficult as it may be to navigate around so many risk factors, there are always supportive factors that can counteract any and all risk factors. For many of these students, these teachers are exactly that.
When you spend years working in a profession where more often than not you feel exhausted, pushed to the limit, under-appreciated, and feel like the odds of success for your students are stacked against them due to so many outside influences, it gets difficult (to say the least) to persevere and keep trying to impact the lives of our future generation. The teachers we met with continue to do this, and as they described their motivation to join the field of education and their desire to continue working in this field, it truly sparked a beacon of light and hope in what has seemingly felt like a dark tunnel—especially when looking at the overall resources provided to these schools for educational purposes and the countless barriers that so many of these children continuously face on a daily basis.
After the workshop, we returned back to Huanchaco for our Global Mental Health class, which I’ll discuss in a later post. The rest of the day was spent getting a head-start on homework, and of course eating pollo saltado before traveling to Cajamarca, Peru for the weekend.
“It’s only when you risk failure that you discover things. When you play it safe, you’re not expressing the utmost of your human experience.” -Lupita Nyong’o
“No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause.”
It was September 11th, 2001 and I was in my first grade home-room class at school. For some reason our teacher was moving about frantically as another teacher came into our classroom and whispered something in her ear. We were told that school was going to be let early and that our parents, who were already notified, would be picking us up shortly. When asked what the reason was, we were told it was because of a flood that was about to hit our area.
Just the other day on the radio, they had mentioned that South Florida was experiencing a drought, so a flood didn’t exactly make much sense. But we believed our teacher, and began packing up our pencil cases and school supplies from our cubbies because we didn’t want anything to get destroyed by the flood. My mother picked me up from school shortly after, and explained the true story—there was no flood. Rather, our country had been attacked by terrorists. Upon arriving home, my mother and I turned on the television just as the second tower of the World Trade Center had been hit. We were left in awe.
My father was flying to Washington D.C. that morning and my grandparents were flying to Florida from New York. We hadn’t heard from anyone, and we, as well as the rest of country were left in a state of panic and disbelief. Luckily, my father’s flight ended up being cancelled and grandparents’ flight had an emergency landing, but not everyone was that lucky.
September 11th, 2001 was a tragic day in history for our country, but it was also one that taught us a few valuable lessons. We cannot take our loved ones for granted because we never know what will happen at any given moment. We must show appreciation for those who risk their lives to protect us on a daily basis because these are true heroes that help make our country as great as it is. And furthermore, our country is about as resilient as they come.
September 11th showed us how in a time of despair, American citizens came together and united as one. Fourteen years later, we are still a united country, and we are still just as resilient. May we never forget September 11th, 2001. May we never forget to say “I love you” and appreciate our loved ones. May we never forget those who lost their lives, and those who risked their lives helping others. And may we never how lucky we are to live in such an incredible country.