After two years of studying to become teachers, the students at the Socorro de Belen school took on their last and most challenging assignment. Last month they returned to their hometowns to set up and run Adventures in Reading, Child Aid’s school break literacy program, in their communities.
At the end of the school year, the students gathered to collect their certificates of completion and receive packets of storybooks that they used for read-aloud sessions and writing activities, sharing what they’ve learned with a new generation of readers.
They also got some last minute instructions and encouragement from Teaching Training Coordinator and Instructor Jorge Sanum.
“It is a challenge for such young students to start a literacy program in their communities, especially finding a space and recruiting students,” said Sanum. “They are all a bit nervous but also determined.”
The students are part of a unique Child Aid program at Socorro de Belen, a private Catholic school in Antigua that provides scholarships for indigenous women to become teachers. For the past two years, in addition to their regular studies, the students met weekly with instructor Jorge Sanum to develop their their own reading and writing skills and learn techniques for teaching reading comprehension and critical thinking in the classroom.
In Guatemala, most teacher training programs are taught at the high school level, where students get a basic certification to teach.
“We’ve found that most of the teaching students have poor primary education backgrounds themselves and lack basic reading comprehension and critical thinking skills, says Country Director John van Keppel. “That was especially true for the the Socorro students, who come from very rural and impoverished communities.”
“So we designed a two year program for them. The first year focuses on helping them develop reading and writing skills, using many of the activities and techniques we teach in our Reading for Life program. In the second year we reinforce those skills and help them develop the ability to include them in their teaching when they go back to their communities.”
Through the generosity of the Paiz Foundation, Child Aid is able to offer this program to a total of three schools and 227 students.
Student Flor de María Escobar Coc says the class has given her a new understanding of her role as a teacher as well as practical skills she can use in the classroom.
“My favorite part was learning the techniques” she says, “because it showed me that learning is not only about listening but can also be about participating. I feel that after this experience I can be a better teacher, at least I hope to be. I know now how to treat each child because each child is different in how they learn.”
For their final assignment, students began preparing for their Adventures in Reading programs in September. They reviewed books and made a book plan, practiced read-aloud techniques, planned and found materials for additional activities and decided how they were going to promote the program and recruit kids to participate.
“The assignment is voluntary,” said Sanum, “but we had 35 of the 37 students at Socorro de Belen participate. Each of the students will do the program differently depending on their time and resources. Many are running their programs in their parents’ homes because there isn’t a library or school space available.”
“The Adventures in Reading piece is an important part of their training,” added Sanum, “because it will give these students opportunities to apply the skills they’ve learned and develop some community leadership experience.”