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 school

19 agosto
I will have a light class load the first half of the semester, since I am also the tech support person for WinSchool, the dreaded school administrative system that no one really understands, and other staff and faculty software users. Miguel, a gentle, soft-spoken young man from Nicaragua, is the hardware/network techie and is very capable and responsible, so I don't have to deal with the hardware and software installation and maintenance, although I have been asked to function as head of the technology department, so I coordinate and prioritize the tech support requests with him. I also coordinate with the elementary school computer teacher and former webmaster, Tita, a beautiful Guatemalan woman who struggles with English, who has been very helpful. WinSchool has been a real challenge, it's a complex (and sometimes convoluted) program, and each group on campus knows one little piece, but not how they all fit together. In addition, I will now be maintaining the school web site, www.cm.edu.gt, which is packed with information that gets updated regularly. Especially now, at the beginning of the semester, the teachers are all sending in their syllabus and course materials to put up on the web site. And putting out daily computer fires - all the new computers with Windows XP developed a virus today, and the three of us were running around de-virusing. I certainly won't be bored here!

Maribel, the secondary principal and my direct supervisor, told me as school started that she wanted to give everyone "freedom to shape" their own world, sending me off in a positive direction in a nurturing environment but giving me some room to move. I have one high school level class of mixed grades every day called Business Computer Applications, and 2 middle school mixed grade groups for shorter periods every other day called Computer Exploratory. I have the freedom to include what I find useful, and have restructured the classes somewhat. I need to adjust what I'm doing to the short class periods - I'm used to 4 hour classes from teaching at a community college. Short assignments seem to be in order, so something new is accomplished every day, and small projects (I never like giving tests). Next semester (January - June) I will also teach an advanced class called Design Graphics/Yearbook. I've volunteered to teach a couple of days of after school activities - Web design, one day for middle school, one for high school.

The high school students are great, they have excellent writing and good computer skills, and are polite and well behaved. No one is sleeping in class or playing games on the computer (yet), although a few want desperately to email and messenger their classmates, forbidden during class. I'm also surprised at how well behaved the middle school kids are and their level of computer skills. All that have been at Maya for a while have worked with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Internet. For the first assignment with the high school class, I had the students write a short biography including certain word processing features. What an articulate group of world travelers I have! Most of the students are from international embassy families, the Guatemalans are in the minority in this school. Many have lived elsewhere in Central or South America, some in Europe, Hong Kong, Africa - quite a few have lived in 4 or 5 countries. There is a large number of Koreans, they have a embassy with a lot of employees in Guatemala City and their are many Korean clothing factories. Fewer Europeans because there is a French, Italian, and German school here. They have learned in these expatriate communities to make friends quickly and easily for the most part, and most have very good English language skills, although a few are obviously learning. ESOL (English as a second language) and Spanish are a part of the curriculum for all students. I was happy to discover that I will be trained in ESOL as well, probably Saturdays in the spring.

I have bonded with the new teachers - about 10 of us have spent quite a bit of time together, all interesting different people. Two young people have been teaching here in another school for a couple of years, one young woman is Guatemalan and has left the country to teach in the US for several years and returned. The new librarian and another elementary teacher are close to my age, I have become great friends with Pam, the new 4th grade teacher, who is also around my age and a bit of a nut like me. She taught in Brazil some years, recently surprised to be divorced and is planning to bring her dog later in the year. On the bus back from our first weekend trip we sang songs - Pam and Brian, the young Canadian PE teacher who has taught in Guatemala before, knew all the words to the songs from Rocky Horror, Pam and I harmonized on 60's do wop songs, and Lucinda, the new elementary principal, who has taught in Venezuela, Syria and Pakistan (and been in 33 countries), sang little kid camp songs and we all sang along.

I'm feeling good about my time in the classroom with the students and starting to get to know them as individuals. The constant tech fires are looking a little more manageable as I get my feet on the ground here. I think it's going to be a good year.

4/48

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