Thursday, December 14, 2006

On hold for the holidays

It didn't take more than one 'meeting' to realize that the students I was trying to work with had no idea what group work outside of the classroom is.

Group work: I assign a project to you, you have a week to meet at one another's homes or in school during your free periods, you compile notes and present what you have prepared. Done. Unfortunately, the concept of group work was as foreign to my eighth graders as the concept of farming apricots is to me.

The English teacher and I sat down with one stand out student, Arshak. Arshak wants to be a doctor and is eager to participate in any extracurricular activities he can. He was the only one who attended our first meeting. He walked in at 5 o'clock on the dot and asked where everyone else was. I told him I had no idea and he replied that he hates it when people aren't punctual (that put him in very good standing with me right from the start). After waiting awhile, I decided it was ok that we only meet with one representative of the BRO camp as long as he was able to rally the others for the project. I actually believed that he could be the group leader and that ideas coming from him instead of the American volunteer might be a more effective way to organize.

After the first meeting he asked me why the boys needed to sit down and speak with one another. I tried to explain that brainstorming presentation ideas would be a great way to decide how we could recruit other members. They needed to decide who would say what, how long they would speak and what would be the best way to convey their ideas. If they would be able to present an organized overview of volunteerism and it's benefits maybe their classmates would be more interested in joining the mentorship program. Then he asked the same questions I faced for 15 years when I was in school: What if the group members don't listen to one another? What if we can't agree?

I immediately had flashbacks to group discussion. The first-year communications course seemed like a ridiculous waste of time when I was in school, but now I realize the content of that class is absolutely necessary in every aspect of my work. I should have taken better notes!

The unfortunate truth is that the whole project, and everything I'm trying to do for that matter, is on hold until the beginning of February. With only a week left in school everyone is going crazy over the upcoming New Years celebration. I've been hearing stories about New Years and the fun we'll have since I arrived in September. Just in case I was about to forget that it's only two weeks away, they started selling firecrackers in the local stores about a week ago. Kids have been setting them off in the schoolyard during breaks and two went off in the hallway yesterday. Due to the cold (both indoors and outside) the school will remain closed for the whole month and in the village, or at least mine, the tradition is to go from house to house eating, drinking and visiting.

Since my place of employment is closed for more than a month, I'll have to focus on my other health endevours. I'm planning a heart disease seminar with Arshak and working for a few PC initiatives over the break. We're applying to host an eco camp this summer and my school director has requested I plan an exercise camp. At home I'll stay busy with my reading and weaving (I'm making some small carpets). Life in the house is hectic since everyone is indoors all evening now but I just curl up next to the wood burner while every member of the family from young to old enjoys a new (very popular) Spanish soap opera. Tonight we will celebrate my host brother one-month smoke free. I have to go buy 8 Snickers bars.

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